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Otago Council should reject voting tribal appointees

The Otago Regional Council tomorrow should reject a proposal to include voting un-elected tribal appointees on its policy committee, Hobson’s Pledge spokesman Don Brash said today.

A proposal that the Otago Regional Council approves Ngai Tahu’s request for two voting appointees on the policy committee and authorises the chief executive to approach Ngai Tahu to nominate two such representatives is on the agenda for tomorrow’s full council meeting.

Otago Regional Councillor Michael Laws has already slammed the proposal as privileged and racist and calls into question the fundamental principles of democracy in Otago, Dr Brash said.

Cr Laws also stressed that this privilege is denied not only to all Pakeha in Otago, but to all Asian and Pasifika citizens, all other races and cultures, as well as all non- Ngai Tahu Maori.

The justification cited in the agenda for this meeting, that the council must take account of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, overlooks the fact that Treaty principles requirements to act reasonably, protect and consult apply to everyone and the council is meeting those requirements without installing un-elected Ngai Tahu appointees, Dr Brash said.

By allowing two appointees to vote on the council’s policy committee, the proposal circumvents the requirement of Section 41 of the Local Government Act 2002 that only elected representatives may vote at full council meetings, Dr Brash said.

The proposal also circumvents the requirement for a referendum because a referendum is only required if the proposal is for a Maori ward, he said.

With local elections in October, to legitimise the appointees, the council could and should put this to the people of Otago in a referendum, Dr Brash said.

In our democracy, those who get to vote on council have put their credentials to the community and by gaining a seat through the electoral process can demonstrate they have the authority to act on behalf of their constituents, he said.

There is no indication of the credentials of the proposed appointees, as required by Clause 31(3), Schedule 7 of the Local Government Act 2002, Dr Brash said.

Ngai Tahu, which has received $437-million in Treaty settlements since 1998, recently failed in an attempt to have the law changed via the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngai Tahu Representation) Bill to be enabled to appoint two representatives with voting rights onto that council in perpetuity, he said.

Kaumatua Edward Ellison confirmed to the Otago Daily Times that the request for a seat on the committee was out of self-interest, “given the particular stage the council was at with important water plan changes”.

See “Reaction mixed to ORC seats for iwi” at https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/reaction-mixed-orc-seats-iwi

Ngai Tahu runs substantial businesses, many of which are rural and which rely on access to large quantities of water.

In a democracy, there is no place for race-based appointees voting on a democratically elected council, Dr Brash said.


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