Opinion by Andi Cockroft, Chairman Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ
An Otago Daily Times report (23 January) that nearly two-thirds of Dunedin residents think public consultation is lacking at the Dunedin City Council, according to the latest Dunedin Residents’ Opinion Survey is yet another example of the erosion of the public’s voice
Underlining the diminishing of democracy was Dunedin mayor Aaron Hawkins’ reaction to seems to ignore public concern and seek solace in other convenient angles of his choosing.
Aaron Hawkins – Dunedin mayor
The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations has been aware of the quelling of public opinion in the bowels of both local government and central government
There has evolved more so that immediately after elections every three years politicians seems to relax and forget who elected them.
It used to be that “accountability” and “transparency” were oft-used words. They may still be uttered but trends indicate that they are becoming increasingly meaningless.
This has been further aggravated by a lack of consultation and when consultation does seem to occur, a closer examination shows it to be only a token consultation.
The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations (CORANZ) has encountered the token nod to consultation in central government’s select committees where the public are now given just five minutes each.
Rudeness by MPs
Earlier this year, the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand (CORANZ) expressed concern that parliament’s select committee democratic process was being undermined to the detriment of the public giving submissions.
I made an oral submission to a select committee dealing with the Resource Management Act (RMA).
After being beforehand, granted 15 minutes speaking time the chairman Labour MP Duncan Webb, interrupted my submission after five minutes and said the committee had heard enough thereby cutting the oral presentation short by ten minutes.
The rudeness and snub to democracy left me bewildered and angry.
It has been happening for some years now. Several years ago was the ERMA 1080 poison review in which submitters were mostly given just a token five minute slot. It was evident the ERMA 1080 review was nothing more than a “kangaroo court” and a “token nod” to consultation.
The manner in which firearm law changes following the Christchurch March 15, 2019 mosque tragedy, were rushed through with “thoroughly indecent haste” showing a total disregard for democracy. Consider the manner of the select committee dealing with 13,000 submissions in just two days. Forget the subject, i.e. assault firearms. The issue might have been something else totally removed from firearm issues.
The point is public opinion was totally shunned. defying credibility and showing a total lack of integrity and respect for public opinion.
Currently the government under cover of the Covid19 scare has been pushing law changes through which lack proper democratic scrutiny. Perhaps the Governor-general should be stepping in and giving government a stern reminder about its duty to democracy?
To reiterate it’s been happening for quite a while and it’s fair to say the erosion of democracy is not confined to the current coalition government.
The National coalition government (2008-2017) was guilty of a shocking and blatant breach of democracy when Environment Minister Nick Smith sacked the democratically elected Environment Canterbury council and grabbed control by installing its own “state puppet” commissioners.
Another example was Environment Minister Nick Smith taking resource contents over 1080 poison aerial drops away from regional council and public scrutiny and giving the government the sole, unassailable power to approve. Public opinion va local government was obliterated.
MP Public Servants
Politicians are treating the public with disdain, just making a token consultation to listening. After all MPs are in reality, public servants and the Prime Minister is not the people’s leader but the most senior public servant.
Behind central and local government elected representatives were bureaucrats who seemed to manipulate MPs and the procedures to suit political and/or self-serving agendas.
The public believe Parliament is the place of democracy – where you could get a fair hearing from elected representatives based on a historical and moral constitution of honour, truth and justice. It is not a charade.
So whether it’s local or central government, consultant and democracy is under threat. Dunedin’s Mayor Hawkins’ attitude reflects this cancerous disdain for democracy by publicly elected representatives.