In January, Building, Construction & Environment Minister Nick Smith wrote to National Party supporters trying to counter an attack on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill – the Resource Management Act (RMA) fix-it law – by former Act MP & founder of the NZ Centre for Political Research, Muriel Newman.
Dr Newman learned of Dr Smith’s memo in March and wrote scathingly about it on the Centre for Political Research’s website on 12 March.
She was joined by another former Act MP, Wellington public & commercial law specialist Stephen Franks, who described Dr Smith’s attempt at smoothing turbulent waters as “deceptive advice”.
Last week, Dr Newman took the campaign to a wider audience through Sunday newspapers, saying the centre she heads had asked Prime Minister Bill English to stop the bill in its tracks (it’s in the committee stage of the parliamentary process).
Is no consultation “ample”?
On her website she wrote: “Even before our ads have been published, they appear to have brought about a ‘charm offensive’ from the minister for the environment, who has sent out emails to everyone who has contacted him about the bill.
“What’s particularly bizarre in his new email is the claim that not only has there been ample public consultation on the iwi arrangements in the bill over the last 4 years, but that National even campaigned on them at the last election. What he is talking about, of course, are the old measures (iwi participation arrangements) that were originally in the bill.
“The new mana whakahono a rohe cogovernance provisions, that are the cause of so much concern, only made an appearance in public documents in 2016 – in a freshwater discussion paper. They weren’t included in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill until November last year, 8 months after public submissions had closed. As a result, there has been absolutely no opportunity for public input into the new statutory powers for iwi & hapu in the bill.
“However, this is politics, and it is important to note that the minister decided that the new mana whakahono a rohe agreements in the bill should be given a dual name, so they are now also called iwi participation arrangements – the same name as the old provisions that they replaced!”
Dr Newman, an Act list MP for the party’s first 3 terms, continued to campaign when she left Parliament, especially on Maori- & property-related issues, forming the Centre for Political Research (originally Debate) in 2005.
Stephen Franks – 2-term Act Party list MP, former chair of law firm Chapman Tripp, now running his own specialist public & commercial law firm in Wellington – wrote in an opinion piece for the centre on 12 March: “I’ve been sent an astonishing memo to caucus from the unfortunate minister now carrying this bill (Nick Smith). In my opinion it treats caucus with contempt. My corrections to it are set out below. It seems bizarre that National members are being obliged to support this bill so near to the election. Why stick up voters’ noses now some of the least defensible law-making National could design?”
And he concluded: “The provisions are a major constitutional change. They subordinate powers entrusted to elected local governments, in deliberately obscure words, to racially inherited power, beyond the reach of electoral recall.
“They breach a longstanding convention that treaty obligations ran between the Crown & iwi, so that private citizens & their property were not to be the victims of treaty claims & interventions based on race privilege. They draw iwi into complicity in trashing the classical property rights promised by article 2 of the treaty to all the ordinary people of New Zealand, in favour of exercise of chiefly powers by iwi authorities, and they negate the equal citizenship promised by article 3.”
And then there’s climate change
If you run down the recent entries on the Centre for Political Research website, you may land on another of Dr Newman’s favourite topics, climate change, where she wrote on 5 March: “Leading the charge is the United Nations, which raised the alarm in the early nineties by establishing the Framework convention on climate change that defined climate change as being caused by human interference with atmospheric composition.”
It’s worth correcting Dr Newman on this one, because her use of half a sentence is not just misleading, but plain wrong because it implies the UN saw no change not attributable to humans.
Here’s the full UN definition, with my emphasis on the half that she dropped: “’Climate change’ means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”
Muriel Newman, 26 March 2017: National’s RMA changes – a major constitutional victory for iwi leaders
Muriel Newman, 12 March 2017: An abomination of a bill
Stephen Franks, 12 March 2017: Deceptive advice to National caucus
UN framework convention on climate change, 1992
15 March 2017: Bill opponents talk “shambles”, not ideology
15 March 2017: RMA reform bill scrapes through second reading
6 March 2017: RMA amendment back for second reading
10 November 2016: National gets Maori agreement to advance RMA reforms
14 March 2016: Council says Government approach wrong on resource management reform
27 November 2015: RMA reform introduced
Attribution: Centre for Political Research.