The Taranaki Iwi Claims Settlement Bill, that legislates for six race-based appointees on the Taranaki Regional Council, provided new ammunition for New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters this week.
This is the second time Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson has written into law the requirement for tribal appointees on a local body, with the first being the regional planning committee on the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council set up in 2012.
Subpart five of the bill defines how the Taranaki Regional Council would be required to appoint six iwi members, three on the policy and planning committee, and three on the regulatory functions committee.
These six iwi members will not be elected, but nominated by iwi, need not be subject to an iwi vote, and they will be paid for by the ratepayers.
Clause 99 says the iwi members would have the same status as members appointed by the Council, and are entitled to the same remuneration and expenses.
The council may change a committee or discontinue it but this is subject to consultation with iwi, must not diminish the nature of iwi representation.
Any disputes must be referred to the chief executive of Te Kahui o Taranaki, the chief executive of any other iwi, and the chief executive of the regional council.
Taranaki Regional Council has 11 councillors. There are eight Taranaki iwi.
Peters said “New Zealanders should be very concerned about the Taranaki Iwi Claims Settlement Bill – it hands power to iwi by giving them six decision-making roles on a local authority without being elected”.
A brief street poll done by One News on Thursday showed that Taranaki voters thought council representatives should be elected, not appointed.
In April 2015, New Plymouth residents voted 83 percent against a proposal for separate Maori seats on the New Plymouth District Council.
New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd lodged a complaint with the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues against the New Zealand government for permitting such a poll.
He also urged Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell to present a petition to Parliament to set up Maori wards on every district council in New Zealand without requiring a public vote.
Peters delivered his message against tribal appointees after the previous day pulling the plug on the final reading of the bills by demanding a party vote – which posed a problem because a large number of MPs were to go home early for the holidays.
The Local Government Act 2002 does permit such appointments. But “Instead of stating a local authority “may” appoint people from the outside, it states that the council “must” appoint members nominated by the iwi. This has been done by stealth”, Peters said.
Hawke’s Bay’s regional planning committee, set up under the Hawke’s Bay Regional Planning Committee Act, comprises 10 councillors and 10 iwi appointees with two chairs, one appointed by the council and one by iwi. The appointees are full voting committee members.
Shambolic is a word to describe how that committee was set up.
The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has only nine councillors, so one stand-in “councillor” must be appointed to make up the full committee. And, the committee was up and running before the enabling legislation, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Planning Committee Act, was passed.
Note, the competence of appointees may be an issue. There is a push by the Iwi Leaders Group for “capacity building” money, presumably to teach council appointees how to read the documents and do the committee work.
The balance of power has yet again shifted for the governing National Party, with a deepening perception that Prime Minister John Key and Finlayson have gone too far in appeasing separatist demands coming from the Maori Party.
The lead-up to an election is the only time a governing party listens to the electorate, and the non-separatist New Zealand First party, which is also a largely Maori party, is poised to take a growing group of disaffected voters away from National.