Last week, a select committee began hearing oral submissions on the controversial Three Waters legislation, but only from those few submitters they invited from among the thousands who asked to be heard.

The select committee said they had specific criteria for those they would be inviting to be heard. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hobson’s Pledge has not been chosen to present.

In listening to the submissions to date and the questions from the committee members, it is clear Minister Willie Jackson is not the only one who has difficulty understanding democracy. One laughable response from a committee member was that New Zealand does not have equal suffrage in terms of one person, one vote because there are list MPs that are not individually elected. This is consistent with Minister Jackson’s claims during the debate on the Ngai Tahu Representation Bill, when he said New Zealand does not have one person one vote, instead we have “one person, two votes”.

These attempts to frame anti-democratic policies, like the Ngai Tahu and Rotorua Bills, as being in the same category as MMP’s two-step approach to democracy is so risible that even Willie Jackson must feel some shame in propagating them.

The lack of appreciation and respect for New Zealand’s proud democratic heritage from our elected representatives is alarming and highlights the need to, as our national anthem asks, “guard our state”.

The Government is attempting to justify co-governance in the Three Waters entities under the narrative of Treaty obligation and the misconception that the Treaty created a partnership.

In fact, there remains no evidence of any successful co-governance models. Co-governance is unable to truly reflect a fair representation of the interests of the majority and also fails to provide accountability for failure, for cost, and for delivery.

And what does co-governance mean to New Zealanders? It’s clear — the majority control of water services by less than 20% of the population. The Three Waters entities require a 75% majority to make decisions, giving the 50% iwi block a veto over decision-making.

The potential for corruption and self-serving by special interests cannot be ignored.

Co-governance leaves the public without a democratic process through which appointments are made, so there is no ability to remove those who fail. The process through which mana whenua representation is selected has not been determined, yet already the conflict between iwi is starting to showas with the Wairarapa iwi opposing Three Waters because they won’t get enough say.

The Rangitāne o Wairarapa iwi submission expressed concerns around representation:-

“We believe the Crown has an obligation to listen to and honour each of the voices of the iwi, not through consensus and not by determining six people represent 40-plus iwi.”

That sounds awfully similar to what the Councils are saying about being forced into entity groups in which very few of them will be assured of representation.

Australia’s Voice

Seemingly taking inspiration from New Zealand, Australia’s Labour government is now promoting a separatist agenda. 

The narrative of division as a solution is spreading, but encouragingly there is an Aboriginal representative, Senator Jacinta Price, willing to focus on outcomes.

While strongly advocating for better solutions, she also speaks against the proposal for a separate Aboriginal “Voice”:

“In the meantime, gaslighting Australians to coerce support for a “Yes” vote and calling Australians racist, troublemakers and uncaring if they do not oblige does not make for a healthy democracy and is completely and utterly un-Australian. It’s OK to say ‘No’,” says Jacinta Price.

Of course, the Senator has been subjected to the same sort of tired criticism that Willie Jackson throws around when he calls Maori who disagree with him “useless”.

Jacinta Price discusses her article on Sky News here

Similar to the voice of ACT’s Karen Chhour and Nicole McKee, Jacinta Price is one of the brave few that is fighting against separatism as a solution.

Corruption and Nepotism

The Government has also been quietly reclassifying conservation land with little public scrutiny, which has given rise to significant concerns regarding iwi commercial conflicts.

This has been detailed in David Round’s excellent article, which you can read here.

The individual interests of mana whenua representatives involved in these decision-making processes highlight the risk to commercial interests hiding behind the co-governance decision model.

The failure to expose conflicts like these and the inability of the co-governance model to enforce accountability should be alarming to ALL New Zealanders. 

We are seeing previously declined consents for hydro development and even coal mining being re-visited and potentially over-ruled through the influence of iwi representatives with commercial interests.

Bullying has made headlines throughout our national media despite being historic or having no direct impact on the public, while clear evidence of corruption and nepotism goes unscrutinised in the mainstream media.

That’s why Hobson’s Pledge is getting the message out to the public, going around the media if we must.

Expanding the discussion

The Platform recently invited Hobson’s Pledge to discuss the challenges faced by equal citizenship and democracy in New Zealand – you can listen to the interview here.