A legislative Bill providing for “co-management” of the Waikato River by a joint committee of Waikato regional councillors and appointed Maori representatives is progressing through Parliament, receiving its second reading. According to NZ Farmer’s Weekly, the measure is a “done deal” with both National and Labour supporting the approach.
The Bill signals the approach likely to be taken here in Hawke’s Bay as treaty settlements are negotiated.
In Hawke’s Bay, the co-governance model in discussion would see a joint committee established, consisting of six of the elected Regional Councillors and six representatives appointed by Maori treaty negotiating groups (“Large Natural Groups” – LNGs). This committee would set policy for managing natural resources in the Bay.
Whether in Waikato or Hawke’s Bay, this new arrangement for setting resource policy represents a huge shift in governance … a shift that demands far more consultation with all stakeholders and the general public. Judging from the coverage in Farmer’s Weekly, little consultation has occurred in Waikato, causing serious consternation among farmer groups and local territorial bodies, among others.
In Hawke’s Bay, only the most superficial briefings have occurred (one cannot really call it “consultation”).
Ironically, Local Government Minister Hide, who had no reluctance in sacking Canterbury’s regional council, has re-invented himself as the champion of local democracy by opposing the Waikato co-management scheme (and by implication, others like it).
Says Hide to Farmer’s Weekly: “We [ACT] believe that when you are essentially regulating and controlling natural resources such as water and land, the people responsible should be subject to democratic control. That means if the community does not like it, the community can sack them … The people of Canterbury are going to be able to vote [in future], but in Waikato they won’t — ever.”
The HBRC doesn’t seem to want to talk about this subject. Perhaps they are being “gagged” by the Government, as the formal parties to the negotiations are the Crown and the Maori treaty LNGs.
Nevertheless, when I last checked, the Regional Council worked for the voters of Hawke’s Bay, not the Government. HBRC needs to start talking to its multiple constituencies about this weighty change.