The current “advisory” relationship between local government and Maori is insufficient at best, broken at worst. It is about to be changed here in Hawke’s Bay — hopefully for the better — by the Crown in direct negotiation with the nine Treaty Claimant Groups mandated here in the Bay.

HB Regional Council is currently disposing of a critical issue in a manner that perfectly illustrates why the present arrangement is unsatisfactory.

As everyone probably knows, the Government, with Maori Party support, has proposed replacing the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act with the 2010 Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill. Various players have rather strong views on the matter, plenty of misinformation is floating around, and passions have been ignited.

Into the Parliamentary process steps the HB Regional Council, with a proposed submission on the Bill, a matter first put before the Council at its Environmental Management Committee meeting on November 10. Councillors were told that their submission had to be made by a November 19 deadline. But since a new Maori Advisory Committee had not yet been installed for the new triennium, there would be no opportunity for consultation with the Maori community. Apparently the HBRC hasn’t the imagination to figure out how to consult with Maori outside of that format.

Nevertheless, the Councillors were determined to press ahead, suggesting that a submission be filed by the 19th, and then subsequently amended if the Maori Committee (to be organized on November 23) expressed serious misgivings that the Councillors wished to take into account. [Notice who is in charge here.]

The Councillors were forced to re-convene on the matter as a full Council when unanimous agreement for this decision (required when meeting as the Environment Committee) could not be achieved.

So the Councillors met again to decide the matter — this time as the full Council, where a majority vote is sufficient — on November 18. They were newly informed by staff that the Council would not be able to change its submission, once entered, in the event the Maori Committee was unhappy with the submission, but could only offer additional information to support their original submission. In other words, HBRC couldn’t change its mind after further consultation.

With Mike Mohi, the former (and presumably next) Chairman of the Maori Advisory Committee present, the Council decided to proceed with its submission. Mohi indicated that he personally favoured the submission, and that he was doubtful the new Maori Committee would oppose it, although he conceded he hadn’t conferred with anyone.

That was the extent of the Maori consultation on a Bill with huge ramifications for that community and of course for the entire Bay.

Councillors and HBRC staff minimize the nature of their submission, claiming that they are addressing only “implementation” issues, and not challenging the underlying thrust of the proposed legislation. That’s rubbish. Precisely the areas they are most fretful about — the interplay between Maori control and planning for their coastal land versus current RMA procedures, and the nature of permitted “customary” activities, to name two examples — go right to the heart of the re-defined partnership regime the Government is intending to install.*

Whether the proposed submission is innocuous or not is precisely the sort of question that should have been sorted through consultation … and not just consultation with Maori. Heaps of Pakeha have strong, and conflicting, views on the legislation. The issue here is power, not procedure … whatever side you come down on.

In short, the Councillors do not want their sandbox messed with. For them, this is a matter of protecting their institutional prerogatives … their levers of power.

The “lord of the manor” language used by Councillors in discussing the process disclosed their real attitudes …

Said Councillor von Dadelszen: “We will take Maori views seriously, but this is our submission.”

Said Councillor Scott: “This is our function as a Regional Council … we have a duty to submit … They can put in their own submission.” [Apparently forgetting that the Maori Committee won’t be installed before the submission deadline!]

How benevolent of these Councillors! So much for partnership. The Councillors clearly view the Maori as just another bothersome interest group, like environmentalists, moteliers and podiatrists.

However, like it or not — and better for New Zealand — it appears the Government and the Crown have a more progressive view of the relationship that should exist between Maori and local government. And the end result will be some form of co-governance with respect to natural resources that reaches far beyond the marine and coastal area.

It looks like the Regional Council might have little say in what that co-governance looks like, since the latest report is that a number of Treaty Claimant Groups have indicated they will not support the arrangement, favoured by HBRC,  that has been tabled for some months now.

The shape of co-governance will be negotiated and agreed upon by the Crown and the treaty claimants. To the extent HBRC hopes to gain an effective voice in these negotiations, one would expect they might have thought to be more inclusive and sensitive in their approach to this Bill submission. Instead, their handling of the matter can do nothing but send warning signals to watching Maori.

Better they made no submission at all.

Tom Belford

*In addition, the HBRC submission will endorse the more extensive critique of the Bill submitted by Local Government New Zealand. I’ll wager not two Councillors actually read that submission before making their decision to endorse it.

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8 Comments

  1. “Skateboards made people frightened and anxious” Ooh, jinkees!

    This reminds me of the movie “Hot Fuzz”:
    In the twee little village of Sanford, Gloucestershire, constantly named “Village of the Year” the village committee members start knocking off young “hoodies”, travelling gypsies, jugglers etc. to maintain the image of their pristine bit of history.

    Committee meetings are held at a round table in the ruins of a local castle with the members wearing long hooded robes and chanting “the public good!” whenever some subversive action is decided upon to protect their village’s image.

    Sounds kinda familiar now, don’t it?

  2. i follow your bay buzz with great intrest.it reminds my of all the thing that have gone wrong in my home of california.nobody listens to the locals, we are only in there way.i have been to your area and only hope that the locals can send a cleare message to the queen mother to let the locals take care of the ocean and land because big corporations and most locals leaders only care about one thing(how much will i make)and our oceans and lands pay the price. cheers don gilbert

  3. Can't disagree with you Tom- but at least I was able to successfully though painfully move an amendment this time for the submission to go before the Maori Committee meeting and followed up then. I think improving on consultation with Maori- and other groups, (apart from farmers, which we do very well)- is one of our top priorites. Cheers, Liz Remmerswaal

  4. Well put Andrew, however the sad reality is that the voters of Hawkes Bay returned the landed gentery to the table!

  5. Re the skateboarders; Andrew, "frightened and anxious" people means just that – when skateboarders come flying at them on the public pavements & on the public's street features! Clever play using the Gloucestershire experience to illustrate your point but as the mother of a variously described 'gypsy', ''illustionist', 'magician in training', 'street performer' and all round 'strange looking person' – I can honestly say our Council decision (to impose some further measures as a deterrent to the minority of boarders scaring the hell out of pedestrians) was not from an anti-boarder stance. We acknowledge this issue is caused by the minority not the majority of skateboarders and further, fully support them being physically active as opposed to sitting in front of a gaming or tv screen 24/7. We also considered the fact that there have been 2 assaults on Council staff and that these activities also have an arguably preventable cost on all ratepayers. I hope this helps illuminate our thoughts and reasons behind the decision we made.

  6. I have found the best deterrent to skateboarders whizzing past is a well timed, wide-arm-stretching yawn (known in wrestling parlance as a "clothesline"). Even just the sight of one slows them down a real treat.

    Napier City Council liquidated the position of "Youth Co-ordinator" recently, preferring to use the money for local skateboard bowls (ironically) – a token gesture to the city’s younger generations. The position had several appointees over the past years with varying degrees of silence to the greater masses, with the exception of Youth Week once a year perhaps. So, from a P.R. point of view, it may well have been an economically sensible decision. But it ultimately leaves things like “YCon”, or the “Napier City Council Youth Forum” (as it was called when I was a member way back in 1995) and the majority of the city’s younger people who don’t skate unrepresented or un-facilitated.

    We know you have links to “The State of It”, Michelle, and are looking at helping to get it up and running again somehow and somewhere. It wasn’t my scene and a little too late for my teen years, so I don’t have an opinion on its past (other than for an independent youth venue it appeared to be a favourite target for council regulators and fines) or any possible resurgent future which could well be a welcome diversification for Napier activities.

    I voted for you, Michelle, on the grounds that you wanted to do more for those less well off and, under, well, 40 years old in the city and I looked forward to some cages being rattled from the inside as we Baybuzz fans do from the outside. I’m a little saddened to see, though, you have already adopted the “royal ‘we’” that the council of old/new/same adopted and an almost council-defensive stance to your post, as Maxine (who I also held hope for in her solo fight last term). Shake it up a bit! We put you there for your differing opinion, background and point of view, please use it, Shout it from the rooftops!

    They haven’t gotten to you already, have they? Please say it ain’t so!

  7. Shouting a differing view from the rooftops at the first – or any – Council committee meeting is not an effective way of getting things done in the local government environment. We are not in Parliament, where opposing party members are expected to yell across the House at every speech made by a government member, and make fiercely critical comments outside Parliament, knowing they have the full support of their same-party colleagues/constituents in doing so.

    What is different in our non-partisan system is that councillors tend to take issues one at a time, and either agree or disagree on the officers recommendation on the committee agenda. If we want to make changes, then we do so at the meeting and argue the case in the hope we will get enough others to agree with us so that the changes are accepted. When it comes to the crunch, we can have our differing vote recorded and we can, if we want, talk to the media or whoever later about why we disagreed with the majority of Councillors.

    I'm sorry if you have been disappointed by my performance or lack of Andrew, but like all councillors, I'm limited to my assigned role in the existing system. One councillor is just a tiny cog in a big machine, and if you believed that I, or Michelle would be able to make drastic changes by yelling from rooftops or rattling our cage, then your expectations were unrealistic. Decision-making is a numbers game so to win a debate requires persuading a majority of others to agree, and yelling from rooftops is unlikely to have that effect.

    It's not a perfect system by any means, but what I bring to the table is an empathy for the people I represent, and a desire to make decisions which are mindful of their values and circumstances.

    We do have some major challenges ahead this term – the continuation of our part-ward electoral system will be one – in which I will be taking what is likely to be a minority position. It's a matter of picking my battles, but also working to balance having a positive working relationship with other councillors and staff while trying to meet the needs of the people I represent.

    Why not come along to some of our meetings, Andrew, and have a look at who we are and what we are doing. I'm also available to meet you – or anyone – for a coffee to talk over some of the issues. Don't believe everything you read in the paper!

  8. Andrew – re the royal ‘we’ – of course it’s a collective decision. As Maxine has said above, no decision of the council is ever going to be the sole decision of one councillor – me or any of the other dozen people. As for ‘have they got to you already’ – of course not!! Thanks for your vote but by the same token Andrew, let me get up to speed please – all the major issues will be on meeting agendas either in this current meeting round or the first one of the new year…I have a lot of back-reading to do to catch up to the others in terms of having ALL the information they already had before the October 2010 election. Rest assured, there’s nothing wrong with my ‘voice’ and no-one’s shutting me up – I’m doing what I always do, research first – expression second!!

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