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Speech: Flavell - Auckland Law Reform Bill

Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill
Te Ururoa Flavell
Tuesday 15 December 2009; 8pm


Kia ora tātou e te Whare. This day in the House, as with every day, is a day on which the Māori Party has attempted to provide a template to see Te Tiriti o Waitangi in action. We do so in the best interests of this nation. It is a commitment we make as a partner in a relationship of a confidence and supply agreement with the National Party, an agreement which was established on the premise and the promise that both parties will act in accordance with the Treaty. To do so, we believe, requires that no decision is made without the support of Māori.

I will say again that we believe that no decision is made without the support of Māori. In essence, that is what the Treaty is about. It requires the Māori voice. This is what the Māori Party affirms, and it is a vision for governance that suggests that, as provided for in the Treaty, tangata whenua should have an equitable say in the decisions that affect them, through Treaty-based representation.

Today is a significant benchmark to assess how well the current Government is meeting its own responsibilities. This third and final bill to implement the Government’s governance arrangements for the Auckland region, the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, is an opportunity to make right the wrongs incurred by previous efforts.

The bill amends the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009 and the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 to resolve further matters relating to the reorganisation of local government in Auckland. As the House is well aware, the Māori Party vigorously opposed the first two bills to implement the Government’s governance arrangements for the Auckland region: the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Bill and the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill.

It would not be stretching the point too far to say that about the only mention of Māori throughout these two bills was in a title and, even then, that came about as a rebuttal to the constant filibustering from members on the other side of the House. It was with pleasure that I listened in the House today to learn that members of the Labour Party had been reading the excellent releases and reports from the Māori Party, including our statement of last week about Māori representation in local government. Research by Kahui Tautoko Consulting Ltd for the Department of Internal Affairs found that “key to effective participation and better decision-making was having Māori representatives with the same status as other elected councillors.”

It could not have been better timing to be told again that local government authorities work more effectively when they have Māori representation. In our haste to make decisions on the interim and transitional provisions for the operation of the Auckland City Council from 1 November 2010, Māori representation must surely be a given.

The Kahui Tautoko Consulting research concluded that “setting aside seats for Māori on local councils should be viewed as an acknowledgment of the promise of partnership in the Treaty signed by Māori and the crown.” We have to ask ourselves, then, in considering the establishment of the various new governance arrangements in Auckland, how the interests of mana whenua are taken into account.

The bill contains provisions for the Auckland Council to be able to operate from its establishment on 1 February 2010, and, within this, there are provisions for a board to promote issues of significance for mana whenua and Māori of Tāmaki-makau-rau.

A key plank for the Māori Party in our campaigning is to ensure that local governments acknowledge the authority of mana whenua, so our co-leader and the Associate Minister of Education, the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, determined that he would seek to develop a range of options that would help us to do this. During the early stages of this bill we as a party invested considerable resources into following the set of recommendations from the report of the *Royal Commission on Auckland Governance.

As members will recall, there was a strong recommendation that Māori should be represented on the Auckland Council, in the form of three seats, shared between mana whenua and Māori. The royal commission also recommended the appointment of a mana whenua forum with powers to appoint members to a Māori advisory forum.

It is now part of the shameful record that during the passage of this legislation the evidence brought forward from the royal commission has been disregarded by the National-Act coalition. I take us back to the points I made in the first bill of this series of three relating to Auckland governance. I talked about the quality of representation we might consider would be involved in proper engagement. Quality representation would comprise a focus on partnership, protection, and pragmatism.

Quality representation in local government is best determined and demonstrated by a tight organisational structure, an appropriate environment, and leadership that promotes and enhances the recognition of Māori values. Proper engagement would involve the protection of mana whenua, wāhi tapu, and taonga Māori. Proper engagement is expressed by meaningful and mutual beneficial participation of Māori in the council. Proper engagement is in the practical means of maintaining and resourcing a consultative mechanism, and a mechanism for tangata whenua and council to contribute to a decision-making process.

Despite the royal commission’s definitive conclusions, the calls from the people of Auckland, and the submissions overwhelmingly in support of Māori representation, and the statutory Māori board put up by my colleague Dr Sharples, we find ourselves at this juncture still no further along the way

So I find myself turning to the deliberations from the hui held on 4 December 2009 at Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae in Auckland. That hui was entitled “Local Government and Māori beyond the Super-city: Ko tehea te huarahi tika?”. Dr Sharples announced the substance of the proposal on the independent statutory board, but it would be fair to say that it did not receive the widespread endorsement of the hui.

The purpose of the statutory board is to “promote cultural, economic, environmental, and social issues of significance for mana whenua and Māori of Tāmaki-makau-rau to assist the Auckland Council in making decisions, performing functions, and exercising powers.” It was a noble attempt, but in effect it does not have any more powers that an advisory board.

The council can be prompted, promoted, or guided by the board, and it can consult the board and take into account its advice, but all the decisions are still made by the council. When a decision is required, such as the appointment of Māori members to select council committees, the authority that oversees the decisions of the board is strictly governed by that council.

Never ones to give up, we continued in the best of our tribal traditions to explore ways in which to amend the Local Government Act and subsequent super-city legislation to ensure the mandatory adoption of Māori seats at local government level. We have not been successful in this bill and we will oppose it, therefore, at its first reading. But we will never lose hope that the commitment to Treaty justice, a commitment to partnership, protection, participation, and pragmatism will live for another day. We in the Māori Party will be there to make sure and to hold the Government to account on that.

ENDS

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