May 12, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori gain key decision making power on Auckland Council

5 min read

Board members set to hold balance of power on Auckland Council – Unelected board members are set to hold the balance of power on many Auckland Council committee decisions, which will surprise many Aucklanders who have just elected their councillors, says Auckland Councillor for Orakei, Cameron Brewer.

Legislation dictates that the Maori Statutory Board can appoint up to two members with full voting rights to council committees that deal with natural and physical resources. The board is now set to exercise that right.

Given councillors votes are often quite evenly split, these two appointees will from time to time determine the final outcome. They will effectively hold the balance of power. Im pretty relaxed about it but it will surprise many Aucklanders as it sounds a lot like separate Maori seats. However unlike Maori seats these board members have not been elected by Maori at large but rather appointed by a selection panel.

I suspect most councillors are pretty relaxed at this stage and I dont think it will be a case of the tail wagging the dog. Its part of the Auckland Council legislation and both sides are going into this with a lot of goodwill. Its great that both mana whenua and mataawaka are represented.

As well as sitting on committees the board will play a critical role in the spatial plan, Aucklands long-term planning, as well as ongoing dialogue regarding Treaty of Waitangi settlements, the co-governance of volcanic cones, and the foreshore and seabed debate.

Weve just got to see how the relationship works. If there are any unintended consequences which are patently unfair or undemocratic, parliament will just have to iron out the creases, says Cameron Brewer.

Edward Rooney of the Aucklander reported the following:

Board chairman David Taipari says 20 of the council’s committees, panels and forums will have two Maori representatives at the table for meetings.

These bodies’ responsibilities range over almost all the council’s activities – future vision, strategy and finance, transport, regulations and bylaws, social and community development, parks and heritage.

“We asked the council for its requirements in regards to skills and expertise that it wanted for the members to join the committees prior to Christmas and we did not get a response back,” he says.

“So, rather than wait any further, we have nominated two names for each of the majority of the committees. We have considered what skills they should have and we have put those names forward.”

Asked if the public seemed aware of the Maori appointments, Mr Taipari replies: “I’m starting to find out that that’s probably not the case. I believe the council has yet to get its head around it. But have we gained the balance of power? I would say we have not. What we have gained is an opportunity to participate.

“In my view, the council will always be in control of the make-up of the committees. If the council is unhappy, it can change the make-up of the committees by the flick of the wrist or the stroke of a pen. I just hope it’s not made a mockery of.”

Many Maori were disappointed when Local Government Minister Rodney Hide refused to establish a specific Maori seat on the Auckland Council. But Mr Taipari says the committee appointments have offset that: “I believe Mr Hide was supportive of mana whenua and Maori participation.”

Mr Taipari says all the nominees are members of the nine-strong Maori Statutory Board “at this stage”. The board was appointed by an iwi selection body convened by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples in October.

Mr Taipari says the Maori members will put tangata whenua views to the committees during decision-making and vote accordingly.

The capacity for the board to make the appointments was written into the Local Government (Auckland Council) Amendment Act 2010.

“It is a requirement under the act and our advice is that we basically align with all of the committees of council,” Mr Taipari says. “We are happy to appoint members to the committees.”

The council has very little comment to make on the issue. A spokesman confirms there is a provision for the board to appoint members to committees.

“That process is now underway,” he says. “The next discussions on this will take place next month.”

Meanwhile, Mr Taipari says the Maori Statutory Board would reconsider the names it has nominated to join the committees if the council wishes.

“I’d like to get an understanding of these committees and their requirements also,” he says. “Then we’ll report back to the council to make sure we have the right people there. But as things stand, I’m quite sure we do.”

Furthermore, the board would like Maori representative on other council bodies, such as the Hauraki Gulf Forum and the Culture Arts and Events Forum.

The Maori Statutory Board has already been chided by Mayor Len Brown after closing its first meeting to the media. A spokesman for Mr Brown said at the time the board should make its meetings open to the public wherever possible.

Mr Taipari says his board will be as open as possible.

“It would be silly to make a blanket statement on the matter. Even the council has had some closed meetings themselves.”

Maori membership

Section 85 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Amendment Act 2010 says:

Board’s specific functions (1) The board must appoint a maximum of 2 persons to sit as members on each of the Auckland Council’s committees that deal with the management and stewardship of natural and physical resources.

(2) If the Auckland Council asks the board to appoint a person or persons to sit as members on any other of the Council’s committees, the board may do so.

(3) The board must, –

(a) before making the appointments, seek the views of the Auckland Council as to the skills and experience that the Council would like the appointees to have; and

(b) when making the appointments, take the views of the Auckland Council into account.

(4) The board must consider a request by the Auckland Council that the board accept the delegation of a function by the Council.

(5) The board must act in accordance with a delegation that it has accepted.

1 thought on “Maori gain key decision making power on Auckland Council

  1. Editorial: If Maori are to vote, give them the seats

    5:30 AM Saturday Jan 22, 2011

    Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer put it mildly when he suggested most Aucklanders would be surprised to learn that unelected members of the Auckland Council's Maori advisory board can vote on council committees.

    Astonished would be more like it. The Government, having rejected the sensible option of dedicated Maori seats on the council, has breached a fundamental precept of democracy to ensure the Maori voice is heard. Handing full voting powers to appointed advisers – Maori or otherwise – is anathema. It will serve only to breed resentment in the wider community.

    Aucklanders will also be startled to learn of this unsatisfactory state of affairs so late in the day. It becomes obvious only with a close reading of the 2010 Local Government (Auckland Council) Amendment Act.

    That legislation does not spell out the voting right of the Maori advisers as such. It says merely that the iwi-selected Maori Statutory Board "must appoint a maximum of two persons to sit as members on each of the Auckland Council's committees that deal with the management and stewardship of natural and physical resources". Membership bestows the same voting rights as those representatives elected by ratepayers have.

    This is a far from academic matter. As Labour spokesman Phil Twyford has pointed out, it is easy to envisage a situation in which a committee is evenly split.

    The non-elected Maori advisers will then have the casting vote. In effect, they will not be acting in an advisory role. They could be decision-makers, although the full council can overturn any committee decision.

    There is an air of unreality about much of this. A council spokesman talks of the act creating an atmosphere of "perplexed amusement".

    Local Government Minister Rodney Hide says, with much justification, that he is surprised the Maori Statutory Board is appointing people to sit on all council committees, rather than only those dealing with resource management issues, as indicated by the legislation.

    The act also dictates that the Maori Statutory Board must seek the council's views on the skills and experience that its committee appointees should have. The board put that question before Christmas.

    Having received no response in a relatively short period, probably because the council has much on its plate, it has charged ahead anyway. Unilaterally, it has decided what skills and experience will be required, and put names forward for each of about 20 committees.

    Clearly, the board is seeking to gain the best possible foothold as the council settles into its work. It can hardly be blamed for that.

    Having been denied the place at the full council table recommended by a royal commission, and warranted by the distinctive character and interest of the Maori community, it is making the best of the cards it has been dealt. If the council is struggling with the act, that is not the board's fault.

    It is, however, the Government's problem. If handing voting rights to non-elected Maori advisers is its idea of a compromise, it is one founded on a woebegone notion of democracy.

    The shortsighted remedying of one ill has created the potential for a festering grievance. To placate the majority of Auckland ratepayers, repairs will have to be made.

    Two dedicated Maori seats, elected by Auckland residents on the rolls of the Maori parliamentary electorates covering the Super City, are the best solution.

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