Call for Maori Party to back full ECan democracy

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox.

A campaign opposing a planned extension to the reign of Environment Canterbury's (ECan) commissioners is targeting the Maori Party, which will likely hold the deciding vote on the regional council's future. 

The Maori Party has received more than 1000 submissions urging it to oppose the Government's Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill, which proposes to restore partial democracy to the regional council next year.

The bill, which passed its first reading in Parliament last month, proposes seven elected councillors join six government-appointed commissioners in 2016.

Barnaby Bennett, of ActionStation.

Barnaby Bennett, of ActionStation.

Full democracy would be restored in 2019, six years later than originally planned.

The bill's future relies on the support of the Maori Party's two MPs, Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell.

Both voted in favour of the bill after its first reading, where it passed in a 62-59 vote.

A local campaign organised by ActionStation is lobbying the Maori Party to turn against the bill, allowing full democracy to return at next year's elections.

Spokesman Barnaby Bennett said the campaign sought to make the Maori Party aware of local opposition to the bill, as its vote would affect a large number of people. 

"It's a sad irony that a party with such a strong kaupapa around justice and right to participate in government is using its vote to remove democratic representation," he said.

"Of course they have the right to vote for whatever they want and what they think will support their constituents, but I think it's sad it's at the cost of denying 500,000 people the right to vote and be represented."

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It follows a successful ActionStation campaign earlier this year, which saw the group receive 1800 submissions backing a council-led recovery during consultation on the government's draft transition recovery plan for Christchurch.

Such campaigns sought to engage locals in important issues that affected them, Bennett said.

"As far as changing things goes, I think what we've done is engaged a whole lot of people who have been a bit overwhelmed by it all so far, which I think has been really good."

A Maori Party spokeswoman said the party would continue to support the bill, as it provided for iwi representation.

"We support it on the basis that the Bill provides for Ngai Tahu representation which recognises their manawhenua (tribal authority over the land).

"As an independent Maori political movement we welcome the opportunity to support legal changes that recognise the unique connection hapu (sub-tribes) and iwi (tribes) have to their land."

Select committee meetings about the bill are expected to begin next month, and will hear public submissions on the bill.

Submissions for the bill close on Thursday.

 - Stuff

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