Thursday 14 May 2009, 10:29AM
By Hone Harawira


In opening the debate on this Bill, the Hon Rodney Hide spoke on a number of occasions, about the historical background to this bill, referring to the decades old debate about how Auckland should be restructured, which reminded me about a comment made by one of my own whanaunga, Paora Tuhaere, a chief of the Ngati Whatua o Orakei, who said …

“Let us be admitted into your councils. This would be the very best system. The Pakeha have their councils and the Maori have separate councils, but evil results from these councils not being one”.

Mr Speaker, that could have been a submission to the Royal Commission on Auckland governance, but it wasn’t, and it is timely to note that Paora Tuhaere’s comments from the late nineteenth century are as relevant to today’s debate as they were when they were first spoken, because they speak against the evils which result from exclusion, marginalisation, and isolation; and they speak of a system where councils would include mana whenua; a system in which the relationship between mana whenua and the development, land use and environmental matters are embedded in the heart of local government; a system where communities are involved in the decision making, and communities are strengthened, not reduced, or eliminated.

I am proud to be of Ngati Whatua descent, and I am proud to stand alongside my whanaunga from Ngati Whatua o Orakei, who come to this Local Government (Auckland) Bill with a very clear understanding of the way in which Maori representation can be achieved.

They recommended first and foremost:

1. That a mana whenua committee be established consisting of at least the following hapu and iwi interests in the Auckland region – Te Uri o Hau; Ngati Wai; Ngati Manuhiri; Nga Rima o Kaipara; Ngati Rehua; Ngati Wai ki Aotea; Te Kawerau a Maki; Ngati Whatua o Orakei; Ngati Paoa; Ngati Tama Te Ra; Ngati Maru; Ngati Te Ata; Ngati Tamaoho; Te Akitai and Ngai Tai.

2. That the mana whenua committee then be empowered to do three things:
appoint the three mana whenua members to the Regional Authority;
be consulted on the appointment of the nomination by the Waipareira Trust and Manukau Urban Maori Authority of the fourth Maori member – from taura here.
appoint a member to all principal committees, advisory boards, community boards and area committees of the regional authority so that Maori have a voice at every level.

Mr Speaker, these are practical, concrete suggestions about how to achieve basic democracy. They are not acts of protest. They are not hocus-pocus. They are not separatist. They are practical, concrete suggestions.

Indeed, further up north last year, the Far North District Council also held a hui to discuss the challenge of Maori engagement at local government, and were told by Maori that there were four key principles that would guide a positive process of Maori engagement:

1. partnership – working in good faith between both parties;
2. participation – a duty to consult as a way of acting in good faith and reasonably toward one another;
3. protection – recognising & protecting Maori rights to land and water;
4. pragmatism – achieving sound decisions for the whole community.

Seems to me that these four principles (partnership, participation, protection, pragmatism) are as good a basis as any on which to include Maori representation in Auckland governance – and yet when you look at the Impact Statement of the Bill, there is no mention at all of the concerns raised by Maori communities and Maori people to the Royal Commission.

Neither is there any mention of the Royal Commission's recommendations for three Maori seats on the proposed Auckland Council – and even though there has been huge controversy over the decision, it doesn’t even get a mention; in fact the whole debate itself has been totally marginalised, despite the fact that the Bill acknowledges that one of the major problems identified by the Royal Commission was poor community engagement.

Mind you, poor community engagement ain’t nuthin’ new for Maori.

In the 2007 local government survey, only 3.6% of elected members were identified as Maori, although 15% of the national population is Maori, and one of the main reasons for that can be found in a study done by Dr Christine Cheyne and Veronica Tawhai which showed that Maori don’t vote in local body elections because they don’t see local authorities as being connected, responsive, or accountable to Maori communities.

Mr Speaker, while all of these core principles seem to have been missing from government’s approach to the Auckland Governance debacle, it seems they don’t blink at spending more than half a million bucks on a pamphlet called “Making Auckland Greater”; advertising and a website to ram through its case for a super-city, not only against the wishes of mana whenua, but also against the citizens of Auckland itself.

170 years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, it seems that government still fails to take seriously its obligations under the Local Government Act of 2002, to ensure the active involvement of tangata whenua in all levels of decision making about changes to the structure and organisation of the Auckland region, and in fact, this new Bill clearly states that its priorities will take precedent over any issues arising out of other local government legislation such as the Local Government Act of 2002.

And this new Bill contains NO provisions which will require the Auckland Council or the Auckland Transition Agency to take account of the Treaty, or provide for Maori contribution to local government decision-making, again, as provided for in the Local Government Act 2002, which at least provides a foundation for encouraging Maori representation, and I quote:

“in order to recognise and respect the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and to maintain and improve opportunities for Maori to contribute to local government decision-making processes, there are principles and requirements for local authorities that are intended to facilitate participation by Maori in local authority decision-making processes”.

So the legislation is there, albeit not used as well as it might be, and even if councils were struggling to implement it, that isn’t an excuse to get rid of it. If anything, it should have been a wake up call to Government to enhance those provisions rather than toss them in the rubbish.

Indeed, one of the fundamental concerns raised at the 15 April hui hosted by Ngati Whatua o Orakei at Takaparawha, was the deep concern at the haste by which the decision was taken.

That hui, attended by Maori politicians, community leaders, and more than 500 others, also expressed deep concern at the fact that it seems that government can not even bring itself to honour the world’s greatest Polynesian city by giving three seats to the people who have been giving land to the settlement of Auckland for more than 200 years, and continue to share graciously what little land they still have with the people of Auckland right through to this very day, to honour the blood, sweat and tears that the tangata whenua have shed to help make Auckland the jewel of the Pacific, to honour the partnership of the Treaty of Waitangi, or to honour the fact that Maori seats actually encourage Maori to participate because they see people and a system that is connected, responsive, and accountable to themselves.

In the final analysis, all we want is a guaranteed Maori presence at the table.

The Maori Party has already proved that the only way to guarantee independent, intelligent, thoughtful, and honest Maori representation at the national level is through the establishment and maintenance of independent Maori seats.

What we seek for the good people of Auckland is nothing more, nothing less.

This Bill is a tragic reminder that 170 years after our tupuna signed the Treaty of Waitangi as the basis of partnership in this great country of ours, we still have a very, very long way to go.

This bill is an insult to due process, an insult to partnership, an insult to justice, and an insult to the mana whenua of Auckland, and the Maori Party will be opposing it every step of the way.