U-turn coming for discriminatory Rotorua local bill?

Willie Jackson’s comments today on the discriminatory Rotorua District Council bill suggest Labour is rightly considering a U-turn, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill would give the 22,000 Māori roll voters in Rotorua three council seats, the same number as the 56,000 voters on the general roll. Each Māori roll vote would effectively be worth roughly two-and-a-half votes on the general roll. 

“On TVNZ’s Q+A this morning Jackson was back-peddling, saying there had been ‘a few mistakes’ and that it wasn’t their bill. And he now agrees with the Attorney-General, who said on Friday that the bill was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

“But, hang on – Labour voted for the bill with gusto at its first reading earlier this month.

“Labour MP Arena Williams said the ‘bill is necessary because it creates meaningful partnership’.

“No wonder most people can’t work out what the Government is trying to do with co-governance – it’s all over the place.

“Willie Jackson’s bizarre statement this morning that ‘the nature of democracy has changed’ will come as a surprise to most New Zealanders, who haven’t been aware of a new constitutional convention or any proper debate to which they’ve been invited.

“The Rotorua bill, which Labour and the Greens are currently pushing through Parliament, seeks to change the principle that Māori wards should be allocated proportionally, according to the numbers on the Māori and general rolls.

“Labour should drop the bill and they should also abandon the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill, which alters voting rights in a different way.

“Under that bill’s provisions, 14 councillors would be elected democratically, then after the election Ngāi Tahu would appoint two more – by fiat, without even bothering with elections. This is equally inconsistent with our Bill of Rights Act and cannot be justified.

“Equal suffrage is a pillar of our modern democracy and it cannot be thrown away.”