“Kieran McAnulty’s candid admission that Labour’s three waters reforms are not democratic shows a dangerous mixture of naivete and ignorance about the Treaty and democracy,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Under questioning from Q+A’s Jack Tame, the Minister for Local Government simply said the new reforms won’t have one-person-one-vote democracy, refreshing honesty after the evasion taken by Jacinda Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta.

“However McAnulty also showed he has no idea how the Treaty and democracy interact. He seems to think that Treaty Settlements and the existence of Māori seats mean one-person-one-vote is just some academic concept that does not apply to New Zealand because we’re somehow in a different universe.

“Treaty settlements such as the governance of the Wanganui river include co-governance because they involve specific pieces of property that specific hapu have specific claims in. They are an arrangement designed to redress specific wrongs in a modern context where the property, in this case a river, are not widely used by a range of people. They are based on article two of the Treaty, which guarantees tino rangatiratanga over taonga.

“The Māori seats are based on one person, one vote. The electoral act requires the Electoral Commission to set the number of Māori seats in such a way as an elector on the Maori roll has the same influence as an elector on the General roll. McAnulty seems ignorant of this basic fact.

“McAnulty’s ignorance of how the Electoral Act works seems to bleed into his claim that giving Māori more control takes nothing away from non-Māori. Of course it does. The reason Māori seats are set in proportion to the number of voters who choose the Māori option is precisely because to do otherwise would dilute the voting power of voters on the general roll.

“These confusions lead to McAnulty’s apparent view that democracy is just academic, and perhaps all institutions should be co-governed with no regard to one-person-one-vote. The heart of his confusion is between Article II and Article III of the Treaty. Article III guarantees nga tikanga katoa rite tahi. The same rights and duties to all.

“The management of three waters assets, built over generations by all New Zealanders through democratic institutions is more akin to the election of a Parliament, which is one person one vote. It is not like the Governance of specific property where there is a 1840 claim.

“McAnulty is at least more honest than his predecessors, but he has now opened a pandora’s box that the Treaty required co-governance of every aspect of New Zealanders’ lives. By confusing Article’s II and III, and calling democracy merely academic, he has declared war on New Zealand as a modern, multi-ethnic liberal democracy with a place for all.

“McAnulty’s defence that somehow having mana whenua representatives in three waters Governance will help achieve balance sheet separation is implausible. Is he really saying that lenders will lend more to three waters entities because they have mana whanua representatives. That is only plausible if the mana whenua representatives will somehow make the new entities better at repaying debts. What possible mechanism is in place to make that possible?

“If anything, having people who are appointed from a smaller pool of candidates without full democratic scrutiny makes the new entities a greater risk. McAnulty needs to explain his logic pronto.

“Altogether McAnulty has done New Zealand a service by saying out loud what Mahuta and Ardern tried to hide from New Zealanders. This Government does not believe in democracy. It believes in an interpretation of the treaty that is anti-democratic.

“The next Government must address the interpretation of the treaty head on. It must be defined as a democratic document, giving the same rights and duties to all New Zealanders. Thankfully, the task is made easier by the fact that’s exactly what the Treaty says, even if McAnulty hasn’t read past Article II."

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