Bernard Orsman reports:
It is undemocratic and untenable for unelected members of the Auckland Council’s Maori statutory board to have voting rights on council committees, says Labour’s Auckland issues spokesman Phil Twyford.
I agree with Phil Twyford on this point.
It is worth noting that the Royal Commission actually recommended having an unelected (appointed by Iwi) Councillor sit on the main Auckland Council itself. Labour criticised National for not following the Commission’s recommendations.
Two Maori representatives from the nine-member Maori statutory body will join up to 20 council committees with full voting powers under a Super City bill passed last year in the name of Local Government Minister and Act leader Rodney Hide.
If the council committees are actually making decisions, not just recommendations, this is a quite serious issue. Non-voting representation would be more appropriate.
It is worth remembering that three of the 20 Councillors are of Maori descent – and elected through wards.
Mr Twyford said hand-picked representatives exercising a full vote alongside elected representatives on council committees went against a fundamental principle of democracy and the Government should amend the law to make the positions advisory only.
I agree. But is Twyford representing what Labour said at the time. Here is a press release on 14 May 2009:
“Labour believes the Government should have adopted the Royal Commission’s proposals to include Maori seats on the council, but it hasn’t.
One of those Maori seats as an un-elected one, appointed by Iwi. So in 2009 Labour seemed to argue for un-elected Maori representation, but now they argue againgst it.
Mr Horomia said the relationship between the Auckland Council and mana whenua is important and it is essential they have a voice in local government decision-making.
“Just how that is reflected and how potential mana whenua seats might complement elected Maori seats is an issue which the select committee will hear submissions on and we will pay attention to this.
Again, Labour were not saying they were against appointed Maori representation back then.
“Imagine how people will feel in a really heated debate on some important issue, a committee is evenly split, and these non-elected, hand-picked advisers have the casting vote. People will be furious,” Mr Twyford said.
Again I agree.
Last night, Mr Hide, who is overseas, on his honeymoon, issued a statement saying the decision for Maori to be members of committees was made at the select committee state.
Labour was on that select committee. In their minority report they said:
This bill introduces a Māori Advisory Board. While we have worked hard to ensure this board is more effective, we have not altered our position. Labour believes there should be Māori seats on the new Auckland Council.
Working hard to make it more effective doesn’t sound like arguing they should not have representation on council committees.
He did say he was surprised the board would appoint people to sit on all council committees when the legislation required it to appoint people only to committees that dealt with the management and stewardship of natural and physical resources.
This is correct. So it is a decision of the Auckland Council itself that gave voting rights to the non-Councillors on all the other Committees. So will Phil Twyford call on Len Brown to restrict these appointments to those few committees dealing with natural and physical resources.