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NZNE response to recent articles on co-governance: Part 1

This is in response to two recent articles, one in the NZ Herald by Rob CampbellWho on Earth is being hurt by co-governance? and one on RNZ’s website Dozens of groups urge govt to pick up pace on co-governance

Perhaps a better title for Campbell’s article might have been “What the heck does co-governance mean?”

Neither article mentions the fact “co-governance” lacks a uniform definition and one won’t be forthcoming anytime soon. The Minister of Māori Development, and a leading member of the Māori caucus, Willie Jackson said the Government’s co-governance plan still needs a lot of work and has been shelved till 2024 –well after the next general election. 

The title “Who on earth is being hurt by co-governance?” is (perhaps unintentionally) misleading as the story itself is in relation to co-governance as it pertains to the Māori Health Authority. The headline ran less than a week after the Water Services Entities Act – part of Three Waters – passed into law. If co-governance was on the avid news reader’s mind, it would’ve likely been in relation to Three Waters, which is a far more expansive and controversial form of co-governance. In any event, Campbell makes the point, derisively, that the Māori Health Authority does not have veto power over Health NZ. What he doesn’t say is it was originally proposed that they would – but this was dropped as, understandably, it met considerable resistance.

Similarly, the article “Dozens of groups urge govt to pick up pace on co-governance” doesn’t articulate which form of co-governance is being advocated. The differences are acute between, say, Three Waters co-governance and the Māori Health Authority version. Those differences are crucial in understanding the debate. 

Also, this article raises issues of government media outlets being used for promoting party politics. That’s because this article is really just a group of people advocating for the undefined concept of co-governance, but getting to run their endorsement as a free news story. No doubt numerous other groups could be found to voice a contrary view, if asked. Hobson’s Pledge is an example of a thriving community dedicated to the opposite side of this issue.

Iterations of co-governance tend to become acutely controversial when they undermine the democratic principle of one person—one vote. Major democracies of the world are now generally one person—one vote, with little criteria other than age and residency status. Deviating from that is often seen as inviting trouble and discord. 

Removal of proposed veto powers (that to many, represented an affront to the one person—one vote principle) from the Māori Health Authority greatly diminished the controversy around co-governance in health. 

However, given the outsized authority granted to unelected iwi reps in the new Water Services Entities Act, the debate over co-governance regarding freshwater promises to become a lot more widespread.

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