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.