SUBMISSION TO THE MĀORI AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
ROTORUA DISTRICT COUNCIL (REPRESENTATION ARRANGEMENTS) BILL
Grahame Walter Hall QSO JP
20 April 2022
I had 27 years of local government, 12 of which were as Mayor of Rotorua.
I recognise change is inevitable in the world we live in. I have continued my interest in local government and have kept up generally with events and changes locally, nationally and internationally.
By way of further community experience, over a period of 65years, I have served on more than 50 committees and organisations in a leadership or contributing role locally and nationally.
I wish to bring the following issues to your attention. I wish to be heard during the Hearings.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
At the outset of this submission, I wish to address the important point of a conflict of interest.
List MP Tamati Coffey is the proposer of this Bill in Parliament and has taken it forward on behalf of the Rotorua District Council (RDC). After his introduction of the Bill it was referred to the Māori Affairs Select Committee, a committee he chairs.
While this may be legal, clearly it goes against the principle of natural justice, which requires the absence of bias, which not only should be upheld but it also should be seen to be upheld. This is not the case in this instance.
Clearly, it would seem more appropriate for this Bill to come under the jurisdiction of the Governance and Administration Select Committee, which is far more appropriate and aligned with the content of the Bill.
HISTORIC VOTING IN ROTORUA
Going on the results of Local Body elections in Rotorua over many decades, it is one Council in New Zealand that does not need a racially divided system of Māori wards and special legislation giving Māori special rights in elections.
Māori have represented Rotorua on Councils since 1887 when J. T. Morrison represented Rotorua on the Tauranga County council which initially had jurisdiction over Rotorua. Māori were also on the inaugural Rotorua Town Board in 1883.
Māori were elected on to the Rotorua County Council when that was established in 1887 and the Rotorua Borough and City Council throughout the years those local bodies were in existence. Māori councillors included (Sir) Peter Tapsell, who was elected onto the City Council (1979-1983) and later elected Deputy Mayor by his peers on Council.
Since the Amalgamation of the Rotorua City and County Councils in 1978 into the Rotorua District Council, Māori have held 84 seats on our Councils.
In 1993 the Rotorua District Council established a formal Te Arawa Standing Committee of Council with elected and appointed Te Arawa representatives.
This outstanding achievement in Rotorua took place without Māori wards or special legislation.
MĀORI ELECTED OVER THE YEARS ONTO THE VARIOUS ROTORUA COUNCILS WERE ELECTED ‘AT LARGE’ AND IN THEIR OWN RIGHT AND THEY HAVE SAID THEY FELT VERY PROUD TO HAVE DONE SO.
There is no foreseeable reason for this to change. Indeed, Councillors elected by our community, that make up our current Council of ten members, include four Māori, three European, one of Indian heritage, and two of Chinese heritage and a Mayor, who is well versed and strongly supportive of Māori culture and issues.
IF THERE IS ONE PLACE IN NEW ZEALAND THAT DOES NOT NEED MĀORI WARDS OR SPECIAL LEGISLATION TODAY, IT IS ROTORUA. MĀORI HAVE BEEN AND CONTINUE TO BE ELECTED TO COUNCIL AT LARGE IN GOOD NUMBERS AND IN THEIR OWN RIGHT ON MERIT.
Many people in Rotorua have worked very hard over many decades building trust, good will and relationships and have achieved excellent results with Māori representation under the ‘Armorial Bearings of the District of Rotorua’s slogan of, ‘TATOU TATOU / WE TOGETHER.’
Should this bill promoting racial representation proceed, it will destroy most of what has been achieved here in Rotorua.
Clearly any changes to the important matter of voting and representation in any community needs full and frank discussion and meaningful consultation. THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED IN ROTORUA. RUSHING THIS BILL THROUGH THE SELECT COMMITTEE PROCESS NOW, BECAUSE THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT HAS THE NUMBERS TO DO SO, IS UNDEMOCRATIC, UNACCEPTABLE AND DIVISIVE.
THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN THE ROTORUA COMMUNITY who understand this issue, are NOT IN FAVOUR AND DO NOT SUPPORT this Representation Arrangements Bill going ahead now.
Unbelievably, this situation showed the complete inexperience by our Council officers in these matters. The RDC’s ‘Initial Proposal’ for public consultation (for 2 Māori seats, 4 General seats and 4 At Large seats for 10 councillors) was passed 7/4 on 31 August 2021 but was later found to be illegal in terms of the Local Electoral Act. It had to be withdrawn.
The ‘Final Proposal’ for submission to the Local Government Commission, of 1 Māori seat, 1 General seat and 8 At Large seats, justified as preserving the “principles of voter parity,” was adopted by Council 6/5 on 19 November after being recommended by the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee 7/6 on 16 November using the casting vote of its Chair. These split votes should have been sufficient for the Mayor and councillors who supported this proposal to rethink their strategy and timelines.
USING A CASTING VOTE IS NO WAY TO DECIDE ON SUCH AN IMPORTANT MATTER.
The RDC’s Final Proposal was then put to the Local Government Commission for their deliberation and decision. After due consideration including brief submissions being made by interested parties such as our rural ratepayer and residents, the Commission’s common sense and fully considered opinion recommending 3 Māori seats, 6 General seats and I Rural seat for 10 councillors was released to the public and generally found favour in our community.
However, comments on the Commission’s decision have been made unsurprisingly by the Mayor (Daily Post newspaper 13/04/22), who clearly has her own personal agenda on this issue, when she is elected ‘at large’ to represent the views of ALL ratepayers and residents, is quoted as being ‘dissatisfied’ with the Commission’s report.
THE TOTAL DEBATE BY THE RLC ON REPRESENTATION AND VOTING RIGHTS FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END HAS BEEN VERY POORLY MANAGED, DEBATED AND CONSULTED ON.
THE REPRESENTATION ARRANGEMENT BILL
The RDC has put forward a second illegal proposal under current law in the Representation Arrangements Bill and is now seeking this law change to sanction minority wishes.
ROTORUA DOES NOT NEED THIS BILL. A SPECIFIC TO ROTORUA LAW CHANGE IS CLEARLY IS NOT NECCESARY. WE OPERATE SUCCESSFULLY AS THE REST OF NEW ZEALAND DOES WITHOUT IT.
The Mayor, unfortunately, is quoted (Daily Post/ 4/4 /22.) “This is what the people want”. If that statement was referring to “the people” in our community, it is blatantly untrue and incorrect.
List MP Tamati Coffey is also quoted as saying, 8/4/22 DP “we are just tweaking democracy”. CLEARLY TRUE DEMOCRACY IS NOT UP FOR ‘TWEAKING’.
TAKEN FROM AN HISTORIC AND EXPERIENCED PERSPECTIVE, THE RDC’s REPRESENTATION ARRANGEMENTS BILL, IF SUCCESSFUL, WILL DIVIDE OUR COMMUNITY ON RACIAL LINES AND STRONGY GO AGAINST OUR ROTORUA-PRACTISED MOTTO OF TATOU TATOU.
I’m aware there is considerable objection to this Bill in our Community, and many have put in a submission, covering this matter in much detail.
RATHER THAN REPEAT THOSE DETAILS IN THIS SUBMISSION I WISH TO CONCLUDE WITH A VERY STRONG PLEA TO THE COMMITTEE
“THAT THIS COMMITTEE REFER THIS BILL BACK TO THE ROTORUA DISTRICT COUNCIL TO ALLOW FULL AND WIDE COMMUNITY DISCUSSION AND MEANINGFUL CONSULATION ON FUTURE VOTING AND REPRESENTATION, SO THAT AN ACCEPTABLE SOLUTION CAN BE FOUND IN A MORE TIMELY, DEMOCRATIC AND LESS DIVISIVE MANNER.”
‘ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE, ONE VALUE’ OR EQUAL SUFFRAGE IS THE IMPORTANT CORNERSTONE OF OUR DEMOCRACY. CONTINUING TO PURSUE THIS RDC (REPRESENTATION ARRANGEMENTS) ILLEGAL BILL FOR ROTORUA, AND PASS A LAW TO MAKE IT LEGAL, WILL TAKE AWAY THIS CORNERSTONE OF OUR DEMOCRACY.
FOR THE UPCOMING LOCAL BODY ELECTIONS, THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION’S RECENT DELIBERATION AND DECISION ON REPRESENTATION AND VOTING FOR ROTORUA CAN BE USED.
THEIR DECISION HAS THE STRONG SUPPORT OF THE PEOPLE IN OUR COMMUNITY WHO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO KEEP UP WITH THE SHAMBLES IN THIS MATTER CREATED BY THE ROTORUA LAKES COUNCIL.
I FIRMLY BELIEVE, ALL PEOPLE WHO NOW CALL NEW ZEALAND HOME, CAN BE PROUD TO BE CALLED NEW ZEALANDERS FIRST AND FOREMOST. WE CAN ALL RECOGNISE THE TANGATA WHENUA AND AT THE SAME TIME THE VERY DIVERSE CULTURES OF THE MANY OTHER PEOPLE WHO NOW HAVE CITIZENSHIP IN OUR COUNTRY.
I WISH TO BE HEARD TO PRESENT THIS SUBMISSION
Grahame W Hall QSO JP