Rotorua, sitting on the Pacific Rim of Fire, understandably proclaims itself to be our geothermal wonderland.
Tourists enjoy spa pools, geysers and picturesque lakes. Who could ever have guessed that "Rotovegas" would be the place where Labour's determination to ditch democracy would be laid bare?
The culprit is a seemingly innocuous draft statute, Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill currently sitting in the Māori Affairs Select committee.
As is the way with local Bills the local MP introduces it into our legislature on behalf of the sponsor. The Rotorua District Council, which seems to be suffering a case of sulphuric stupor, is the sponsoring entity.
In short, this Bill proposes to circumvent the Local Government Act and ditch the principle of one person one vote. According to the council, there are 21,700 voters on the Māori roll and 55,600 on the general roll in their boundaries. It is proposed that the former will elect three members from a Māori ward and the latter will elect three members from a general ward onto the council. Do the math yourself, it's a definite ethnic gerrymander.
Turnout is never strong in local government elections. Similarly, turnout is underwhelming in Māori electorates. Were this Bill to pass, a tiny number of Rotorua Māori electors would cast votes worth 2.5 times more than general electors. Democracy down, bro-rocracy up.
David Parker, the Attorney General and a qualified lawyer, has reported to Parliament that this proposed statute violates the Bill of Rights. His intervention is overdue and may see these polarising provisions sent back to Hells Gate, a Rotorua tourist mud bath. He is sadly, however, only one voice in a crusading caucus.
His report says an electoral advantage is being gifted to a minority of Rotorua voters who are on the Māori roll. It remains to be seen whether this analysis holds true for the parliamentary Māori seats. That seems unlikely given proportionality seems to be a key reason for his rejection.
Of course, this Bill has not been brought into Parliament by the actual local Rotorua MP Todd Mclay. It has instead been introduced by Labour list MP Tamati Coffey. He was unseated in 2020 by the Māori Party, political novices who babble on about how democratic representation does not serve their interests.
This local Bill must have been discussed and approved by the Labour Party caucus. There is no constitutional duty on a political party to rubber-stamp local bills - certainly not one this contentious. The Rotorua council was deeply divided over this Bill. It should never have got onto the floor of our House of Representatives. It seeks to weaken the very principles that legitimise the existence of MPs.
So why does Labour believe it is entitled to continuously run Treaty GMO trials with local government representation? Like Three Waters, it never campaigned on this in 2020.
Obviously, Labour strategists have made a decision to stoke the fire. One would have thought the Three Waters free-for-all would have curbed their appetite for more Māori combustibility.
This signals they have moved on from stealth. Now openly recasting Rotorua from a democratic franchise and replacing it with He Puapua.
This is a recipe for cultural theocracy where the supreme principle of indigeneity is fed by DRIP, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - a witches' brew recklessly agreed to in 2010 by the unholy trinity of National, Act and the Māori Party.
Meanwhile down in the hood, what are the Labour bro-ocrats doing about Rangi and the bro-rats with their drug-fuelled bling and gang violence? The Rotorua victims of this scourge will not benefit through their council's electoral virtue-signalling. In fact, there ought to be less council in Māoridom not more Māori on councils.
Under the former government, which had a hand-brake, Rotorua did financially well through regional development programmes. Neglected infrastructure was upgraded, Tudor Towers of Billy T James cabaret fame, now a museum, was funded and a host of positive development initiatives were boosted. Economic priorities are of more benefit to the local community than misguided attempts to invert democracy.
Much of Rotorua sits upon land that was gifted in the 1880s by the tribe Ngāti Whakaue to the Crown. This was negotiated by Native Land Court Judge Francis Fenton. The thinking originally was to create a tourism gateway to the Pink and White terraces. The tribe, by and large conservative, remains a robust force in the local economy.
The proposed changes are being justified by the Fenton Agreement. Tamati Coffey says this is now what iwi want, for the electoral scrum to be screwed in their favour. Hmm, very inventive.
However, it won't fly. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then in this case, it is a lame electoral duck.
The Attorney General's judicious approach to the Bill opens the way to junk the woolly thinking behind the co-governance creep and affirm constitutional principles of equal representation. Given he is also the Minister for Environment, he should maintain his composure and insert a legislative thermostat in the new RMA. Either he cools the hot heads hell-bent on fattening up the Treaty or the electorate will.
It may be frustrating for runanga leaders to read that his Rotorua rebuff is due to discrimination against voters on the general roll.
The ascendancy of one person one vote is of foundational importance. Given our proud democratic history, it should not be trifled with by wokesters.
The Government needs to focus on those issues which bedevil the average business/household such as cost of living, red tape, housing and economic security.
R for recession comes after I for inflation in the economic alphabet. Then comes v for voter and w for wallet. Get the drift?
It's time to pull the plug on the Labour Party's homegrown culture wars against the bulk of Kiwis.
• Shane Jones is a former Labour MP and NZ First MP and was the first Minister for Regional Economic Development.