(National Party media release)

New Justice Minister Kiritapu Allan needs to explain why the Government thinks New Zealand should ditch equal voting rights for all and accountability at the ballot box, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says

“The Labour Government is voting for the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill, allowing Ngāi Tahu to appoint two councillors of their choosing. If passed, this moves away from the principle of equal voting rights.

“Māori Cantabrians will have an equal vote in selecting the 14 other councillors before Ngāi Tahu appoint two more entirely unchallenged. Because the Ngāi Tahu councillors cannot be voted out, the Bill also removes the essential democratic discipline of the ballot box.

“When asked in Parliament: “When did we decide that Treaty principles trump the democratic norms that we have enjoyed for a century, namely equal voting rights and the ability to throw out representatives at elections?”, the previous Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said, “No one’s decided that”.

“But that is precisely what the Canterbury Bill does. At no time have Government Ministers made a case for changing the way our democracy works. Instead, they seem to deny any responsibility for the Bill, ignoring that it will only be passed because the Labour Party is voting for it.

“Ms Allan either needs to explain why she thinks the votes of non-Maori voters should carry less weight in Canterbury, and why Ngāi Tahu-appointed councillors should never face the will of the voters, or she should insist her colleagues drop support for the Bill.

“Ms Allan’s colleague Willie Jackson has simply declared “the nature of our democracy has changed”. New Zealanders deserve to have a proper discussion before such a precedent is set.

“Equal voting rights for all New Zealanders are precious; they should not be discarded, and certainly not without proper, honest discussion.”