The Resource Management Amendment Bill

by Don Brash 7 April 2016 (abridged)

Even the Bill’s extremely modest improvements come at the cost of greatly extending the rights of those with a Maori ancestor. The RMA has long required local governments to consult with their community. Unfortunately, the RMA has also required local governments to additionally consult with part-Maori, as if part-Maori were somehow not part of the community.

The Bill now under discussion would vastly extend that preferential involvement for part-Maori by requiring local governments to invite iwi into “iwi participation arrangements.” This is surely a recipe for further delay, for corruption, and for anger on the part of the rest of the community at what is the most flagrant breach of the basic principle in every democratic society that all citizens should have the same legal rights. Every Member of Parliament who understands Article III of the Treaty should be appalled by this Bill. In a speech a few years ago, a Leader of the National Party said:

The Treaty created one sovereignty and so one common citizenship. Unless New Zealanders accept Te Tiriti o Waitangi at something much closer to its face value, we could destroy something unique…. Maori were sovereign in 1840. But the Treaty of Waitangi fully conveyed that sovereignty. Maori were prepared to cede their sovereignty because of the expected benefits of a common, non-segregated polity in New Zealand.

And that former Leader of the National Party was Bill English in 2002. He was absolutely right. It is incomprehensible to me how a National Party-led Government could propose a Bill which violates every principle of democratic governance – particularly when the Party’s own constitution lists among its values “equal citizenship.”

It is even more incomprehensible that a National-led Government would persist with a Bill in its current form when Mr Peters has offered a vastly better alternative – meaningful reform of the RMA provided that all reference to racial preferences are removed.

Mr Peters made that offer in a speech to the Orewa Rotary Club in January, and repeated his offer in another speech in Auckland the following month, in case the Government hadn’t noticed his first offer.

The question I pose to the committee is, why on earth would a National Party-led Government not take up Mr Peters’ offer?