MP: iwi co-governance protest disappointing

Jo-Anne La Grouw leading the demonstration on Tuesday. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

“Save our democracy.”

That was the call from about 40 people who gathered outside Rotorua Lakes Council this Tuesday morning to protest against its pursuit of “iwi co-governance".

However, a Māori academic who observed the demonstration said, in her view, it was motivated by “ignorance and fear”.

Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi says it’s “disappointing” people are “threatened” by Māori wards.

Demonstration organiser Jo-Anne La Grouw told Local Democracy Reporting the council’s adopted governance model, of one Māori ward seat, one general ward seat, and eight at-large seats, is not democratic.

She says a blog post prompted her into action.

“I thought, everybody’s against it but nobody’s doing anything.”

She believes many want to remove Māori wards, which the council adopted in May followed by the “interim” model in November.

It's also pursuing a local bill through Parliament to allow its preferred model of three Māori ward seats, three general ward seats and four at-large seats.

The model is currently unlawful under the Local Electoral Act.

In a statement provided by La Grouw, the group says the council is “riding roughshod over its ratepayers in an effort to achieve its objective of iwi co-governance".

“Co-governance is basically the antithesis of democracy … the minority ruling over the majority.”

It says the council is “blatantly ignoring the overwhelming message from ratepayers that they do not accept race-based decisions”.

The group's petition opposing the interim model had attracted 183 signatures by Tuesday morning.

Rotorua district councillors Reynold Macpherson, who spoke in the video above, and Peter Bentley attended the demonstration.

Macpherson opposes the interim model, saying as the district’s Māori roll is smaller than the general roll, it give Māori ward voters 2.6 times the voting power of those not on the Māori roll.

"We have a right to a thing called equal suffrage. That means we all have the same voting power.”

He wants three Māori ward seats and seven general.

The demonstration began at the council’s Haupapa St entrance and moved to Fenton St. Motorists tooted as they passed demonstrators holding signs including “one vote, one person = democracy” and “protect our democracy”.

Other watchers shouted “land back”, which refers to the return of land stolen from Māori by the Crown.

Demonstrator Jocelyn Greene says she believes the council is “trying to put people into positions they’re not elected to.”

She says she couldn't expand on how that would happen.

Local elections are scheduled for October. The council has not proposed appointing candidates to seats.

A demonstrator who gave her name as Sharyn, says she has lived in Rotorua for 70 years and has always seen a “fair representation of people” on the council.

“They want to have extra seats for Māori.”

Academic Ngahuia Te Awekotuku MNZM (Te Arawa, Tūhoe, Waikato) observed the demonstration from nearby.

She says, in her opinion, it's driven by “ignorance and fear”.

Te Awekotuku believed many in the protest did not understand the history, generosity, vision or gift of local hapu Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Uenukukōpako and Ngāti Rangiwewehi.

“We are the indigenous people. We didn’t sign the Treaty of Waitangi but we did sign the [Rotorua / Fenton] Township Agreement and that agreement has hardly been honoured.

In her view: “When we have the opportunity now with the new ward system … to actually bring us to the table … it threatens people like that.”

In a statement, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick says she respects people’s democratic right to peaceful protest.

She's awaiting the outcome of Local Government Commission hearings on the representation model and the local bill process.

She encourages people to submit on the bill if the select committee called for submissions.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White says Te Arawa is likely the largest ratepayer in the Rotorua district. That doesn’t give Te Arawa any special rights but means it has a stake in democratic participation.

“We want to work together.

“The reality is, our people have been left behind.”

He says Māori social deprivation needs to be addressed by having Māori “at the table”.

“When people talk about democracy, well, the council voted [for the interim model]. That’s democracy.”

Rotorua-based Labour list MP Tāmati Coffey. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

Rotorua-based Labour list MP Tāmati Coffey, the local bill’s sponsor, says it's the “result of democracy” in the majority council vote.

“This city was gifted by local Māori with the intent of partnership, which was never truly honoured.”

Waiariki MP and Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi says in his opinion it's “disappointing that people feel threatened by the establishment of Māori wards”.

“We all know democracy is the tyranny of the majority, which fundamentally excludes the voices of indigenous peoples all over the world and in our case tangata whenua.

“There is no such thing as race-based decisions in this country when referring to Māori kaupapa and issues, it’s rights-based, based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

Waititi says Rotorua Lakes Council has “great representation of Māori” in its current council but that could change.

“I encourage [the demonstrators] to speak to their children and mokopuna and ask for their views, I can guarantee there is an inter-generational mind shift, a change of perspective.”

“We are seeing the rise of tangata tiriti - people committed to a treaty-focused Aotearoa - and I am here for it.”

-Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air




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12 Comments

I hope, morepork

Posted on 29-03-2022 17:55 | By R. Bell

that you get this before it all trends away. All democracies have appointed people in powerful positions, it is part of liberal democracy. For instance the government is only the final word in decision making after numerous unelected officials decide the best course of action. Covid is the current best example. You say my responses are weak, without expanding on your reasons. In times of high emotion the truth can and does appear weak, but it is truth non the less. The euphemism treaty based is not meant to fool anyone, all treaty based concessions are just that. The only reason you can use "race based "is because the treaty was signed by two races. Therefor any treaty based decision, like those favouring pakeha are indeed race based also. You want equity, there it is in black and white.

last response from me on this.

Posted on 29-03-2022 14:20 | By morepork

Robin, I read both your responses carefully several times. They are weak and you know it. I have no "agenda" other than the restoration of ELECTED, not APPOINTED people to positions of power, and the inalienable right of the population to a voice, whether it is in line with the Government or not. Fortunately (for me) there is a growing awareness of these problems and normally lethargic or politically apathetic Kiwis (I consider myself one of those) are being roused to recognize that "co-governance" and He Puapua present measures that will not stand. The "small" protest in Rotorua is but the tip of an iceberg that will manifest itself in the next General Election. And the euphemism of "treaty based" doesn’t fool anyone. The treaty needs an overhaul, but we need Democracy restored first. I respect your opinion, but I cannot share it.

Last word on Democracy

Posted on 28-03-2022 16:18 | By R. Bell

for morepork. The great thing about democracy is the freedom it gives us all, not just in speech and movement but in all the intangible freedoms we enjoy. When elected members abuse that freedom by rendering the purpose of governance null and void the greater power is duty bound to intervene. Nania Mahuta did just that. In your haste to blame Ms Mahuta and Tenby Powell in order to push another agenda, you ignore the disfunction of the council members who were clearly responsible. The are still out there. In fact one just announced his intent to stand for parliament. At least if people are dumb enough to vote for him, he’ll get buried by real politicians. There is no book on democracy morepork because democracy is in constant change. The racist term "race based" has done more damage to race relations than any other, try Treaty based.

We are all,

Posted on 28-03-2022 15:52 | By R. Bell

serious then morepork. The problem I have is that you continue to make incorrect statements. 1. The right to object by referendum was not removed "because of the likely result" it was removed because it was a discriminatory clause in the law, applicable only to Maori wards and not to other minority bodies such as Federated Farmers who also enjoy a ward in some jurisdictions which by the way I strongly support. In fact they are in the above article requesting just that. 2. Maori participation in three waters is imperative considering the level of neglect many councils are guilty of in providing clean, regular water supply and drainage. It is in line with other great co-governance such as the Whanganui River and Te Urewera projects listen to Jim Bolger on the subject instead of the political loser Don Brash. I don’t play the racism card, it’s fact.

Seriously, R. Bell (2)

Posted on 27-03-2022 18:45 | By morepork

ANYONE can stand for election and has been able to for a very long time. Robin, I’m surprised you are playing the Racism card when it is largely a spent force today. The major reason people resent Maori today is nothing to do with Race; it is because they see a better deal being obtained than they can get, and that will always cause resentment. If there was true EQUALITY with people all equal under the Law, Racism would be dead within a decade. (It is on its last legs and the modern generation don’t support it. ) Despite what you say, I have never denied that Maori have had a bad deal historically. I agree that the facts bear this out. But you should agree that reparations have been made, and it is time to move on. Replacing the system by dividing the country is unacceptable.

Seriously, R.Bell.

Posted on 27-03-2022 18:29 | By morepork

My assertions that we are losing Democracy are hardly nonsense when the facts bear them out. Maori Ward referendum was removed because of the likely result. Three waters, with its appointed iwi representatives, is undemocratic. Mahuta’s decision to keep the appointed Commission in Tauranga, is undemocratic. The tribal tikanga system sees appointment of tribal members with the most mana to the highest positions (undemocratic). Yes, there is a hierarchy in ANY system but there is a big difference between ELECTING it and APPOINTING it. The Co-Leader of the Maori Party (which could be the Kingmaker at the next election), Rawiri Waititi, STATED their opposition to Democracy: "We don’t want Democracy; Democracy means majority rules..." Is all of the above "nonsense"? No, it is FACT. You say Maori had no place at the table. I would agree that Racism made it hard, but it was always possible.

Seriously, morepork.

Posted on 26-03-2022 19:37 | By R. Bell

Your misinterpretation of facts is stunning, My reference to protection for Maori is in the realisation that in spite of your objections and those of your mentors Hobsons "pledge" Successive governments have recognised and implemented Maori treaty rights since the 1970s. You make assertions that we do not have a democratic government, absolute nonsense. All societies including Maori have governing elites. The election of whom is no different in Maoridom than it is in any democracy. We have a stable government but not to your liking it seems. The "" stable" democratic government you crave denied Maori rights and marginalised them for 120 yrs simply because Maori had no place at the table. You ignore or deny these facts but facts they are. With respect morepork you should drop any notion of referendum to solve your problems, on this subject it will unleash every racist in NZ.

@R. Bell

Posted on 26-03-2022 12:59 | By morepork

Robin, if you believe that "co-governance" will protect Maori rights under the treaty, you may be seriously disappointed. The best way to protect Treaty rights is to have a Democratic Government that recognizes and defends them, on behalf of ALL NZers. At the moment, this whole secretive He Puapua movement is intent on benefitting a certain unelected elite and creating a gravy train for a handful of well-placed academics and activists, the benefits of which may or may not be passed on to iwi/hapu. Get a stable government where people actually have a voice and there is equality for all, a unifying government instead of a divisive and separating one. Then there is a future for ALL, and treaty rights can be recognized and defended by the voice of ALL the people, instead of the voice of privilege. The "co-governance" is based on UNDRIP, but it is flawed.

A very small group

Posted on 24-03-2022 19:24 | By R. Bell

of protesters, for a very good reason. Most people now understand that co- governance is no threat to either democracy or any non Maori. What it does achieve is ongoing legal protection for Maori and their treaty rights. Democracy in New Zealand has by law and legal precedent taken those rights and enshrined them. Until the education system has the time to establish a better understanding of Maori rights these petty arguments will continue to be politicized by desperate right wing pollys like David Seymore who clearly misinterprets the treaty.

The lines are being drawn.

Posted on 23-03-2022 18:38 | By morepork

It might have been a small group, but the realization that Democracy is being destroyed deliberately is growing. "Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi says it’s “disappointing” people are “threatened” by Māori wards." That’s the SAME MP who is on record as saying: "We don’t want Democracy...Democracy means majority rules." He got that right... Except that in a true Democracy where ALL are EQUAL, NOBODY is ruled by ANYBODY; ALL are subject to the SAME rule of LAW. If you have had the concept of tribal hierarchic tikanga instilled into you, you probably WILL struggle with the concept of EQUALITY. I’m not threatened by Maori Wards; I’m threatened by having my right to object, arbitrarily removed, secretively, without warning, because the predicted outcome was not to the liking of the Government. He Puapua must be stopped, and it looks like this idea has even reached Rotorua.

Academic, come on

Posted on 23-03-2022 09:59 | By an_alias

Just say it like it is, a government paid advocate says no this is democracy. Co-governance they are advocating has nothing to do with democracy. LDR reporting for the govt yet again as well.

More than wards

Posted on 23-03-2022 07:49 | By Kancho

Three waters governance is 50 iwi selected and therefore power of veto over water and a right to levy water too. This is a multi level bureaucracy not on merit or expertise but by race. This government are forcing through this and other plans not voted on by or supported by the electorate. Already seperatism in many government departments in place by stealth. This government has no permission or right to do any of this and must be sent a message next election to preserve the will of the people that is called democracy

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