Local government review 'Brave, timely, and courageous' - Māori Council

The Future for Local Government report - He piki tūranga, he piki kōtuku - was released on Tuesday. Photo / RNZ / Screenshot

RNZ Staff Reporter

A new report calling for local government to be a better Ti Tiriti o Waitangi partner is brave and timely, the New Zealand Māori Council says.

An independent panel that spent two years reviewing the state of local government has concluded a radical overhaul is needed, including stronger relationships with Māori.

Its 17 recommendations included the introduction of a statutory requirement for councils to develop partnership frameworks with hapū/iwi and Māori.

New Zealand Māori Council national secretary Peter Fraser said it was wonderful that the Future for Local Government report - He piki tūranga, he piki kōtuku - put the Treaty at the centre of policymaking, "that it recognises Māori not only as the Treaty partner but also as the indigenous people of New Zealand.

"This report is brave, timely, and courageous. It goes where reports like this should've gone 20 years ago but didn't, and I hope it doesn't take us another 20 years to have the conversation that this brings up."

Māori participation in the local government space had been increasing, and he hoped that would continue, Fraser said.

'Great opportunity'

Local Government New Zealand Māori collective Te Maruata co-chairperson Iaean Cranwell said the report was the biggest change in local government for a long time.

It gave a great opportunity to grow authentic Te Tiriti-based partnerships, he said.

"This is my third term in council and I've been pushing for this for the last seven years, to actually see it on paper is quite a big step forward.

"Unfortunately, it might be sitting on the shelf until after the election but, in a sense, it's a good discussion point at the moment regarding the future for local government."

Takarangi Research principal researcher Professor Poara Tapsell said the recommendation of a statutory requirement for councils to develop partnership frameworks with Māori was a critical signpost to where councils needed to go.

"It hopefully will encourage them to do the right thing and realise it's not about sharing privilege, it's about sharing responsibility."

'Vulnerable' communities

A strong relationship with local government was critical for Māori communities to be supported, and in particular, the recent floods had left many Māori communities vulnerable, Tapsell said.

"Many of our vulnerable marae communities need to relocate, and we need to be supported by our local and regional councils in that relocation.

"I'm looking forward to our local and regional councils stepping up."

Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty told Morning Report the government wanted to hear the sector's view on the recommendations and discuss them after the election.

McAnulty said he did not expect the suggestion for statutory requirement to ensure councils formed partnership frameworks with Māori to be controversial, since most were doing that already.

The report's recommendations for growing authentic Te Tiriti-based partnerships:

  • introduce new provisions in the Local Government Act 2002 that explicitly recognise local government as a partner to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and te ao Māori values to strengthen authentic relationships in the local exercise of kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga
  • introduce a statutory requirement for councils to develop partnership frameworks with hapū/iwi and Māori to give effect to new Te Tiriti provisions in the Local Government Act 2002 that create new governance arrangements and complement existing ones
  • central government leads a comprehensive review of requirements for engaging with Māori across legislation that impacts local government, considering opportunities to streamline or align those requirements
  • amend the Local Government Act 2002 to require councils (elected members and chief executives) to prioritise and invest in developing and strengthening their capability and capacity in the areas of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, te ao Māori values, mātauranga Māori, tikanga, and the whakapapa of local government in order to make local government a better Te Tiriti partner