A big thank you to people who supported my May Day appeal or in the many ways that people do. My 13 May and May 20 reports outline the initial weeks of the itinerary. In all the project has seen presentations to over 15 Council hearings with the addition last week of Upper Hutt City, Tararua District, Wellington City, and Greater Wellington Regional Councils. I also attended the Open Government Partnership (OGP) workshop.
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Monday 21 May saw the local government LTP project at Upper Hutt City Council (UHCC). A number of friends presented on Monday, Antony Maddock, Wendy Blanche and myself, with Leon Salter and Tracey Ultra presenting later in the week. Mary Beth, Pat van Berkel and more TPP Free friends presenting on their own matters Council's hearings.
Previously Upper Hutt City adopted the TPP Policy Solution and became the first and only Council to become a TPP Free Zone with Council decision of February 2016.
The Council on this occasion appeared to be cool in its attitude to the presentations. We were received politely and attentively. The councillors gave no indication as to their attitude to our LTP recommendations.
Tuesday 22 May saw me driving over the Rimutakas from the Hutt Valley to attend a hearing at Tararua District Council (TDC) for its LTP hearings at 10:54am held in their Dannevirke office. I was well received and outlined my concern for Just Rule of Law.
Following my presentation Cr Shirley Hull thanked me and said that she definitely supports the wellbeing recommendation. I'm finding that to be the case wherever I go.
I was first presenter at Wellington City Council (WCC) 9:30am Thursday 24 May. Cr. Jill Day Chaired the meeting and welcomed me to the table to speak.
With all councils my oral presentation is to briefly mention the 4 recommendations and place them in a context. I determine the order of dealing with the recommendations depending on what I learned from sitting in the chamber and listening attentively.
Wellington City it was obvious to commence with recommendation #3 seeking support for the 4 Wellbeings to be reinserted into the Local Government Act 2002. Paul Eagle MP was a Wellington City Councillor. He initiated the private members bill that we are recommending. The Councillors were happy at the mention especially as the bill was adopted by the Government as it's own bill on 5 April and is now through its First Reading. I followed by placing wellbeing in the context of the other recommendations; ethical governance, trade and investment treaty making and sustainable economics.
Following my korero Councillor Iona Pannett asked, “what is the attitude of other councils to the recommendations?”
I answered that, “I won't have a real idea until after councils have deliberated, however, it appeared that women councillors were grasping the content more readily than some of the male councillors as they might be less ideologically bound and more practically minded.” That brought a sudden outburst of laughter from both the female councillors and their male colleagues. It appeared they had been having earlier parallel discussions.
I futher offered an anecdote - that at Porirua City LTP hearings one of the Councillors, Dame Beverley Wakem previous Ombudsman followed me into the hall after my presenatation to state that the paper was the most important submission to council's process and placed local communities in the national and into the geopolitical context.
That concluded my 5 minutes with the WCC hearing.
The afternoon was given over to Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC). GWRC allocated presenters to LTP hearing sessions rather than specific appointments. I was allocated to the 1:15 – 2:40pm session. I was 2nd to arrive for the session, Phil Teal from New Zealand Fish and Game was first. Phil was concerned about water quality and nutrient runnoff from pastoral activity particularly in the Wairarapa. Water quality and access is an issue everywhere.
Council Deputy Chairperson (chair of LTP hearing) Barbara Donaldson welcomed me. My turn was focused as I only had 5 minutes of Council time and I was keen to provide opportunity for any question councillors might pose. I outlined the 4 recommendations, whereby if Council desired that ethical governance apply in New Zealand then it might assist for it to make a public declaration to that effect.
Councillor Roger Blakeley asked about the recommendations relevance to local government, however, he indicated his support for the recommendation on Wellbeing. I answered that the recommendations needed to be viewed as an integral package.
Following my presentation I got to witness WCC Mayor Justin Lester take a moment out of his Council's LTP hearings to present to the GWRC, where he had them laughing about all the ex Mayors and politicians sitting around the table to which they responded, you'll be here too before long...
Initial Council responses to LTP Paper and #4 Recommendations
I've received two responses to the LTP recommendations, one from Taranaki Regional Council outlining Council's decision and the other from Gore District council highlighting the Chief Executive's recommendation/comment in respect to our suggestions.
Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) in 2014 questioned the validity of council considering a position in respect to the TPP stating that it was a central government's matter. Council was in effect limiting its jurisdicition and scope of ambit to consider matters impacting its consitituents. In my May 13 LTP report I refer to the 7 May TRC oral hearing where a Councillor stated that I had placed “the whole kitchen sink” in my paper. I spent a some effort countering that attitude. Seen in this light the decision from the Taranaki Regional Council states;
The following recommendations were adopted in relation to your submission. For your information, the officer's comments in relation to your submission are also attached.
THAT the Taranaki Regional Council
1. thanks the submitter for their submission
2. makes no change to 2018/2028 Long-Term Plan.
The Council letter and attached extracted report with Administration comments highlight that the Taranaki Council maintains its attitude to our LTP recommendations with the exception of the Wellbeings matter they are out of Council's scope.
Gore District Council (GDC) Chief Executive made the following comments in the report going to Council for it's determination on LTP matters 28 May;
I was a little bemused by the reference to a “highly political submission” and wrote to the Council officer in the following terms;
Thank you for the advice and observations of the Chief Executive in respect to my recommendations.
I note my suggestion is referred to as "highly political" whereas I might refer to it as "well researched reality."
It was a "highly political" act to remove the 4 Well Beings from the Local Government Act of 2002 in the face of the overwhelming opposition to their removal.
I think it is critical that New Zealand's leaders elect for Rule of Just Law. The previous government as well as remove the 4 Wellbeings was intent on removing the reference to "Rule of Law" from the Judiciary Act:
The question as to what is the Law and how it is applied may be political, however, it is most definitely a matter for the concern of Council as ultimately Council and it's constitutents will be impacted by the development of law and its application. The following might assist thinking:
What is the first principle in law? Human dignity and the rights that flow from that. Property rights flow from the natural human person which is recognised as personhood in law - in fact corporations claim personhood to claim the benefits.
It is a highly political act to overturn the hierarchy of law based on arbitrary determinations without due diligence and democratic engagement.
That is what I have identified in my paper to your council.
Again many thanks for the advice.
It wasn't meant to offend rather to set my paper and the recommendations in their correct context and political alignment.
Best to Gore District and all councils in their LTP final determinations.
Open Government Partnership (OGP)
The Wednesday 23 May Wellington OGP workshop was one of several programmed around the nation with one Wellington overflow workshop still to occur. The process remains open for public input till 31 May where there are pressing issues you wish to be included to ensure NZ's government is open and transparent.
Matters under the Open Government ambit go to data, information, privacy protection and access to government facilities, services and information. In a sense OGP's scope is the whole of government.
There were about 6 tables of people considering matters under headings, Data, Ethical Governance, Citizen Access and Participation, and a few more. We were guided to make our suggestions which were allocated to the tables of interest, which people could follow in the work session. I did in respect to OIA.
Many have identified the Official Information Act (OIA 1982) has a number of impediments to accessing official information particularly related to foreign affairs and trade negotiations. Many of my OIA applications have floundered (information denied) as the OIA provides the government easy grounds for withholding information including under Sec 6 where there is no public interest considered.
In the company of a few transparency advocates at the OIA workshop table we outlined the ideal scope of a review or reform of the OIA to remedy these blockages to citizen access to official information. This outlined on butcher's paper goes into the process to develop the New Zealand Government's committment to OIA reform in the coming 2018-2020 Action Plan period. As it is the NZ Government's commitment I am merely offering my suggestions to our representatives.
I earlier asked Justice Minister Hon Andrew Little a set of questions about his review of the OIA following a 7 December 2017 question in Parliament by National MP Brett Hudson asking "What reform is he planning to make to the Official Information Act 1982?" I shared my response from Minister Little to people at the OIA table where he states there's no public consultation required as there's clearly no review or reform planned.
I feel there is some ambition amongst the OGP participants that improvements can be made. I sense that movement within domestic concerns are more easily attained than reforming the the grounds for withholding state secrets and making withholding subject to a public interest test. It appears that some are concerned about NZ being compromised as a intelligence and security risk in the context of Five Eyes for its apparent Chinese influence.
It appears that NZ's place in the world as an honest broker is up for grabs. We must influence the result to ensure ethical governance locally, nationally and internationally.
Coming week events
I present to New Plymouth, Masterton and Carterton District Councils next week and Napier City Council on June 5. We also have a speaking opportunity at Southland Regional Council on June 6 at which local Nathan Surendran will present on behalf of the project. I'll report again at the close of next week.
For more details go to my blogs:
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Greg Rzesniowiecki firstname.lastname@example.org