Direct Ngāi Tahu representation

The Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Act empowers Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to appoint up to two members of the Environment Canterbury Council with full decision-making powers.

Why we need mana whenua on Council

Having mana whenua at the table to contribute to decisions with their local knowledge of the taiao (environment) of Waitaha Canterbury will continue the progress toward better environmental outcomes.   

As well as acknowledging the wealth of knowledge mana whenua have to offer, the appointment of two Ngāi Tahu councillors with voting rights recognises the role Ngāi Tahu have as kaitiaki (guardians) and their right to rangatiratanga (self-determination) within Canterbury Waitaha.

Voting rights

The new representatives will have a different status to our Tumu Taiao and will be able to vote at Council meetings. This is a significant step towards delivering on the new age of cooperation promised in the 1998 Crown apology to Ngāi Tahu delivered at Ōnuku Marae as part of the settlement of the iwi’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi claim, in which the tribe’s rangatiritanga was recognised by the Crown.

How are they appointed?

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu can appoint up to two mana whenua members of the Council and will follow the process set out in the Act. This process will be thorough and is independent of Environment Canterbury.

The representatives will be accountable to the people they represent - their wider whānau (there are 74,000 people registered with Ngāi Tahu) - and they will be expected to provide regular detailed updates about the decisions they make.

Current representation arrangements

In October 2020 Environment Canterbury appointed two mana whenua experts on council.

Our Tumu Taiao will remain for the rest of the Council term. While the Local Government Act 2002 does not allow the Tumu Taiao to have Councillor decision-making powers to vote at Council meetings, they support the opportunity for better decision-making outcomes for mana whenua and for Environment Canterbury.

Our current Tumu Taiao members make a valuable contribution to Council’s governance and operations, including greater efficiency in planning and consenting processes, reduced costs for Council and consent applicants, and improved enforcement decisions.

When the new Council is sworn in after the October local elections, it will include the Ngāi Tahu appointees.

About the decision making process

Development of the Bill

Under the National-led Government, mana whenua were represented on the Council, with the appointment of a Ngāi Tahu commissioner alongside six Crown appointments. Two Ngāi Tahu councillors were later appointed between 2016 and 2019.  

In 2019, in anticipation of the expiry of the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Act 2016, Environment Canterbury and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu put forward a Local Bill which sought to continue mana whenua representation on Council.

That attempt to reinstate this representation by way of a local Bill in 2019 did not pass its first reading in Parliament.

Since then, Environment Canterbury and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu have worked together on a new local Bill for consideration.

In May 2021 Environment Canterbury made the decision to promote the local Bill after considering a paper setting out all the relevant considerations (PDF file,11.17MB).

Progress through Parliament and public consultation

When we considered being the promoter of the Bill we decided consultation was not necessary at that stage because we’ve had Ngāi Tahu representatives before – this isn’t something new.

We also knew that Parliament would run a comprehensive consultation process. It would be inefficient and unnecessary to have two consultations about the same thing.

The Bill went through a full Parliamentary process including three readings in the House and consideration by the Committee of the Whole. It was considered by the Māori Affairs Select Committee, which ran a full and open public consultation process.

There were about 1700 written submissions and a number of submitters also spoke at hearings expressing their views.

During these stages, a range of views were put forward and debated and this culminated in the Bill being passed at its final reading on 3 August 2022.

The Bill was reviewed by the Attorney-General’s office, which found it is consistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

Read the Attorney-General’s Office review.

Our awareness campaign

After Councillors discussed the Bill at a public meeting on 13 May 2021, Environment Canterbury undertook a range of actions to raise public awareness.

The Bill was available on the Council’s website from 14 August to 4 October and copies were available for physical inspection at each of the Council’s offices during this time. Advertisements were placed in newspapers across the region.

The Council gave notice of the Bill to every member of Parliament in the South Island, the Mayors of each district within the Canterbury region, the Chief Executive of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the Department of Internal Affairs (Local Government Division), the Ministry of Justice, the Local Government Commission, the Remuneration Authority, Statistics NZ, Te Puni Kokiri, Te Arawhiti, Local Government NZ, the Chairs of each Papatipu Rūnanga, and the leaders of each political party.

Further information

Our media releases

Other media releases

You asked we answered

In this section we address issues people have raised, such as why we didn’t opt for Māori constituencies and how direct appointments align with our idea of democracy.

Frequently asked questions

Why not have Māori constituencies?

Within Canterbury there is only one iwi with mana whenua throughout the region and, because of this, the Council prefers direct appointment as a reflection of Ngāi Tahu as mana whenua.

Having separate Māori constituencies would not adequately recognise Ngāi Tahu as mana whenua for the region, and they are inappropriate given the size of our region.

Having Māori constituencies would allow for people to vote who do not whakapapa to Ngāi Tahu. People who are not of Ngāi Tahu descent would also be able to stand for Council and potentially be elected from a Māori constituency. If this happened, it would fail to meet the objective of providing for mana whenua representation.

I’ve heard the mana whenua representatives will be appointed, rather than elected. How is that democratic?

The purpose of the change is to provide for mana whenua representation on the Council. No other group has been legally recognised as mana whenua in the way Ngāi Tahu have. This is noted in the Attorney General’s Bill of Rights Act review

Sometimes to address inequity, we must take a different approach to the status quo which tends to favour the majority, says Te Rōpū Tuia Co-Chair Liz Brown. “I hope this Bill challenges our collective idea of fair democracy rather than the conventional model which can be a popularity contest.”

Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai says, “Co-governance isn’t to be feared, we are stronger when we work together and give effect to Te Tiriti.”

Read the full media releasefrom Ngāi Tahu.

What happens if people refuse to pay their rates because they disagree with this decision?

The Council’s ability to collect rates is protected by law. There are options for people who qualify for rebates or remissions. People cannot withhold a portion or all of their rates in protest over a Council decision or because they object to a law that has been passed.

People who want to register their objection could do so by speaking to their local member of Parliament, or a local councillor.