THE LAST five months of public debate and the hearings about the Te Arawa Partnership Plan have seen two main positions emerge: 'Mana Whenua' and 'Pro-Democracy'.
The two positions appear to be irreconcilable.
Nevertheless, blending the two positions into a new local governance policy settlement will be possible if the protagonists are willing to compromise on the common ground, and the mayor, councillors and officials are ready to add their wisdom and support to a fresh approach in the public interest.
All parties will need to make concessions to share the benefits.
The two positions can be summarised. Mana Whenua demand a place at the table with the power to participate in council decision-making as an expression of their collective tino rangatiratanga.
They reject a Maori Policy Advisory Board because it would only have policy advisory powers and not be an advance on the influence that the Te Arawa Standing Committee once had or provided by the bilateral MOUs. Te Arawa's influence would also be diluted by accommodating the democratic rights of matawaka (Maori who are not Te Arawa).
Pro-Democracy insists that power over fellow citizens can only be given to those elected by The People.
Power should be proportionate to votes of equal value. The costs of local government should be minimised.
Pro-Democracy rejects both Options 2 and 3 because they would violate democratic principles and values, especially public responsibility and accountability.
They reject the Partnership Plan because it offers a form of co-governance to one important interest group that could lead to co-sovereignty; lacks an electoral mandate; and could well be unlawful.
Despite these positions, the common ground between them offers a pathway to a new local governance policy settlement. Maori wards would enable the democratic election of representatives, proportionate to constituency numbers, with the same mandated authority of other councillors.
Their responsibilities and accountabilities to The People would be similarly balanced.
They would contribute as peer councillors in an integrated system of local government.
All parties will need to make concessions. Mana Whenua will need to accept the democratisation of Maori representation and await co-governance and co-sovereignty.
Pro-Democracy will need to accept a form of race-based representation, set aside the need for a judicial review or further political resistance, and await fully integrated democratic governance.
The mayor, councillors and officials will need to reform their consultative structures and culture, tolerate the voice of Pro-Democracy councillors, and await full policy legitimation at the next elections.
All parties will benefit. Mana whenua will achieve partnership through direct representation on council.
Pro-Democracy will sustain representative democracy. The mayor and council will gain a broad public consensus on a new governance policy regarding Maori representation. Ratepayers will celebrate a low-cost solution.
The Representation Review will need to investigate Maori wards to recommend a refined implementation plan. Officials will need to add expert advice and a draft budget for the final sign-off by council.
Ko te paki no Ruhi i horahia ki waho. Let Ruhi's fine weather spread everywhere so that peace prevails.
- Reynold Macpherson is the secretary of the Rotorua Pro-Democracy Society.