Discriminatory Rotorua Local Bill should be dropped

The Rotorua District Council Bill must be scrapped following the Attorney General’s report today that it is discriminatory and would breach the Bill of Rights, National’s Justice spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Bill gives greater voting rights to people on the Maori roll and this cannot be justified.

“The Labour Government has been trying to sneak through significant constitutional change without proper discussion. Now their own Attorney General has called them out, they should think again. 

“It would be a constitutional outrage to abandon the principle of equal suffrage (one person, one vote) by way of an obscure Local Bill, championed by a backbencher, on a rushed timetable, against strident Parliamentary opposition while knowing it is in breach of the Bill of Rights.

The Rotorua District Council Representative Arrangements Bill, which Labour and the Greens are currently pushing through Parliament, seeks to change the principle that Maori wards should be allocated proportionally, according to the numbers on the Maori and General rolls.

In Tamati Coffey’s Bill the 22,000 Maori roll voters in Rotorua will get 3 seats, the same number as the 56,000 General roll voters.  Each Maori roll vote is effectively worth roughly two-and-a-half votes on the General roll.

“If they don’t drop the Bill, the Prime Minister, or at least the Minister of Justice, should front up and explain why they think it’s no longer appropriate that all New Zealanders should have equal power in deciding who governs them at local government and in decisions affecting their lives.

“They should explain why the idea that ‘my vote is worth as much as anyone else’s’ no longer holds as a basic human right for those living in a free society. 

“They haven’t because they know most Kiwis will tell them to shove off.

“It is hard to think of a more divisive agenda for any government to be pushing.

“Labour MPs speaking in support of the Bill have made it clear that they see this as the first example that will be followed elsewhere. Simultaneously, Rino Tirikatene’s Canterbury Regional Council Bill, alters voting rights in a different way.

“Under its provisions, 14 councillors will be elected democratically, then after the election Ngai Tahu will appoint 2 more – by fiat, without even bothering with elections.”