Maori Council Row (Update)


The Maori Affairs minister has jumped into the row over unelected Maori being put on Auckland Council committees by revealing that an independent Maori Statutory Board with a broad mandate was agreed by Cabinet.
The Minister & Tamaki Makaurau MP Dr Pita Sharples says: .“The issues that went to Cabinet were quite clear. I proposed dedicated Maori seats, and Minister Hide threatened to resign if Cabinet supported me. An independent Maori Statutory Board with a broad mandate was agreed by the Cabinet.”
Minister Hide is now responsible for the law passed by the Parliament. Calling the Board an advisory body, or saying he didn’t want it, is not helpful. If he cannot accept the decision, Mr Hide should carry out his threat to resign.”

Dr Sharples said the Maori Statutory Board is “not the toothless advisory committee that local government has been used to, and the Minister of Local Government and the Auckland Council have to come to terms with that,

“The law requires the Council and the Board to act reasonably toward each other, and to work together in good faith. A major slashing of the Board’s budget is not an auspicious start to the relationship. Before matters get worse, there should be urgent and open negotiations for a funding agreement, as the Act intends.

“I also hope the Board’s appeal to the Court for a declaratory judgement is simply a way of clarifying uncertainty, and does not set a pattern of adversarial relationships between the Council and the Board in future.

“The Cabinet decision broke new ground in establishing a Board with its own mana to reflect the views and priorities of the Maori citizens of Auckland, and to help the Council meet its Treaty obligations in local government and resource management.

“Maori have a huge contribution to make to Auckland’s development. It is just so important that the board and the council work together constructively, for all the citizens of Auckland,” said Dr Sharples.

The issue of Maori being given voting rights on committees of Auckland Council has now turned ugly in the wake of the public outcry about the issue.
After complaints from a number of councillors about the decision to allow unelected councillors from the Maori Statutory Board and grant it a budget of $3.4 million, the matter went to this afternoon’s meeting of the full Council.
Observers say the council has voted to write to the Government to ask it to interpret the meaning of the legislation setting up the Council and the board as it has led to a he said she said blame game about who has caused this stuff up.

Because the council has now trimmed its overall budget, the Maori Board, worried it won’t get its full funding,  is off to the courts tomorrow to get clarification over the mess.

In a statement tonight , the Maori Board’s chairman, David Taipari, said his group considered that only the courts could interpret the law and they were the proper and responsible place to seek clarification over any legislation.
“In our view, the legislation that set up the Board was quite clear: the Council must reach a Funding Agreement with the Board by 15 February and meet the reasonable costs of the Board’s operations, secretariat, and independent advisors,” Mr Taipari said.

“Our reading of the law is that, if our proposed costs are reasonable, the Council has no discretion about meeting those costs, so that tonight’s Council decision is most probably in breach of the law.”

This is a disaster and so lacking in transparency.

  • Did the government sneak through the intention to allow this to happen as a compromise to the Maori Party after initially Rodney Hide and ACT insisted separate Maori seats would be discriminatory?
  • Or was the legislation so rushed, it was badly drafted and open to mis-interpretation?
  • Or did Len Brown and his officials go along with it or not understand the implications and fail to inform councillors and rushed through the financing agreement without proper diligence and thought?
  • Or did council officials just not raise a red flag and suddenly everyone panicked and innocently rushed through the decision?

Who will ever know.

This is an unwelcome distraction to the bigger issues of getting Auckland on track for a united supercity which can do great things and make our city hum. Things were going so well.

This stuff up has given opponents of Brown rope to try to hang him and some in the public to lose confidence, judging by talkback and letters to newspapers and forums.

And whatever happens the poor old ratepayer is going to be left paying the bill of court costs if not the outrageous millions being demanded for meeting fees etc by non-democratically elected councillors.

Despite what some transport commentators say, this is an issue for those excited about the Mayor’s rail plans.

For one thing, it gives an unelected person voting rights on a transport committee which is not united in its support of the rail plans. We don’t even know what side of the fence this unknown committee member is on. Tonight’s narrow votes at the council show that the extra vote on a committee can be a decider. If there are Maori councillors, they should be elected, not somehow created through the back door.

Let’s hope it gets resolved quickly so we can move on to great things happen for Auckland.




  1. Matt L says:

    The thing I find odd in all of the is the Maori boards stance of, its our right and we will assert it as much as we can regardless of the feeling of the majority of people. By doing this they are just going to get more people opposed to them and lead to a law change removing them completely (which should have happened in the first place).

    What they should have done is come out publicly and say that they will sit on the boards but not vote as it would be undemocratic and they would have had a lot of support from the public for that stance.

  2. Nats and Act stuff up again says:

    With the National Party and ACT stuffing up this legislation who can trust them to run (down) the country for another term?

    Vote National - Another Disaster

  3. Jeremy says:

    The Maori party leader has already admitted the law was written like this on purpose after Hide opposed having maori elected councilors. This means a court decision may go in favour of the maori board because the intention and literal meaning of the law was meant to be this way.
    There may be glimpse of hope however, because Len said on National radio that although the board is independent they have members on the council which in-turn make them accountable to ratepayers therefore costs must be justified to the ratepayer.

    Alot of this ambiguity could have been avoided if the word “member” was removed from the legislation because a member of a committee to me means just that and entails everything involved with any sitting member elected or otherwise. Ofcourse the legislation could have distinguished between a voting member and a non voting member or even allowed the council the option to appoint further members.

  4. Another Matt says:

    Well it’s fair to say if separate Maori seats were given the go ahead this whole issue could have been avoided.


  5. Matt says:

    Having just had a look at the relevant section of the law, I think the Board has a reasonable case.
    The wording is:

    To enable the board to carry out its purpose, perform its functions, and exercise its powers, the Auckland Council must meet the reasonable costs of—
    * (a) the board’s operations; and
    * (b) the board’s secretariat; and
    * (c) establishing committees under section 86; and
    * (d) seeking and obtaining advice under section 86.

    Emphasis mine. So it has mandatory language (“must”) coupled with “reasonable costs”, and from what the Board has said they have come to a reasonable sum through appropriately-diligent means.

    As far as cost goes, getting a statutory declaration shouldn’t be too horrendously expensive unless it goes through appeals. If the action stops at the High Court, the court costs will only run to mid-five figures (if that) and lawyers’ fees probably similar. This is not going to be a million-dollar draw-out battle, because it’s pretty straight-forward.

  6. mark says:

    The money is a side-show, Matt. I care much less about the money than the fact that, as Jon rightly pointed out, we have a random VOTING element in our comittees now. They did not campaign on a platform, they are not accountable to the public, but they will get to decide on things such as whether we should sell off public assets or build the CBD tunnel.

    Apart from being undemocratic, this opens up all sorts of backroom deal opportunities for them - “vote for my thing, and I’ll make sure whatever you want elsewhere happens.”. That’s often dodgy enough when it happens amongst people that have been put in place via voting.

    Elected or GTFO.

  7. Matt says:

    Mark, then blame Rodney, and blame National for letting Rodney force it through under urgency and without implementing the full recommendations of the Royal Commission. The only blame is with the current government and their bollocksing-up of the drafting and process.

  8. mark says:

    Matt, I DO blame Rodney. I submitted, and even presented my submission to the Select Committee. But this slipped under the radar (if it was even on the table then).

    But in any case: these people - sitting at the table, voting on our rates and our city’s future - are now the main problem. Rodney will eventually go away at election time. These guys, I can’t vote out.

    I’m sure they are no worse people than the rest of the committee. But they have no right to the seat they are sitting on, not in a democracy.

  9. Mark says:

    Council need to change their standing orders so that only elected members can vote. Appointed people on committes can contribute - but note vote.

    Interestingly Councillors take an oath to work for the whole city - ie not just their wards - sensible.

    but these people have no oath of office - only there to push one sectional interest. It would be like Business round table getting a vote!! 40% of rates paid by business - they could argue they should have a seat……

    Also - are these appointed people covered by legislation eg members interest act / conflicts etc ? I doubt it - other legislation wouldn’t have considered these issues. So do they have to declare conflicts? avoid voting?

    As soon as you move away from basic 1 person/1vote you head into a minefield - and thanks to key/Hide we’re in the middle of one!

    Don’t forget the people selecting/setting up this board have already had 1 vote for Mayor/Councillors/Local Boards - now they get to select between 10% to 30% of Committee voting numbers

  10. Kurt says:

    What is at issue here is the credibility of this government whether or not one agrees with Maori representation.

    Rodney Hide grandstanded on the basic principals of counsellors being voted in on merit and not race or anything else. He was uncompromising at the time, he was the man!

    John Key was none too happy with Rodney but went along with it.

    But as it turns out the legislation very quietly slipped in a worse scenario, that being persons on the council who can vote on issues but who are not elected. John Key is comfortable with this, while Hide is now fudging the issue.

    This legislation is a pigs arse and I wonder what other surprises were hidden in it.

    I wouldn’t trust any other legislation these guys, (ACT and National) pass no matter what their reassurances are.

  11. Matt says:

    The more that comes out about how this has all come to pass, the more damage it does to the remaining vestigial shreds of credibility for Act. Which is no bad thing. If the destruction of Act costs $5m over the next two years and leads to Maori seats, I consider it cheap at half the price. The odds of National having the Treasury benches in November keep getting longer.

  12. Eric says:

    Everyone seems to be forgetting that it is Brown who is trying to get the board votes. And as far as I can tell Rodney actually didn’t want to have the unelected seats and that this was something National did to keep the Maori party happy. I think that if this court case goes through then Brown can kiss his second term goodbye since at the end of the day it’s him, not Rodney who wants to spend 1.9 million of our money on this board.

  13. Matt says:

    Eric, Brown didn’t prepare the budget for the Maori Board, and he’s legally obligated to follow the law (which requires that the Council meet the Board’s reasonable costs of operation). I don’t want a mayor who thinks that the politically-acceptable-to-the-racist-majority-but-also-illegal solution is in any way acceptable.

    We know Brown doesn’t meet with your approval, but he was not the man who drafted the law and he’s not a member of the political parties that shoved it through Parliament under urgency and with no care for public consultation.

  14. mark says:

    “If the destruction of Act costs $5m over the next two years and leads to Maori seats, I consider it cheap at half the price.”

    Bleargh. As long as you are talking ELECTED seats, I might agree with you, Matt, even though I wouldn’t like it. But if Rodney is gone and the unelected Maori voting board members remain, we would still be saddled with a major issue for who knows how many years or decades.

  15. Kurt says:

    Mark, good point about elected seats but MMP almost creates the same thing, who voted for John Boscawen for example or half of the other MP’s?

    We cant get rid of them unless the party is voted out in entirety.

  16. mark says:

    Kurt - can’t really agree with you. These people elected via MMP at least had *real people* chosing to put their votes to their party. They have a constituency that chose to give votes to their party, not to another party. It’s still 1 person, 1 vote, overall, even if the resulting representation is a mix of part direct & part indirect.

    What votes can unelected committee members claim?

    “We cant get rid of them unless the party is voted out in entirety.”

    I cannot vote to shut down the entire Maori statutory board, so even that option isn’t available here. Neither can I vote to create a “transport blogger’s statutory board”, or a “recent immigrants statutory board” or an “Asian’s statutory board”.

    No compare to MMP, where such parties could legally be created, could run, be voted in, and be voted out again. I know some people don’t like MMP, but the difference to this is still like night and day.

  17. Eric says:

    Wow, calling the majority of Aucklanders racist, that’s a bit of a cheap shot if you ask me. And what does me not approving of Brown have anything to do with it? Maybe I just don’t want 1.9 million of ratepayers money going to a board that is going to have little or no effect on the city. I would be saying the exact same thing if it was Banks.

    And anyway it’s Brown that wants the board to be on eleven committees when the government thought that he only wanted it on 1 or 2. And if Brown is being forced to do this then why doesn’t he make a stand and say that the law should be changed instead of actually ASSISTING THE BOARDS COURT CASE!!

    This is shoddy law making, the result of a small minority being allowed a bigger voice then it should. But blaming Rodney is pointless sense ho didn’t actually make it himself.

    ‘We know Brown doesn’t meet with your approval’

    Matt could you please attack me with real facts instead of insults, in other posts you’ve already called me an anti-rail bigot (which is utterly false) and quite frankly I’m getting bloody tired of it!

  18. Jeremy says:

    I’m not going to comment on any person’s comprehension skills and ability to look beyond headlines..but at the start and end of the day the Government are the Government they run the country, they set the trend for others to follow, they are meant to be all knowing. Now wouldn’t it be pointless to have the Government if local councils just did what they want let alone an inefficient way to run the country.

    Anyway I heard on radiolive that Key is not even contemplating having a re-look at this law.

  19. Matt says:

    Eric, Brown is following the law. He didn’t write it, or have any input into how it was written. The Board, not Brown, decided that the law meant they needed to sit on all committees.

    You’re heaping a lot of blame on Brown for things that are completely out of his control. The law’s out of his control. The costs of complying with the law properly are out of his control. The only control he has is supporting, or not, the Board’s desire to comply with the law. A law written and passed under the auspices of the Minister of Local Government and the National Party.

    Sorry for calling you an anti-rail bigot if you’re not one, but a number of your posts have come across as very strongly anti-rail/pro-roads.


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