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Conference on Democracy, Ethics and the Public Good

Conference on Democracy, Ethics and the Public Good

A conference is to be held in Wellington on 1 and 2 August with the aim of starting a NZ-wide discussion about the quality of our democracy. The conference is hosted jointly by the St Andrews Trust for the Study of Religion and Society and Public Good Aotearoa NZ.

The aim of the conference is to kick start a conversation about the health and quality of democracy in New Zealand. NZ has a rich democratic history with an early start to universal suffrage, the adoption of the MMP system and high scores on openness and transparency internationally. However the frequent use of urgency in Parliament, the lack of local democracy in Canterbury, the difficulties for the very poor in a highly unequal society and the recent news that only 69% of 18-24 years olds are enrolled to vote are signs that all is not well in NZ’s democratic arrangements.

The conference speakers, including some of New Zealand’s best- known academics, will develop a framework, and presentations from community and advocacy organisations look at democratic issues in specific sectors. The conference will include workshops and participants will have a chance to develop new thinking about the issues.

Following the conference, Public Good will publish the key outcomes and an action plan.

Venue: St Andrews on the Terrace
Friday 7.00pm – 9.00pm
Saturday 9.00am – 4.30pm


The conference is open to the media and will be recorded – video on Friday, audio on Saturday
Most speakers are willing to do media work in connection with the conference.


Public Good Aotearoa NZ
Public Good (www.publicgood.org.nz) is a network focused on the public sphere. It has three areas for its work: the need for a strong and well-resourced public sector; genuine democracy and engagement; and community wealth – strengthening community assets and capability. The network brings together activists, academics and others interested in supporting the work.

Conference programme
Full conference information including registration details are at http://www.publicgood.org.nz/demconf

Friday evening (7-9pm)
• Bronwyn Hayward, an academic based at the University of Canterbury, will talk about how for a healthy democracy children need more than civics education. They need hands on experiences of deliberative democracy. She will discuss her recent research to help us understand the kind of democracy we are creating.
• Michael Macaulay the newly of appointed head of Victoria University’s Institute of Governance and Policy Studies will talk about the Open Government Partnership and the opportunities for New Zealand from the perspective of his UK and NZ experience with transparency and integrity systems.
• Auckland University Law Professor Jane Kelsey will be addressing the risks to democracy of international ‘free trade’ treaties including the way they bypass the usual democratic controls.

Saturday (9am – 4.30pm)
• Wendy McGuinness, CE of the McGuinness Institute will talk about the Institute’s work with young people on the 2013 Consitutional Review and the future focussed work including identifying what is necessary to bring to fruition Prof Sir Paul Callaghan’s desire to make New Zealand a place where talent wants to live.
• Sandra Grey and Charles Sedgwick will be speaking on grass roots organisations and the challenges posed by the joint role they have in society of advocating for their constituency as well as providing contracted government services.
• Bill Ryan Associate Professor in the School of Government at Victoria University will talk on the pressures on government caused by social media, openness and 24 hour news cycle and a public sector legislative framework that is overdue for renewal.

There will also be a series of shorter panel presentations and the opportunity for participants to debate and discuss the issues in a series of workshops throughout the day.

Other speakers are:
• Myles Thomas will talk about the issues with a lack of quality public broadcasting in NZ.
• Barbara Bedeschi-Lewando will talk about the participatory democracy approaches being used in Brazil and elsewhere.
• Cath Wallace will address the impact of recent changes to the Resource Management Act.
• Ben Knight from Loomio will be discussing participatory democracy and its role in supporting collaborative decision making.
• Stephanie Rodgers will talk about social media and new generation feminism.
• Meg Howie will talk about the election engagement initiative AskAway and Kieran Stowers will profile On the Fence. These initiatives are part of Massey University’s Design & Democracy Project.
• Max Rashbrooke will address the democracy and participation issues related to high levels of inequality.
• Julia Amua Whaipooti, Ngati Porou from youth justice organisation JustSpeak will speak about justice and imprisonment issues and the impacts of the removal of the right to vote.

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