Iwi seats on Otago Regional Council

The Otago Regional Council has voted in favour of reserving committee seats for Ngāi Tahu. This has been referred to as “exciting” and also as “racist”.

I’m more concerned about “alarming” rates rises.

ODT on Monday (before the vote): Reaction mixed to ORC seats for iwi

The idea of non-elected iwi seats on an Otago Regional Council committee has drawn councillor responses from “racist” to “exciting”.

Cr Michael Laws has blasted the move as an “assault upon democracy”.

“It is so privileged, and so obviously racist, that it calls into question the fundamental principles of democracy in Otago.”

The decision would empower an “unelected minority”.

“It is a recommendation that embraces all the PC nonsense of our age but misrepresents both logic and law in advancing such racial privilege.”

Cr Bryan Scott said the principle of having iwi at the table was “exciting”.

“My personal view is we always need to strive to do better with iwi and this is a way of doing that.”

They would represent two seats out of 14 and all decisions would have to be ratified by the full council, he said.

“Ideally, they can add value and we can discuss things face to face. The outcomes will be better for our community.”

Stuff (after the vote): Otago Regional Council votes in favour of reserving committee seats for Ngāi Tahu

A controversial move to give local iwi two seats has passed, despite one Otago Regional councillor claiming it promotes “racial privilege”.

Councillors voted seven to three in favour of devoting two seats on the council’s policy committee to Ngāi Tahu, a move chairman Stephen Woodhead said was a “win-win”.

“They will look for people with [Resource Management Act] expertise and able to assist us around this governance table.”

Councillor Michael Laws, who represents the Dunstan constituency, criticised the council before Wednesday’s meeting for being undemocratic and advancing “racial privilege” by reserving the seats for iwi.

Deputy chairwoman Gretchen Robertson, who chairs the policy committee, said it was a beneficial move for the council.

“We make important decisions for our community in the space of land, air and water … How can we speak for iwi? We must hear first and face to face.”

Councillor Michael Deaker, who supported iwi representation, said bringing iwi around the table was “lawful, democratic and desirable”.

“We have had dozens of people, mostly North Islanders who probably don’t know where the Dunstan constituency is  … dog-whistled in and [they] have showered us with words like undemocratic, criminal, racist, ‘unethical left-leaning PC control freaks’ … it’s all quite stunning.

Councillor Graeme Bell, who voted against the recommendation, said his Dunstan constituency told him iwi were needed in the room, but should not have voting rights.

He called for Māori candidates to put their names forward in the upcoming local body election.

Cr Ella Lawton supported the motion, but said the process had been “terrible again”.

Lawton proposed a review of the 2003 memorandum of understanding with local iwi, which was adopted following Wednesday’s vote.

Laws said he was opposed to the representation proposal because there had been no consultation and there were financial implications.

“This isn’t some biosecurity emergency like wallabies – this is policy. We should have put out a draft plan and be consulting on it right now and getting public feedback but no, we aren’t going to do that.”

I’m ambivalent. I haven’t really thought much about it and what it might mean. I’m not aware of any public engagement on this.

We get to have our say at the local body elections later this year.

My biggest concern with the ORC is the rampant rate rises – Increase of 26.9% for ORC general rates

Otago Regional Council general rates will jump 26.9% and not be subject to formal public consultation.

That sounds terrible.

A cartoon on the iwi seats is bound to be controversial.

Dene is ex-political editor of the ODT.

Leave a comment


  1. Reply
    • Duker

       /  17th May 2019

      cartoons are supposed to be caricatures both of an individual and the issue.

  2. Corky

     /  17th May 2019

    Michael Laws is right. It’s racism, pure and simple. No buts. The people of Otago can put this right at the next election. Election results will show whether it’s a big issue with them or not.
    It should be..but I doubt will.

  3. MaureenW

     /  17th May 2019

    Why isn’t this a breach under the Human Rights Commission? Why do we have race-based policies in an (apparently) equal opportunity society?

    The Human Rights Commission offers a free, informal enquiries and complaints service to deal with discrimination and racial and sexual harassment issues. Discrimination happens when a person is treated unfairly or less favourably than others in similar circumstances.

    • Duker

       /  17th May 2019

      Its in the legislation to allow this …however they arent creating separate maori only wards , which can be voted against by a single issue referendum, they are creating maori appointed members on a major committee. As was done by Rodney Hide in his super city legislation for Auckland.

      • corky

         /  17th May 2019

        Maybe a test case should be tried. It would probabaly lose, but the publicity would make councils think twice about upsuping the democractic process.

        • Duker

           /  17th May 2019

          Waste of time – they have that angle covered
          They call it positive actions to achieve equality


          You would likely need a high court challenge that shows the specific Otago RC decision wasnt equality for iwi but better position.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  17th May 2019

            Obviously requires a complaint to the HRC about the HRC.

            • Duker

               /  17th May 2019

              They say legislation allows this and it does – affirmative action. Which I think is a good thing. But an iwi isnt a person ?

              if you look closely at the HR Act it should be the Human Rights Exceptions Act as it has great slabs of ‘exceptions’ eg employment
              Exceptions in relation to employment matters
              24 Exception in relation to crews of ships and aircraft
              25 Exception in relation to work involving national security
              26 Exception in relation to work performed outside New Zealand
              27 Exceptions in relation to authenticity and privacy
              28 Exceptions for purposes of religion
              29 Further exceptions in relation to disability
              30 Further exceptions in relation to age
              30A Exception in relation to employment-related retirement benefits
              31 Exception in relation to employment of a political nature
              32 Exception in relation to family status

              I dont think legally ‘iwi’ are a protected class for positive discrimination ‘Human rights’ in the way individual maori are. When it comes to separate wards those are specifically allowed for in Local Government legislation and there is a requirement ‘must’ include Maori in decision making
              81 Contributions to decision-making processes by Māori

    • Corky

       /  17th May 2019

      Good point, Maureen.

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  17th May 2019

    The Waitangi industry takes another hostage.

  5. David

     /  17th May 2019

    Ngai Tahu are a rapacious corporation maximising profits at every opportunity and if useful woke councillors wish to aid their bottom line while wearing bone carvings to further that then that is no bad thing.
    Ngai Tahu are currently felling vast swathes of forest and putting in dairy farms so having them on council means less interference for all dairy farmers. Good news for the tourism industry given how big a player they are in that field.
    Its the mirror image of having Fletchers running the rebuild after the quakes.

  6. Zedd

     /  17th May 2019

    ‘Duker’ partially ‘stole my thunder’.. maybe some folks needs to be reminded about:

    Treaty of Waitangi, states both ‘treaty partners’; are entitled to have a say, on legislation.. not just ‘might is right’.. most powerful always gets what they want & to have their say.. the term is ‘Affirmative action’ & many Tories needs to be constantly reminded.. to ‘get off your high horses’ & listen to others too 😦

    • Duker

       /  17th May 2019

      No . Its not the Treaty that says that, Its the Local Government Act.
      What you have described is often called the “principles of the Treaty’ which are what ever you want they to be at the time
      Even The Waitangi Tribunal says ‘they vary’

      interesting part about land sales
      ” As we shall see, Lord Normanby’s [Secretary for Colonies in London]instructions (and those of the New Zealand Company to its agent) stated that the true payment for Māori who parted with land would be the rise in value of what they retained, which would enable them to participate fully in the benefits of settlement.
      But in many cases of course, even 10% to be retained didnt happen.

      • Zedd

         /  17th May 2019

        The Treaty (article 3) talks about maori having ‘all the rights & privileges’ of ‘British subjects’ (Pakeha).. inc. to vote & make laws ?

        I guess its still open to interpretation :/

        • Duker

           /  17th May 2019

          That gives same rights as other citizens…. which they do under current Otago Regional Council elections, although land owners can get an extra votes if they have more than property in different votes, ie cant vote for same person more than once

          I dont know the voting details of communally owned maori land but I think they might only have 1 person nominated for property.
          Wilco would have stack of voting forms….

  7. Corky

     /  17th May 2019

    ”Treaty of Waitangi, states both ‘treaty partners’’

    No, the Treaty mentions nothing about partnership. Revisionists like to say ”partnership” is implied by the Treaty. Again, that isn’t true.

    Some people need less toking..and more history lesssons.

    • Zedd

       /  17th May 2019

      ‘Some people need less toking..’ sez corky

      some others need to grow a brain & stop assuming such B-S

      • Duker

         /  17th May 2019

        Corky is right Z.
        It was Lord Cooke of Thornton president of court of Appeal who made the Treaty a partnership – in law-
        He delivered the landmark judgment in the 1989 forest case (NZ Maori Council vs Attorney-General) that defined the Treaty of Waitangi as a partnership.
        Plus it was a dispute over SOEs and their land

        The law was only able to come to conclusions like that by not referering to the Treaty itself but instead the new and improved ‘Treaty Principles’

  8. sorethumb

     /  17th May 2019

    Ngai tahu = one ancestor in their blue book and you are in.


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