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Democracy of Parliament’s Select Committees Being Eroded

The democracy of Parliament’s Select Committees is being eroded by drastic slashing of the public’s right to make full submissions says the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand (CORANZ).

Andi Cockroft, CORANZ chairman said experiences in making submissions to a parliamentary select committee currently dealing with amendments to the Resource Management Act (RMA) had left him bewildered and angry.

He had made a submission on behalf of CORANZ and was due to present another for Public Access NZ (PANZ). At the CORANZ presentation, despite being initially assured of 15 minutes to present, he was abruptly dismissed after five minutes. For a forthcoming PANZ verbal submission he was at first given 15 minutes but that was later slashed to just five minutes.

“I’m pretty annoyed over this affront to democracy. The committee is treating the public with disdain, just making a token consultation to listening to the public. After all MPs are public servants.”

He said behind the facade of the select committee were bureaucrats who seemed to manipulate MPs and the procedures to suit political and-or self-serving agendas.

“I was brought up to believe that Parliament was the place of democracy - where you could get a fair hearing from elected representatives based on a history and moral constitution of honour, truth and justice.”

Andi Cockroft said the warning signs of politicians ignoring their role as elected representatives and public servants, had been happening for some time. The manner in which firearm law changes following the Christchurch March 15 mosque tragedy, were rusheded through with “thoroughly indecent haste” showing a total disregard for democracy.

“Forget the subject, focus on the manner of the select committee dealing with 13,000 submissions in just three days. It defies credibility and shows a total lack of integrity,” he said.

It was therefore a logical reaction for the public to rate politicians, political parties and governments as among the most despised. Andi Cockroft said his comments were not confined to MPs but were equally applicable to local government, councillors and bureaucrats.

“There is an urgent crisis about the accelerating and alarming erosion of democracy and the strangling of the people’s voice,” he said. “It needs strong reaction from an outraged public which is timely as this is an election year.”

A past CORANZ chairman Tony Orman of Marlborough Who had made submissions to parliamentary select committees several times since 1971, said those presentations had involved time slots from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

He first encountered the slashing of the public’s time to just 5 minutes in 2007 at a ERMA review of 1080. The futility of travelling across Cook Strait at a cost of about $250 for five minutes speaking time, decided him to decline making a submission. Instead he enlisted the help of a Wellington friend to utilise the paltry five minute slot.

“I saw that as an insult and an indication of the arrogance of the increasingly powerful, dominant bureaucracy,” he said. “That ERMA panel were public servants, meant to be hearing the public’s views but they’d forgotten their purpose. It is apparent politicians are now afflicted with the same amnesia.”

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