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URGENT: Peter Williams


Maybe I'm misremembering, but I could have sworn the new Government was elected on a platform of ending undemocratic, race-based 'co-governance' last year.

I'm emailing because I've just been briefed by the Taxpayers' Union research team on what the new Government is doing with its "Fast-track Bill". It is enough to make your blood boil.

In short, rather than delete 'co-governance' from the statute books, the new 'fast-track' consenting scheme proposes giving local iwi the same rights of representation on the most powerful committee as local councils.

It shuts the public out while giving new legal rights to iwi (and only iwi) to have their say.

While it isn't as explicit as David Parker or Nania Mahuta's attempts under the last government for full co-governance, the Bill before Parliament hands over special powers to iwi leaders, all at the expense of democratic decision making and democratic accountability. 

I wanted a change of Government last year, and I certainly don't want to go back to the old one. But we have to blow the whistle on this one.

Will you stand with me to put a stop to race-based decision making in our public services once and for all?

Let me explain what's going on.

What is the Fast-track Approvals Bill?

While we all want to protect our country's beautiful environments and landscapes, we also want our kids to be able to afford decent housing, get from A to B with high-quality roads, and have sufficient energy resources to heat our homes. For many years the balance hasn't been right and the Fast-track Approvals Bill aims to fix that. 

As the ever-restrained Minister for Regional Development, Shane Jones, put it: “...if there is a mining opportunity and it’s impeded by a blind frog, goodbye, Freddie.”

So it will come as no surprise that any suggestion of taking a slightly more sensible approach to these issues has been met with protests, howls of anger from environmental activists, and lots of criticism from the mainstream media and left-wing political commentariat.

There is, however, something missing from the discussion around the Fast-track Approvals Bill: Co-governance.

Iwi get special consultation rights while the public is shut out

Under the Bill, the public will be cut out of the decision-making process in the interests of speeding up decision making, but this isn't the case for everyone. 

Before an application is lodged, applicants must consult with the following groups:

Iwi, hapū, Treaty settlement entities, applicant groups for customary marine title, and, where relevant, ngā hapū o Ngāti Porou get enhanced consultation rights, denied to all other citizens.

In fact, only local councils get the same right to be consulted for applications under the 'fast-track' regime.

And note what's missing! Neighbouring land owners – who will be directly impacted by a consent – don't get an invite. But the local iwi do, as of right.

Click here to view larger version.

From the Taxpayers' Union's perspective, the role of councils is to represent everyone living in the local area – not just non-Māori.

Whether you think skipping public consultation or not is justified, what surely cannot be right is to exclude some members of the public from the process but not others for, it seems, no other reason than their ethnicity.

If like me, you believe that all New Zealanders should have the same rights in the planning process, please support the Taxpayers' Union's campaign to end co-governance once and for all.

Expert Advisory Panel: Co-governance by the back door

While the Fast-track Approvals Bill gives the final decision to ministers, the Minister must rely on what is called an "Expert Advisory Panel" that will evaluate each project before making a recommendation to approve or reject the project.

Even that probably understates the power of the Panel. Given the concerns around Ministers having too much power, the Select Committee will change it to put the ultimate decision for approval into the hands of the "Expert Advisory Panel".

Here’s what the legislation says about the makeup of the panels:

Click to view larger version.

So, just like David Parker’s RMA replacement, this Bill reserves a seat on one of the most influential bodies in the planning process – a panel of just four members – for an unelected representative of an ‘iwi authority’.

And check out what skills are required. Note the contrast: Treaty of Waitangi expertise – is required. Conservation – only, "if appropriate"...

Click to view larger version.

What’s more, by having a sole representative from a council alongside a representative of an iwi authority, the new Government is giving unelected, unaccountable iwi authorities the same clout as our democratically elected local councils. Sound familiar? 

That’s exactly what happened with Nanaia Mahuta’s Three Waters, and what we all thought we were voting to stop!

As much as I hate to say it, we have to put pressure on the new Government to end these policies that continue to give rights to some New Zealanders but not to others.

Two steps forward, one step back?

To be fair to all of those who support the governing parties, Three Waters has gone (thank goodness), as has the separate Māori Health Authority, but the Government seems to be walking on eggshells when it comes to iwi involvement in the resource management process.

While a case can be made for temporarily limiting public consultation to get on and build stuff, it is simply not tenable to do this for most people, while letting iwi authorities – who only represent a certain section of the population – continue to be consulted and have a seat on the expert recommendations panel of equal standing with elected councils.

The election saw us start to turn a corner, but the Government continues to come under attack from the Left, the bureaucratic blob, the trade unions, and the mainstream media for promoting the pretty basic idea of equality before the law, one-person, one-vote, and the principle of democratic accountability.

That's why we need an organisation like the Taxpayers' Union that is prepared to tackle the tough issues – no matter who is in power – promote the value of democratic decision making, and ensure that New Zealand has a proper debate about the undermining of our democracy. 

But they can only do it with support from the likes of you and me. Thank you for your support.

Peter Williams

Peter Williams sig
Peter Williams
Financial Supporter and Former Board Member
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

ps. The Taxpayers' Union relies on donations from supporters like me and you to keep fighting the good fight to uphold democratic accountability and put and end to co-governance for once and for all.

pps.You saw how the team blew the whistle on Three Waters. We have to do it all again now, so that National, ACT, and NZ First face down the powerful interests (and protest movement) determined to get a race-based resource management regime. Unless we act now and nip this in the bud, what hope is there for the full RMA replacement due in the new year?













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  • Nztu Media
    published this page in News 2024-07-05 14:56:19 +1200

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