Press Release – Sustainable Canterbury
Local environmental watchdogs Sustainable Canterbury have stated their support for Māori ward seats on city, district and regional councils. Media Release: Sustainable Canterbury
Date: 10 November 2011
Māori ward seats on councils endorsed
Local environmental watchdogs Sustainable Canterbury have stated their support for Māori ward seats on city, district and regional councils.
The move follows Nelson City Council becoming the third council in New Zealand and the first in the South Island to establish a Māori ward for the 2013 council elections. Though legislated for in the Local Government Act, transition to local representation for tangata whenua has been slow. Sustainable Canterbury hopes the process can now accelerate.
“We see this as democratic progress and realisation of a Treaty right,” says Sustainable Canterbury spokesman Rik Tindall. “Māori are a uniquely entitled New Zealand minority, and proportional representation is an obligation long owed to them by settler society.”
The statement of position is a challenge to both the Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury, to ensure that Māori – Treaty of Waitangi partners – are democratically represented in the immediate future. “Only prejudice and power politics stand in the way of fairness here, both of which are unacceptable today,” Tindall says.
Sustainable Canterbury sees Nelson City’s decision as a wise way forward, for both increasing democratic say for all Māori, and utility of their separate voter enrolment. The question connects with the continued survival of the parliamentary Māori seats, in this way.
“Holistic improvement of New Zealand democracy is our goal,” says Tindall, “and this means incorporating the tangata whenua role of kaitiaki (environmental stewards) at local level”.
Tindall advises that “proportionately, Māori constitute around eight percent of Canterbury voters, so seven percent of our council representation – one out of each 14 seats – is a fair place to start.”
Other issues could also be resolved by Canterbury following Nelson’s lead.
“Government intervention in Environment Canterbury since 2010 has been heavy-handed and non-transparent around conflicts-of-interest and resource management, we believe,” Tindall says. Under the ECan Act, elected representation is to be returned by 2013. “The sooner that representation is reinstated and proportional to our community, the better the public interest can be protected, and with more confidence in it all,” Tindall concludes.
Sustainable Canterbury hosts an election forum, to plumb the various water-related matters in the region, on Monday 21 November, 7.30pm at the WEA, 59 Gloucester Street in Christchurch. They will be testing the room for policy cooperation between the Labour, Green, Mana and NZ First parties, on: “‘Co-governance means around water, towards 350 parts per million atmospheric carbon dioxide’ – If they cannot agree on how to achieve that, why should people vote for them?”