Constituional review could subvert democracy

Not only is David Round concerned but so too is Dr Elizabeth Rata who is an associate professor in the Education Faculty at Auckland University and a member of the Independent Constitution Review Panel. She writes:

Biculturalists have morphed from the inclusive biculturalism of the early 1980s with its idealistic commitment to difference in unity to a separatist iwi politics. The first stage of iwi politics began in the late 1980s with the reinterpretation of the Treaty as a so-called “partnership”.

This saw the insertion of partnership principles into almost all New Zealand legislation. We are currently in the second stage – one that is hotting up with proposals before the Hauraki Gulf Forum for “co-governance” of the Gulf. This will cement in the so-called Treaty partnership and justify a place for the Treaty within a New Zealand Constitution.

Those who object to this, and I am one of these, do so for two strong reasons. Co-governance establishes a political system where the power and authority of one party, iwi, is unchallengeable. 

That party is not appointed by the people and is not therefore accountable to the people. The undemocratic nature of co-governance is made worse by the criteria for belonging to the Treaty partner. Membership of iwi is fixed in genetic ancestry. Unlike democracy which allows for all comers, a group whose membership is fixed in the past has no room for newcomers.

The Treaty partnership model of co-governance will subvert the fundamental principles of democracy. Democracy is a political system of equality no matter what your heritage, and a system of accountability no matter what your race or religion. As equal citizens each of us can call our political leaders to account. If iwi as Treaty partner was co-governor we could not do so.

This makes the matter of the Treaty’s status of great importance to us all. To simply assert that the Treaty is our founding document, as Deborah Coddington has done, is not good enough.

Not only are there other contenders for the status of founding document (if we want one); the 1852 Constitutional Act springs to mind, but the strategic use of the Treaty in iwi politics to undermine democracy at all levels of our political system means that the Treaty is tainted as a symbol of national unity.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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