Fast forward to a future political cycle when National leads a government with Act’s support.
Neither party campaigned on radical changes to local government legislation but the government decides to make them under urgency.
It introduces a Bill that reinstates the right for residents to petition a council for a referendum on Maori wards and it goes further.
It adds a clause to allow people who own more than one property, a vote for every property whether or not they are in the same local authority area.
It then cuts the Select Committee process form its usual six months to six days and the time to lodge submissions from 20 days to just one.
Adding anti-democratic insult to authoritarian injury it advises groups it knows will support the move six days notice to prepare submissions for the Select Committee and alerts those it knows will oppose the Bill just one day before submissions are due.
Imagine the uproar that would ensue.
The Minister responsible would be pilloried by the media which would also give wide coverage to anyone who took issue with the Bill and the process.
Why then has there been hardly a ripple to the way Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is doing exactly this:
The Government’s parliamentary process on its Bill to allow Councils to have separate Māori Wards has been a sham, National’s Local Government spokesperson and Electoral Reform spokesperson Christopher Luxon and Dr Nick Smith say.
“Electoral law is important as it determines how we are governed, yet the Government is running a sham process and giving supporters an unfair advantage through the short Select Committee process,” Dr Smith says.
“Labour cut the normal Select Committee process from six months to six days and the time for submissions to be lodged from the normal 20 days to just one day,” Mr Luxon says.
“What’s more appalling is that Councils supporting the Bill were told on Friday February 5 of the Bill’s timeline, that the Select Committee process would be exceptionally short and to prepare to lodge their submissions by February 11.
“Giving those who support the Bill six days’ notice and those opposed just one day would be called insider trading in the business world.”
“To have read the submission on the Bill in the timetable set by the Government, I would have had to read three submissions every minute with no sleep for three days,” Dr Smith says.
“Further, the Labour Chair told the Committee there was insufficient time to consider any amendments to the Bill, raising the question as to why the Government bothered with a Select Committee.”
“Labour is making a mockery of Parliament with this Bill. New Zealanders deserve a better process on the laws that determine how we are governed,” Mr Luxon says.
The Taxpayers’ Union says the process has been so badly screwed the Bill should be referred back to the Select Committee:
The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is condemning Local Government Minister Nanaia Muhata’s decision to give local councils supporting her Māori wards legislation advance notice of the short submission process.
This decision was revealed by National MP Dr Nick Smith during Question Time this week.
Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “The Minister gave her allies a five-day head start to prepare submissions on the Bill to entrench Maori wards. Meanwhile, members of the general public were given just one day’s notice to prepare for the disgracefully short two-day submission window.”
“The Minister knew perfectly well what she was doing. The decision to warn her mates before blindsiding the general public can only be read as a cynical attempt to manipulate the consultation process and limit the contributions of New Zealanders opposed to the Bill.”
“The Taxpayers’ Union has 60,000 subscribed supporters, thousands of whom would have likely produced personalised submissions on the legislation, had they been given the time. Instead, these voices were effectively silenced while the Bill’s allies were able to spend six days writing screeds for the select committee.”
“If a National Government did a favour like this for corporate special interests, Labour would rightly be up in arms.”
“This is a complete betrayal of the promise of open and transparent government. It shows a complete disrespect for not just the public, but Parliament as an institution. It undermines trust in the Select Committee process and justifies the Speaker stepping in so that public submissions are reopened.”
Local body elections are nearly two years away. There is plenty of time to go through the proper process of consultation.
That her government has a majority is even more reason to follow correct processes.
By using urgency, truncating the submission process and giving her allies nearly a week more to prepare than the Bill’s opponents, the Minister is trampling all over democracy and opening herself, and her government, up to accusations of acting like a dictatorship.