A legal opinion obtained by Democracy Action describes the ‘iwi participation arrangements’ in the amendments to the Resource Management Act (RMA), currently before the Environment Select Committee, as both undemocratic and racist.
The proposals increase the spread of unelected race-based representatives having voting rights on Councils. This is pernicious and manifestly unjust. It will sharpen the racial divide already opening in New Zealand and undermine private property rights even further.
Don’t think this doesn’t matter. It was the casting vote of an unelected member of the Independent Maori Statutory Board that permitted the ‘out of scope’ amendments to the Proposed Auckland Plan to go before the Independent Hearings Panel.
Democracy Action has issued this media release.
The closing date for submissions on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 is now less than a week away, on Monday 14th March.
Are you aware of the implications of the Government’s latest proposed amendments to the Bill? The Government says the purpose of the Bill is to create a system that manages resources in an equitable way. However, the changes would significantly shift the constitutional relationship between local authorities and Mäori.
The proposed ‘Iwi Participation Arrangements’ will strengthen the power tribal groups have over local government and the country’s natural resources – including fresh water. Such provisions will have a serious impact, not only on the democratic rights of citizens who are not members of local iwi, but also on the ability of elected representatives to act in the best interest of their constituents.
Democracy Action has sought advice on the Bill from Wellington Public Law specialists, Franks Ogilvie. Their advice included the following:
“It will give iwi a higher special status than they currently have and more power and control than members of the public”.
“It contains nothing to reserve or protect the over-riding authority of the elected Council and its duty to all citizens and their right to equal treatment.”
We have appended the legal opinion in full, including the provisions of particular concern.
The Bill is currently in front of Parliament’s Local Government and Environment Select Committee. You have until 14th March to express your views. You can read our submission against the Bill here. If you share our concern about any of the content of the bill, I urge you to make a submission. Making a submission is easy, it doesn’t have to be in any particular format. The important thing is that as many as people as possible submit something. You can find a link to the Bill on our website, and also a brief guide on how to make a submission.
Disturbing as the racist aspects of the proposed changes are, they are but one aspect of the far more serious undermining of democracy that this government has engaged in for far too long.
Democracy is a fragile flower. There are only 24 democracies among the 195 sovereign states in the world. These democracies are the only countries in the world where the rule of law flourishes, bringing freedoms and economic prosperity that are the envy of the rest of the world. The ‘rule of law’ is the cornerstone of democracy. Remove it or weaken it and the whole structure starts to crumble.
The rule of law requires that laws are general (without a bewildering mass of exceptions), universal (applying to everyone) and stable (not changing so often that they become confusing).
Based on the above, the RMA is an affront to the rule of law and democracy. It always has been, but it’s about to get a whole lot worse unless each of us takes action now..
It is a sad indictment against this government that it has sought to undermine private property rights, the rule of law, and democracy for the most venal of reasons, political expediency.
The government’s racist legislation has already encouraged a culture of racketeering and extortion to flourish in local government, especially in Auckland.
It will all end very badly.
Please take the time to write a submission, or if you haven’t much time follow the links provided by Democracy Action. It only takes a minute. Once democracy is gone, it is gone forever.
UPDATE: some have told me they are having trouble with the submission link. Simply email LocalGovernment.Environment@parliament.govt.nz with your thoughts. It's enough or feel free to use anything from this blog. I will add my submission later if you want to it.