Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill appears to be still stalled

National MP Nick Smith introduced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to Parliament in March 2016.

The sanctuary was a part of both governing agreements between Labour and NZ First and the Green Party, but after the bill was transferred to incoming Labour Minister of the Environment David Parker the bill seems to have stalled. In nearly three years it hasn’t progressed from it’s Second Reading.

Smith recently stated:

“It is embarrassing for the Coalition Government that it has made no progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary after 18 months in Government.  The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill, originally in my name but transferred to David Parker with the change in Government in 2017, has sat on the bottom of Parliament’s Order Paper for 18 months.

Timeline:

8 March 2016 – Bill introduced to Parliament

15 March 2016 – First Reading

22 July 2016 – Select Committee

15 September 2016Govt remains committed to Kermadec sanctuary

The Government is disappointed it has been unable to reach agreement with Maori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) on the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, despite lengthy negotiations, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“We have tried very hard to find a resolution with TOKM, with 10 meetings involving ministers during the past 10 months. TOKM wanted to be able to maintain the right to fish and the right to exercise that at some time in the future. We wanted to protect the integrity of the sanctuary as a no-take area.

“The Government has amended the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to provide a dual name, the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary Bill, to include Maori in the new Kermadec/Rangitahua Conservation Board, and to provide for their inclusion in the 25-year review. We remain committed to the changes to the proposal despite not being able to secure an agreement with TOKM.”

24 October 2017: Governing Agreements

Labour NZ First Coalition Agreement:

    • Work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First.

Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement (24 October 2017):

8. Safeguard the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems and promote abundant fisheries. Use best endeavours and work alongside Māori to establish the Kermadec/ Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary and look to establish a Taranaki blue whale sanctuary.

11 May 2018Winston Peters says the Greens can have a Kermadec Sanctuary – with a catch

Hope for a Kermadec Sanctuary is back on the table and NZ First leader Winston Peters is confident he can do a deal with the Green Party by the end of the year.

The deal would involve a compromise from the Greens though – accepting that the sanctuary won’t be a 100 per cent no-fishing zone.

While the previous government’s bill to establish it passed its first reading unopposed in 2016, iwi bodies and fishing companies subsequently filed legal action against it. NZ First, which has close ties to the fishing industry, raised serious concerns about the legislation.

To keep the fishing industry happy and to ensure iwi with fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi are on board, Peters is proposing a mixed model that allows for roughly 95 per cent marine reserve and 5 per cent fishing.

Peters says it’s entirely possible to preserve species while allowing a small percentage of fishing to keep interested parties on side.

He said the Greens would need to decide whether it was more important to have the best part of a sanctuary, or no sanctuary at all.

23 June 2018 – David Parker address to the Forest & Bird Annual Conference

I am also trying to progress the Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary, which I have Ministerial responsibility for. I am working to see if I can find a way through that.

24 July 2018Winston Peters confident of Kermadec Marine Sanctuary deal by end of year

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is confident the deadlock over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary can be broken by the end of the year.

Environment Minister David Parker and Mr Peters have been working on a compromise for the best part of this year.

Mr Peters insisted an end-of-year deadline was realistic.

“If we keep working on this issue with the level of commitment that has been exhibited thus far then it’s very likely we can have it resolved by the end of 2018.”

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said there was more than one way to uphold Treaty rights and keep the Kermadec Islands a sanctuary.

“We’re committed to a sanctuary, it’s with our confidence and supply agreement with Labour and that’s what we’re committed to keep working towards. I haven’t actually seen details of exactly what Mr Peters and Mr Parker might be working on.”

Greens seem to have been sidelined.

12 February 2019Prime Minister’s Statement at the Opening of Parliament

Cabinet will also consider options to resolve outstanding issues around marine protection for Rangitahua/the Kermadecs.

While the sanctuary Bill seems to have stalled since 2016, despite the coalition and C&S agreements, it seems to remain stalled.

Nick Smith: Kermadec sanctuary lost at sea

World Oceans Day today highlights the Government’s failure to make any progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary in the past 18 months, Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says.

There seems to have been little progress since mid-2016, nearly three years ago.

“New Zealand has responsibility for one of the largest areas of ocean in the world, yet less than one per cent is fully protected. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would protect an area twice the size of New Zealand’s land mass, 15 per cent of our ocean area and it would benefit hundreds of unique species, including whales, dolphins, turtles, seabirds, fish and corals.

“Nothing has been done by the Government to progress the Sanctuary, despite commitments in the Coalition Agreement with NZ First and the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Greens to establish the sanctuary.

“National will continue to push for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There is strong public support and between National and the Greens, there is a clear majority of Parliament in favour of its establishment.

“We support progression of the Government Bill now at second reading stage. I also have a Member’s Bill in the Ballot to make progress if necessary. The Government needs to make progress on this Sanctuary a priority.”

So why has this bill stalled?

Is David Parker not doing enough to push it?

Are negotiations with Maori interests still getting nowhere?

Are NZ First holding out for their deal or no deal?

Mallard “best and worst of Speakers”

Some of what Trevor Mallard has done as Speaker is innovative and relatively effective, but he remains dogged by his political bias and his personal baggage with some MPs, which seem unlikely to change.

Audrey Young: Is it time for fresh challenges for Speaker Trevor Mallard?

Mallard’s performance as Speaker this week has not done the Government any favours.

He is seen as simply part of the Government and the Government is seen to be throwing out National MPs – leader Simon Bridges and Nick Smith – from Parliament.

It has been so bad, that if Ardern is casting around for a capable minister to add to her ranks for the June reshuffle, maybe she should consider bringing Mllard back into the ministry.

Mallard was one of the most highly valued and competent ministers in the Helen Clark.

Mallard is a problem for the Government as Speaker, and he would add something that labour lacks in the current Cabinet – experience. I wonder how he would do as Minister of Housing, or Health. The current ministers are struggling to perform adequately.

While Mallard also has ample experience for his role as Speaker he also has a history of animosities that he seems unable to separate from the job.

I have covered Parliament under seven Speakers and Mallard is both the best and the worst, rolled into one.

When he’s good, he’s brilliant, but on a bad day he’s a House-wrecker.

The good:

On a good day (and there have been two in the past six sitting days) question time can be brilliant.

Because of the rules Mallard instituted, the flow of questions and answers is seamless and his intervention is evident only when he insists on a fuller answer.

He listens to questions and answers very carefully. he does not give diatribes when explaining why he has made a decision.

With oversight over written parliamentary questions, he has also demanded a better standard from ministers and twice this year has awarded National an extra 12 questions because of sloppy written answers from Shane Jones and David Clark.

The bad:

Mallard at his worst is when he abuses the inherent power of the chair by punishing Opposition MPs and then punishes them for reacting under extreme provocation.

That is how Simon Bridges came to being kicked out.

Bridges was kicked out for calling Mallard “unprofessional”. Under Parliament’s rules it was not an unfair punishment. But Bridges was right: Mallard had been unprofessional.

What is happening is that Mallard is giving himself licence to insult MPs but as soon as they bite back they are punished.

Mallard insulted Bridges several times on Tuesday, demanding he knew show “leadership” at a time he knew Bridges was facing leadership pressure. The apparent intention was to humiliate Bridges.

The absolute worst:

However Mallard was at his absolute worst when he refused to put leave on behalf of Nick Smith to give priority to a Bill next members’ day that provided roadside drug testing of drivers.

Smith wanted to know why and Mallard said that he himself had objected. That is unprecedented for the so-called umpire.

When objected, not unfairly, Mallard ordered him to leave the house.

As Speaker, Mallard has power, and he doesn’t want that challenged even when he misuses it.

When Smith abused Mallard on the way out Mallard ordered him back in and named him, suspending him from all proceedings for a day.

The abuse hurled at Mallard by Smith warranted serious punishment, but Mallard’s refusal to put leave was extreme provocation and an abuse of his position.

In contrast, Mallard is quite lenient with government MPs, like Winston Peters.

At times he also appears to protect the Prime Minister and other Ministers.

Mallard has the experience to be a good speaker, and has made worthwhile improvements to how things are done, but he has always had a problem with his temperament, and that is not easily resolved.

Would Ardern consider moving him from the Speaker’s chair to a ministerial responsibility? Would Mallard want to?

Nick Smith named and suspended from Parliament for “grossly disorderly conduct”

National MP Nick Smith was ‘named’ and suspended from Parliament today.

Another MP, Michael Woodhouse, had already been told to leave the Chamber.

Question No. 12—Police

12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by all his statements, policies, and actions?

Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Yes.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he stand by his statement to TVNZ on roadside drug-testing last December, in response to the Matthew Dow tragedy in Nelson, in which he said—and I quote—”There’s a discussion document that has been approved by Cabinet that’s going to go out to the public early next year”.

Hon STUART NASH: First of all, let me say that if a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol they should not be driving. It is against the law. We are looking at a new strategy to improve road safety during 2019. An immediate $100 million increase of funding was made to improve road safety when we took office. However, more announcements will be made shortly.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether he stood by an important statement.

SPEAKER: The member very clearly got a “no” out of that. Carry on.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I certainly didn’t hear a “no”. I heard a comment on the issue. I heard nothing about—look, he said Cabinet had approved something.

SPEAKER: Order! Order!

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Did Cabinet, last year, approve a discussion paper on enabling police to do roadside drug testing? If not, why did he tell TVNZ and the people of New Zealand that it had approved such a discussion paper?

Hon STUART NASH: That member’s been around long enough to know that we don’t discuss what goes on in Cabinet in the House.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: No, no. I don’t need it. The member had a straight question, and it was a very clear question. It related to a direct quote from him. We had already commented that a paper had been approved by Cabinet. I’m sort of taking Dr Nick Smith’s word that the quote is accurate, and it’d be pretty serious if it’s not, but, taking that at face value, he cannot say on television that Cabinet approved something and then say that it’s not his role to say so in this House.

Hon STUART NASH: What I can say is I do not recall saying that, but what I will say is work is undergoing in this area.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister apologise to the mother of Matthew Dow, who would’ve turned 25 today if not killed by a reckless drug-driver, given that he misled her in saying that Cabinet had approved a discussion document and that it was to be released earlier this year?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest respect, this is certainly no way to treat human tragedy in the way it’s being played out politically in this House, and we, on this side of this House, seriously object. We don’t diminish, in any way—

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is the question out of order or not?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —the harm or the hurt that the family might have felt, but this is not the way for this Parliament to behave, surely.

SPEAKER: First of all, I want to deal with the person who interjected during that point of order. Who was that?

Hon Michael Woodhouse: That would probably have been me, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber.

Hon Michael Woodhouse withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: No. I’m contemplating dealing with this point of order. This is a very serious matter. It involves the death of a loved one. I think many of us are concerned at the approach that is being taken in the House now, but in my opinion it is a matter of, at the moment, judgment of good taste and good taste rather than a matter, at the moment, of order. So if Dr Smith wants to restate his question with that proviso—the clear indication from me that there’s a question of taste and appropriateness involved here—but he is a very senior member, and, obviously, the public will make their judgment on it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have rightly noted this is a serious matter. A key part of that is the accuracy of the quote, and I accept that—

SPEAKER: Order! The member has been invited to ask his supplementary question again, as he did previously before he was interrupted by the Deputy Prime Minister. No one has doubted his word as far as the accuracy of that quote is concerned. All we’ve had is the Minister saying that he can’t recall saying it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister apologise to the Dow family and to the people of New Zealand for his false statement, and I quote, “There’s a discussion document that’s been approved by Cabinet that’s going to go out to the public early next year” when that was untrue?

Hon STUART NASH: I have absolute sympathy for the Dow family, and your loss—I cannot imagine it. I will not apologise for something I have absolutely no responsibility for. For every family that has lost someone on our roads because there is a drink- or drug-driver, I have absolute sympathy. What I can say is work is going on in this area, though. Another thing I would say is Mr Scott brought a member’s bill to the House last year. I sat down with him and I tried to work with him on this, because we felt that the scope of his bill was too narrow. We asked to work with him. He refused to do that, so this Government undertook to address this in a way that actually addressed the issue.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary.

SPEAKER: No. The member’s run out of supplementaries.

POINTS OF ORDER

Land Transport (Roadside Drug Testing) Amendment Bill—Leave to Set Down as First Members’ Order of the Day

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave of the House for the Land Transport (Roadside Drug Testing) Amendment Bill to be set down as the first members’ order of the day on the next members’ day on 22 May.

SPEAKER: Leave is not going to be granted for that.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You need to put the leave.

SPEAKER: Well, I’ve made it absolutely clear that I won’t grant leave for it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh, you’re opposed to helping getting drug-drivers off the road as well?

SPEAKER: I have made it absolutely clear that I am very unhappy with the member and his approach—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: For standing up for my constituents?

SPEAKER: The member will leave the House.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Soft on drugs like the Government.

SPEAKER: Order! Right, no—come back, please. The member will resume his seat.

NAMING SUSPENSION OF MEMBER

SPEAKER: I’m invoking Standing Order 86. I name Nick Smith for grossly disorderly conduct.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: No. There is no point of order at this point.

The question now is, That Nick Smith be suspended from the service of the House.

A party vote was called for on the question, That Nick Smith be suspended from the service of the House.

Ayes 63

New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8.

Noes 56

New Zealand National 55; Ross.

Question agreed to.

Hon Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.

The Points of Order, Naming and vote start at 7:00 minutes into the video:

Following that:

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder in what close proximity to today’s most recent events we might see the release of the Debbie Francis report into parliamentary bullying.

SPEAKER: If the member would care to come either to the Business Committee or the Parliamentary Service Commission, as he is entitled to, he will find out.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would the Speaker be prepared to take a late submission to that report?

SPEAKER: No.


@GraemeEdgeler

During a term of Parliament, the first time an MP is suspended from the service of the House, it lasts 24 hours. While suspended an MP may not enter the Chamber, vote (incl as part of a whip-cast party vote), serve on a committee, or lodge questions or notices of motion.

A second suspension is for 7 full days. A third and any subsequent suspension is for 28 full days.

Each day a member is suspended means a deduction of 0.2% of their salary. I am not sure if this means 0.2% or 0.4% for Nick Smith.

This will be the first time (in some time at least) that an MP has had salary deducted for being suspended. MPs used to be under the impression that being suspended meant they lost their salary, but this never actually happened, because the Civil List Act didn’t allow for it.

It took me two submissions – first on the Standing Orders Review in 2011 and then on the new Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Bill to get to oversight remedied, but the law now provides for salary deductions for suspended MPs.

 

 

 

Labour MPs change minds about Chinese expert submissions

A quick change of stance after Labour MPs block China expert from speaking at select committee.

RNZ: Labour MPs backtrack on Anne-Marie Brady committee decision

Labour MPs have backtracked on their decision to block China expert Anne-Marie Brady from speaking at Parliament after push-back from the Opposition.

Professor Brady had asked to address MPs about foreign interference in elections as part of a justice committee inquiry, but the request was turned down yesterday when the four Labour MPs voted against it.

A government spokesperson said the committee chair, Labour MP Raymond Huo, had a rethink overnight and the committee would briefly reopen submissions to the public later this year.

Mr Huo declined to be interviewed by RNZ, but in a written statement he said he “welcomed” new submissions.

He said yesterday’s decision to block Prof Brady was “purely procedural” and denied he had shifted stance under pressure.

“That’s my own initiative,” Mr Huo said.

However, just hours earlier Mr Huo made no mention of that position in a separate statement sent to RNZ.

“As Committee Chair, I am satisfied that the correct procedure has been followed and that the [intelligence] agencies will keep the committee well informed about any issues of foreign interference that may arise,” he said.

Public attention seems to have had an effect.

Committee member and National MP Nick Smith yesterday called for the committee to reconsider, saying Parliament should hear from New Zealand’s most published academic around the risks of overseas interference in elections.

Dr Smith this afternoon told RNZ he was pleased Mr Huo had had a “change of heart”, but said it was only because he had spoken out.

“It’s blatantly obvious that the Beehive has recognised that silencing an academic on as issue as sensitive as protecting New Zealand from foreign interference was a really bad look and they’ve had to reconsider.”

Newsroom: Govt set to U-turn on Brady block

Committee chairman and Labour MP Raymond Huo, who has featured in Brady’s work for his supposed ties to Chinese government representatives, defended the decision on Thursday, saying it was “purely procedural” given the close of public submissions.

However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newsroom that Huo had reconsidered the Labour MPs’ original decision upon reflection.

He would discuss the inquiry at the committee next week, with a view to reopening it to public submissions from Brady and others.

While the decision to prevent Brady from speaking had been procedurally correct, the spokesman said there was merit in hearing from her and any others who wished to submit on the issue of foreign interference.

Neither Ardern nor anyone in her office had spoken to Huo about the committee’s initial decision, the spokesman said.

Jacinda Ardern said on 1 News tonight that the Labour MPs had had a change of mind and she thought that was a wise change of position, but kept a distance from that change of stance.

Bridges urges RMA reform now, but National blew it while in Government

Simon Bridges has joined the chorus singing for RMA reform, but Peter Dunne has given a timely reminder that National were off key and blew their chances of reform while in Government.

RNZ: National leader Simon Bridges urges RMA reform over $100m for Māori land ownership

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced that the government’s Provincial Growth Fund would spend $100 million on supporting Māori landowners to make better use of their land.

Today Mr Bridges told Morning Report the government was just throwing money at the issue and although $100 million sounded like a lot of money it would just “scratch the surface” for a select few.

“It may be a bit harsh but I think it’s a waste of money. You’re throwing it at a select few but you’re not actually going to help Māori.”

Mr Bridges said he would instead help Māori land ownership through law reform.

At yesterday’s announcement Ms Ardern said 80 percent of Māori freehold land was under-utilised and unproductive because the special status of some land made getting loans difficult.

Mr Bridges said the government was making the same mistake as it had with KiwiBuild.

“The one thing that is required is Te Ture Whenua Māori land reform. That’s what’s got to happen because the complex legal intricacies of multiple owners mean it’s always going to be incredibly difficult to do this unless you get that law reform. It’s not a question of the financing.”

“They think if they splash some cash at something there’s good politics in it. But just as with Kiwibuild what you actually have to do is hard law reform around the Resource Management Act,” he said.

Fair point. It is widely known that the Resource Management Act generally is stifling development.

Last month Dave Cull, president of Local Government New Zealand, said RMA ‘broken’, not fit for purpose for local government

To build at scale, the Government is looking to give the UDA the power of compulsory acquisition to assemble large parcels of land and the ability to shortcut the onerous public consultation processes required under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

It is an acknowledgment that the RMA is too consultative and encourages a tragedy of the anti-commons. This is where everyone gets a say in a development, not just affected parties, and as a result many worthwhile projects never get off the ground.

The RMA’s consultation requirements also vastly complicate the already fiendishly difficult matter of assembling land for urban development.

The current Government is trying to work around the RMA with new Urban Development Authority (UDA), responsible for delivering on the Government’s KiwiBuild programme.

The Government is also going try to fix the RMA: Two-step RMA reform to start by fixing the previous government’s blunders

The changes are separate from the legislation to set up an Urban Development Authority to fast-track housing and urban development projects.

“The Resource Management Act is underperforming in some critical areas and needs fixing,” David Parker said.

Stage One will reverse some objectionable changes made by the previous government in 2017 that were widely criticised.

For example, the Bill would repeal measures that prevent public notification and appeals by applicants and submitters in residential and subdivision consent applications.

Another change, recommended by Regional Councils, is the ability to upgrade groups of consents in line with updated standards. This will help speed the cleaning up of our rivers, which otherwise can be delayed for decades.

A Bill addressing changes that can be made straight away will be introduced to Parliament early next year.

It will address particular issues with resource consenting, and monitoring and enforcement processes in the RMA.

Stage Two will be a more comprehensive review of the resource management system. It will build on current Government work priorities across urban development, climate change, and freshwater, and wider projects being led by various external groups. Stage Two is currently being scoped and is expected to start in 2019.

Good luck with getting agreement with both the Greens and NZ First on meaningful reform. This could take some time.

National tried to reform the RMA while in Government, but failed. Now National blames MMP, minor parties for housing crisis

A National MP has blamed the former Government’s partners for his party’s failure to stop house prices rising beyond the reach of many Kiwis.

“We did a lot in housing – we did a lot of work around the Resource Management Act (RMA). The problem with MMP is we had a partner that actually wouldn’t allow us to make the changes that we wanted to make.”

National actually did poorly in addressing the growing housing problem. This was a significant reason why they failed to retain power in 2017.

RMA changes passed into law in April 2017 after changes were made to satisfy minor partner the Māori Party, while United Future and ACT voted against.

Bridges has also blamed ACT and United Future for National’s failure to reform the RMA

David Seymour has been scathing – ‘Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise’: David Seymour rips into National’s ‘failure’ in Government

On Thursday, National Party leader Simon Bridges expressed regret at his party’s failure to reform the Resource Management Act (RMA), and said it was getting a new RMA reform bill ready.

“The reality is, we should have [reformed the RMA] in the first term,” Mr Bridges said, blaming later support partners for failing to allow changes to be passed.

“The reality is though, by second and third terms we were reliant on partners whether it was the Māori Party, whether it was Peter Dunne – they weren’t up for changes there.”

However ACT Party leader David Seymour says he’s heard similar promises before – but National has always failed to deliver.

“They promise action in Opposition, win Government, fail to do what they said they would, and then apologise after New Zealanders boot them out.

“The four stages of the National Party political cycle are: Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise.”

Mr Seymour says part of the blame of that cycle is down to National’s governance style, which he claims operates “from the left” despite the party “campaigning from the right”.

“Only ACT has been consistent on fundamental RMA reform. The next Government will need a stronger ACT to get National back on track,” he said.

Peter Dunne has explained why National failed to get the support of United Future and ACT in Peter Dunne looks at the challenges for a possible ‘blue-green’ party and the National Party’s quest to get the numbers to allow it to govern:

There is also the delicious irony of National‘s excitement at the prospect of such a party emerging occurring the same week that it blamed previous support partners, UnitedFuture and Act, for the current housing crisis because they would let it gut the Resource Management Act the way it wanted.

National’s approach then was all or nothing – I well recall their Minister telling me he was only prepared to negotiate about the RMA if I gave him an assurance in advance that we would reach an agreement. On another occasion, that same Minister told me he was unwilling to talk further because he suspected (correctly) that I was also consulting with Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the architect of the RMA, and he did not want that.

I think that minister was Nick Smith. He was probably National’s biggest problem with failing RMA reform and letting the housing problems escalate.

Yet, all the while, right up to the eleventh hour, UnitedFuture and Act were putting up separate proposals to the Government for possible changes to streamline the way the RMA operated, and to remove perceived procedural roadblocks. UnitedFuture even suggested bringing the provision of affordable housing into the objectives of the RMA but that was rejected because we would not agree to National’s planned watering down of the RMA’s principles and objectives.

Ideally with something as important as the RMA both Labour and National should work together to sort out it’s weaknesses while retaining important environmental protections.

But National, with a near majority Government, could not work out decent RMA reform with two one MP parties, and still blames them for their own failure.

The Government is trying to throw money at Maori land development, and it’s fair for National to question that approach. They can’t undo their reform blunder while in Government, but they could put petty politics aside and work with Labour on lasting RMA reform.

 

Nick Smith suggests electoral reform

Nelson MP Nick Smith covered a range of topics in his 24th annual speech to Nelson West Rotary, including suggested electoral reform. Smith is National’s spokesperson on electoral reform – but his suggestions are not National policy. This was reported on by Stuff:

Entrench the entire Electoral Act so any change would require a 75 per cent majority in Parliament or a referendum.

“It is an abuse of power for parties in Government to amend the electoral law so as to help them win the next election. Our system is particularly vulnerable to the scrum being screwed this way having no second house or constitution and change being possible with a simple majority.”

There were six entrenched provisions out of 315 in the act covering aspects such as the three-year term and the voting age of 18 but hundreds of others were open to amendment by a simple majority, he said. The entrenchment clause itself could be repealed by a simple majority.

It seems to make sense to require more than a bare majority for amending electoral law, to avoid changes of convenience for the government of that day which tends to have not much more than a 50% majority.

Ban all foreign donations to parties and candidates

Seems sensible – but there is a risk that donors and parties would find a way around it.

Defer the re-drawing of electoral boundaries due to the failed census

This probably should happen. Re-drawing boundaries without reliable up to date information seems to be a bad idea.

Extend the Electoral Commission’s role to local elections

Currently each local body manages their own elections. Some consistency might help – but what if people in different parts of the country want different things, like different voting systems?

A referendum on a four-year term.

The problem with our current short term of three years is that governments spend their first year getting a handle on the job, a year doing it and then the third trying to get re-elected. It would be logical to shift local elections to a four-year timetable two years through each Parliamentary cycle to keep a healthy separation of local and national elections.

Is it a problem? Perhaps for parties who get into government and want to do more then the three year cycle allows – but is this a good thing for the public?

Graeme Edgeler on A four-year parliamentary term? (written in 2013 but still relevant):

The strongest argument I have seen is that a longer term would enable governments to do unpopular but (objectively?) good things, in the hope that short-term pain may have subsided in time for the election. There are obvious flaws with this analysis.

This is a democracy, and politicians should seek mandates for their actions. And I simply do not accept that the vast majority of voters are unable to make tough choices if they are fairly presented to us; sometimes, others may not like the choices we make, but they are ours to make. And as unpopular as we are now told Roger Douglas’s reforms starting in 1984 were, the Government he was a part of was re-elected in 1987. I don’t really see that countries with longer terms are doing all that much ‘better’ that we are in this regard. The ability of economies in Europe to take ‘tough choices’ arising from the Eurozone crisis seems entirely unrelated to their electoral calendar.

We are being asked to relinquish a very real measure of our democratic control for the vague promise of a better tomorrow. If someone want to make the case – with actual evidence – please do. Do democracies with longer terms actually have better long-term planning? What reason is there to believe that a four-year term will actually enable us to ‘fix’ anything that might be ‘broken’ with our system?

And just because our three-year term is somewhat of an international outlier does not mean we should leap from the bridge that every other country has. Differences in the New Zealand political system strongly tell in favour of a shorter term.

The push for a four-year term has failed at the ballot box twice. I don’t really remember the vote being held on either occasion, but it seems to me that those pushing change failed to convince enough people it was actually a good idea. It’s time for those who want this to actually convince a good sized-majority of everyone else that they are right.

Like us Australia is supposed to have 3 year terms. I’m not sure that Australians would be keen on giving their governments a longer shot at stuffing things up.

The US has four year terms for president, but seem to be keen on shortening that by impeachment. The rest of their electoral system is complicated.

The UK has a five year term, unless a Prime Minister has a brain fart and calls an early election as happened in 2017, leading to the current Brexit mess.

I’d like to see far more compelling reasons for changing from three to four years here, from people other than politicians wanting power for longer.

David Farrar has posted on Smith’s proposals: Five electoral reform ides from Nick Smith

NZ First’s $300k clause is old news

It’s surprising to suddenly see that NZ First have a clause in their constitution that seeks to impose a $300,000 dollar cost on and MP who resigns or is expelled from the party.

Surprising because it is not news – I posted on this four years ago


May 2014

NZ First’s $300,000 fine threat

NZ First have a clause in their party constitution that tries to enable the party to fine any list or electorate MP who resigns or is expelled  $300,000 at the discretion of the Board.

NEW ZEALAND FIRST PARTY CONSTITUTION 2013

57 Parliamentary Division

(g) Upon a member of the Parliamentary Division ceasing to be a member of the Parliamentary Division because he/she has resigned from or has been expelled from the New Zealand First parliamentary caucus, or has ceased to be a member of the Party, then whether the member is a constituency member of parliament or a list member of parliament, he/she must resign his/her parliamentary seat as soon as practicable and in any event not later than 3 days after the date of cessation.

(h) In order to provide the means for enforcement of the preceding article 57(g) concerning the obligation of a member or former member to resign his/her parliamentary seat, and as a condition precedent to selection as a New Zealand First parliamentary candidate, and in consideration of selection as such, every member who agrees to become a candidate, and every member who stands as a candidate, and every member who is elected as a New Zealand First list member of parliament or as a New Zealand First constituency member of parliament, before being selected as a candidate, before standing as a candidate, before election as a New Zealand First member of parliament, and before accepting his/her seat in parliament and before being sworn in as such, and at any other time when required by the Board to do so whether before or after election and whether before or after being sworn in as a member of parliament, shall agree to give and shall sign a written undertaking, intended to be a legally enforceable contract (the resignation obligation contract) , under which he/she agrees to uphold observe and perform all of the provisions of this article 57 of this constitution and its amendments, and in particular to a fundamental term of the contract which will be the essence of  the contract, and which will impose a liability for liquidated damages in the sum of $300,000 (three hundred thousand dollars) for any breach of article 57(g) of this constitution and its amendments, concerning the obligation of a member or former member to resign his/her parliamentary seat, if he/she ceases by any means and for any reason and in any circumstances whatsoever to be a member of the Parliamentary Division during the term for which he/she has been elected. The Board may however compromise the amount of liquidated damages payable or waive the imposition of liability for liquidated damages in its sole and unfettered discretion without having to have any reason for doing so, without having to give any reason for doing so, and without being under a any obligation to do so or to consider fairness, natural justice, or any other consideration whatsoever;
and the Board shall not enforce the resignation obligation contract under this article 57(h) at any time that legislation exists which requires or determines that a member of Parliament to resign or relinquish his/her parliamentary seat upon the grounds contained in or similar to those specified in article 57(g).

NZ First  Party rules:  nz_first_constitution_nov_2013.pdf

Law professor Andrew Geddis takes it apart: I’m right, Winston’s not, so there

The $300,000 figure here clearly is designed to present an MP who leaves NZ First with Hobson’s choice. Either quit as an MP, or face ruinous financial consequences. And because the rule has this effect – it is designed to force an MP from Parliament – I don’t think it will be enforceable in court. And a rule of this nature only has teeth if there is a court that is prepared to, as a matter of law, make someone actually pay up the penalty figure.


But it has become a thing today for some reason. National call it Revelations, which it clearly isn’t. It’s a rehashed story four years later.


NZ First MPs signed $300k good behaviour bond

Revelations that Government MPs are required to sign a legally enforceable contract meaning they must pay $300,000 if they do not follow their Leader’s instruction is an affront to our parliamentary democracy, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The 2016 amendment to NZ First’s constitution states its MPs must pay damages of $300,000 if they personally disagree with Winston Peters, turning them into indentured workers with an extraordinary price tag hanging over their heads.

“It means every time an NZ First MP votes or comments on an issue, they have 300,000 reasons why they should just parrot Winston Peters and not to speak out even if doing so would be in the public’s best interests.

“This is abhorrent. These types of contracts are illegal in other workplaces and would be unconstitutional in most democratic countries, so why are they at the core of our current Government? They turn elected representatives into puppets of a party leader who is now attempting to impose the same restrictions on free speech on Parliament’s other MPs, in spite of universal opposition to the Waka Jumping Bill.

“It is a sad commentary on the NZ First Party and Mr Peters that such draconian contracts are required to maintain caucus discipline – and now to keep the Government together.

“It also contradicts Mr Peters’ previous hollow position that MPs ‘have to be free to follow their conscience. They were elected to represent their constituents, not to swear an oath of blind allegiance to a political party’.

“The contracts were revealed after I was contacted by a concerned NZ First source who advised that all NZ First MPs had signed them except Mr Peters.

“NZ First must publicly release the full details of these contracts, outlined in article 57 (h) of its constitution, so the public can see the restrictions imposed on its elected MPs. This is even more important with NZ First playing such a pivotal role in the current Government.

“Disclosure is also required to be consistent with the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever, a claim looking increasingly ridiculous when even the Minister responsible for Mr Peters’ Waka Jumping Bill, Andrew Little, had no idea about the clause.

“That’s despite his legislation increasing the legal weight given to party rules and his acknowledgement that MPs should be able to do their job with being subjected to such restrictions.

“New Zealand needs MPs who are not bound by orders or instructions but whose responsibility is to act as representatives of the people.

“The existence of these contracts opens the question as to whether New Zealand needs additional protection to prevent its parliamentary democracy from being manipulated by these sorts of oppressive contracts.”

 

Justice committee fails to report back on waka jumping bill

Greens copped a lot of flak after they announced they would vote for the ‘waka jumping’ bill to keep NZ First happy, despite being strongly opposed throughout the party’s history. See Why the Greens threw their integrity overboard

But they aren’t the only ones divided over the bill.

Stuff: Justice committee fails to report back on Waka Jumping bill

National’s Nick Smith says Labour MPs on a select committee inspecting the Waka Jumping bill refused to consider amendments because Winston Peters wanted it to pass unamended.

Labour and National MPs are bitterly blaming each other for the failure of the select committee to report back on Monday.

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill would allow party leaders to expel MPs from their party from Parliament, if they could get the approval of two thirds of their caucus. List MPs would be expelled for good and replaced by the next person on the list while electorate MPs would be able to compete in by-elections.

The Justice Select Committee was due to report back on the controversial bill on Monday but failed to do so. The committee is evenly split between National and Labour MPs, and would need to pass a majority vote to send the bill back to the House with a report attached.

As a result the bill will go back to the House without any recommendations from the select committee.

That should make it even harder for the Greens to justify voting for it, but they seem to have already capitulated.

“The Labour members of the committee made plain that they were under directives as part of the agreement with Winston [Peters] for the bill to not be amended,” Smith said.

“They said it just that way: ‘No. Winston won’t agree to that.”

It seems odd that NZ First are forcing Labour to support this bill unchanged when it appears to be important only to Winston Peters, in contrast to Peters giving up so easily on a popular policy for NZ First voters – see Government has reneged on immigration ‘promises’.

Peters makes a big thing of letting ‘the people’ decide, for example on cannabis legislation.

But on the waka jumping bill he seems to be against the justice committee from addressing issues in his bill.

Labour MP and chair of the committee Raymond Huo said Smith was “throwing his toys” and could have put comments like that in a minority report had he allowed a report to be sent back.

Huo said by holding back the report Smith was letting down his party and the submitters whose voices would now be lost.

“He has not just let his party down but also the general public, including those submitters,” Huo said.

“The Justice Committee is a very busy committee. We have enjoyed a strong level of collegiality, until, very frankly the arrival of Nick Smith,” Huo said.

Or the arrival of the Winston waka jumping bill?

 

 

Labour slow to restore Canterbury democracy

After slamming the last Government’s sacking of the Canterbury regional council ECan, and of promising to quickly restore democracy, Labour is now in no hurry to act.

Christchurch Labour MP Megan Woods in 2016: ECan legislation an affront to democracy

The Government’s ECan Legislation is an affront to Cantabrians and continues to deny them a democratically elected regional council, says Labour’s Canterbury Spokesperson Megan Woods.

“There is simply no logical, rational or compelling case for a system of regional government in Canterbury that is anti-democratic and radically different from other parts of the country.

“This is not the return to democracy we were promised. This is a continuation of government control.

“It has been six years since the Government sacked the regional council. It is time to put regional governance back where it belongs. That regional governnment has to be in the hands of Cantabrians. There is no justification for controlling Canterbury through appointments made in Wellington.

“I have a Private Members Bill in the ballot to return to a fully elected council at this year’s elections. That Bill stays in the ballot because Labour backs Cantabrians to run their own region,” says Megan Woods.

Labour’s policy on Canterbury (August 2017): Unlocking Potential – Labour’s Plan for Canterbury

Our plan has eight crucial components, each demonstrating Labour’s commitment to get the region moving – and thriving.

Labour will:

  • Restore full democracy to Environment Canterbury

Stuff (November 2017): ECan elections unlikely before 2019

A return to democracy at Environment Canterbury (ECan) appears unlikely before 2019, despite Labour’s long-standing objection to the status quo.

The last Government removed democratically-elected councillors in 2009 and replaced them with seven commissioners the following year.

One of the sacked councillors, Eugenie Sage, is now Minister of Conservation.

Despite promises by former Environment Minister Nick Smith to restore democracy in 2013, it was pushed to 2016. A full return to democracy was delayed again until 2019 – half the current council is elected and half appointed.

During the election campaign, Labour said full elections would be restored “as soon as possible,” but it is understood that is unlikely to happen before 2019, when elections were expected anyway.

Newsroom (today): Labour’s big miss in Canterbury

The Labour-led Government has failed a crucial test in Canterbury.

Despite making an election issue out of a return to full democracy at Canterbury’s regional council, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has confirmed to Newsroom it will follow the last Government’s timetable of waiting until next year’s scheduled local body elections.

That’s little payback for a surge of support for Labour in Christchurch at last year’s election. The decision not to call early elections will disappoint many – including Mahuta’s ministerial colleague Eugenie Sage, who was one of 14 councillors sacked by the National-led Government in 2010, mainly over claims it was mismanaging water.

Labour’s go-slow on Canterbury democracy even leaves it open to a swipe from ex-Environment Minister Nick Smith, who made the National-led Government’s decision, jointly with then Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, to sack councillors at Environment Canterbury (ECan).

Smith, a fading flower in National, says Labour “screamed from the rooftops” in opposition and if it believed the strength of its rhetoric it would have moved to restore a fully elected council. “I think they know, as I did, that a sensible transition through this term of council and full elections in 2019 is actually the right thing for Canterbury.”

After this length of time without an elected regional council it makes sense to restore a democratic body during the Local Body elections next year, but Labour have failed to fulfil their promise. At least they haven’t set up an inquiry on this.

Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary uncertainty

The previous National Government proposed a massive ocean sanctuary in the Kermadec area to the north of New Zealand.

This hit problems largely due to a lack of decent consultation with Maori interests.

The Green Party was caught between it’s enthusiasm for the Kermadec sanctuary – they had been pushing for one – and proper process on Maori issues.

National’s Nick Smith has raised the Kermadec issue again from Opposition – Smith denies his Kermadec bill a coalition wedge:

The National party has put forward its own legislation to create the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, a move which could drive a wedge between parties in the coalition government.

Nelson MP Nick Smith has lodged a member’s bill to ban all mining and fishing over 620,000km/sq around the Kermadec Islands.

The Greens have previously proposed such a sanctuary, but New Zealand First opposes it and any plans have been put on hold until a solution can be found.

Dr Smith said he rejected suggestions he was stirring trouble.

“It’s gotta be bigger than simply party political gains.

“We gave it our best shot in government. To get there you need perseverance, you need to keep trying. This is National continuing to want to do the right thing for improving protection of New Zealand’s ocean area.”

A follow up from RNZ: Green Party ‘yet to consider’ Kermadec bill

The Green Party has cast doubt on suggestions it can be relied on to support National’s bill to create the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

Dr Smith said he was confident the proposed law would have the support to pass, with National’s 56 votes and the Green Party’s eight.

“The Greens have indicated to me their support for any bill that would put the sanctuary in place,” he said.

But a Green Party spokesperson said its MPs had yet to consider how they would vote on Dr Smith’s bill.

The spokesperson said the party’s priority was for the government to progress the scheme, as noted in its confidence and supply deal with Labour.

That agreement included a commitment to “use best endeavours and work alongside Māori” to establish the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

That could prove difficult though.

New Zealand First has previously objected to the plan, saying it curtailed Māori fishing rights.

And the government has put any legislation on hold until a resolution can be found that is satisfactory to all parties.

The chances of the Member’s Bill being drawn from the ballot are normally slim. There are usually three drawn out of around sixty bills.

But it could be different this term with National dominating Opposition. If they limit the number of bills submitted they will increase the odds of preferred bills being drawn.