Labour’s Local Bill discards democratic principles

Labour’s support for legislation currently before Parliament sees two key democratic principles abandoned, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

The Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill passed its second reading today with the support of Labour, the Greens and the Māori Party.

It allows Ngāi Tahu to appoint two additional councillors to the regional council – councillors which are usually elected by the public.

“This Bill has no regard for two key principles that have been part of our democracy for decades. Equal voting rights for all New Zealanders, and accountability at the ballot box,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“This Bill means Māori Cantabrians have equal voting rights as other Cantabrians in voting for the 14 councillors, but then Ngāi Tahu gets to appoint two more. That extra representation discriminates against non-Māori voters.

“We should all have the expectation that our vote is as important as anyone else’s when it comes to electing those who govern us. These are fundamental parts of what makes New Zealand a successful democracy.

“Kiwis only need to look around the world to see what happens when citizens don’t have equal voting rights or the ability to hold governments to account.

“Accountability at the ballot box is our best defence against bad government, and the greatest discipline on councillors, as well as Members of Parliament.

“It is a constitutional disgrace that the Labour Government is abandoning these principles by supporting a Local Bill, which will set a precedent, without a proper national discussion.”