Maori representation on the Auckland Council has all the elements of a fiasco: it started out as an ambitious undertaking but has ended in ludicrous and humiliating failure.
Aucklanders have been saddled with an unelected Maori board that has the power to appoint members to Council committees with full voting rights, after the Government rejected a perfectly good option of Maori councillors democratically elected off the Maori roll. And the poor old Auckland ratepayer is going to be stung with $1.9 million a year, or more, to pay for this, depending on what the High Court decides.
So who is responsible? Not Local Government Minister Rodney Hide who says he opposed the provision but had it forced on him by the National and Maori Parties. In Question Time yesterday the Prime Minister denied Hide had breached rules on cabinet responsibility because Hide had been speaking in his role as leader of ACT. Ironically the PM criticised Pita Sharples who called on Hide to resign if he could not accept the Maori board, saying he should not have made those comments under his ministerial letterhead.
So who is responsible if the responsible Minister is not responsible?
The affair is another blow to Hide’s chances of surviving the election. First there was his spectacular fall from grace as the perkbuster and then his role in concealing his law and order spokesperson’s identity theft. Now the self-styled Minister of Ratepayers and one time champion of ‘one law for all’ has presided over a shonky and undemocratic Maori board at some cost to the Auckland ratepayer.
He is desperate to present the Auckland amalgamation as a success in election year but this has well and truly knocked the gloss off it.
It is also a failure of leadership by John Key. First he buckled to Hide’s threat to resign. Then to make good with the Maori Party he inserts a dodgy compromise option into the law without making any public statement. The responsible Minister (Hide) openly slags the law he himself introduced to Parliament. Another Minister (Sharples) calls on the responsible Minister to resign over it. Key sees no problem with it all. The Auckland ratepayer is left to pick up the tab.