I have been meaning to write about the Ngai Tahu election for the Tront Representative and Alternate position. But I have waited until some of the elections had begun and some that have been completed. In March last year I wrote an extensive article on this blog about the process. New readers might like to read that article first.
The following is a submission to a Runanga I where I have voting rights. It is a formal dispute – allowed under the Runanga constitution- about their electoral process. So far I have not had a reply. The points I raise are applicable to other Runanga elections. It is my view that any Runanga who do not run a democratic process have no right to sit at the Tront table.
"Dispute – Runanga Elections
I wish to dispute the manner, process and substance of the recent Runanga elections.
There is the substantive part of my dispute in that the Runanga denied the right of the large majority potential voters to participate in the elections. Other peripheral issues stem from the substantive.
In September 2008 Tront met to agree a list of rules (for memory approx 50- I was at the meeting as an observer) for the election of Runanga Representatives and Alternates. This was after a numbers of years of consultation and expenditure of over $500,000. A vote, that required a 75% majority, was taken and lost. Those voting against the rules were the usual crew who, in my view, have undermined Tront for some years.
A compromise was reached leaving virtually no rules but changes to the Charter. Runanga were left to run their own elections. Herietta Latimer was appointed Project Manager Elections. She has done splendid job but has been hampered by the lack of direction by Tront.
Membership Of Ngai Tahu
To become a member of the Ngai Tahu whanui a person must prove whakapapa connections to one or more Kaumatua alive in 1848. Tront has a role to accept or reject membership. But that is all.
Tront has no power to assign a person to a particular Runanga.
A person is accepted, through whakapapa, to be a member of one or more Runanga and therefore has automatic voting rights on one more Runanga – if over the voting age.
Role of Runanga
Runanga are where members have their place- where they stand. It is not Tront. Runanga have two legal responsibilities toward their members :
-Fidiuary Duty: “A fiduciary duty is an obligation to act in the best interest of another party. For instance, a corporation's board member has a fiduciary duty to the shareholders, a trustee has a fiduciary duty to the trust's beneficiaries, and an attorney has a fiduciary duty to a client. A fiduciary obligation exists whenever the relationship with the client involves a special trust, confidence, and reliance on the fiduciary to exercise his discretion or expertise in acting for the client. The fiduciary must knowingly accept that trust and confidence to exercise his expertise and discretion to act on the client's behalf.” –source Wikipedia. The fiduciary in this case is Runanga, its committees and members of these committees. So in this electoral case there could be liabilities if the electoral process was wrong.
Duty of Care: “Duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeable harm others. Duty of care may be considered a formalization of the social contract, the implicit responsibilities held by individuals towards others within society”. –source Wikipedia. Runanga have a duty of care to its members.
Notice of Election
The Runanga advertised in various publications giving notice of election. The advertisement asked people to register; other Runanga used the same advertisement. There was a flawed assumption in this approach. The assumption was that all eligible voters knew that had voting rights. Until very recently when you applied for tribal membership you were told that your membership was successful. But you were not told which marae you could whakapapa to and have an entitlement to vote. So there who are many oblivious of their right to vote at the Runanga.
A better and much more democratic way would have been to follow the Otakou model. The Otakou Runaka through the Office sent out a Panui to all their potential voters ( approx 10,000, about the same size as Puki’s) about their election process. The response and take up was very pleasing, I gather, but I have no numbers. I need to note that the Whakapapa Unit had issues about privacy. This was quite easily overcome just as it is when tribal publications are sent out; the Office sends out the publications.
The Runanga has had for years a list of its members. And if the intention was to run democratic elections a prerequisite would have been to ensure that there was an updated list that would have included those who turned 18 since the last election.
This appears not to have been considered.
In all elections, be they national, local body, club etc, all voters are made aware of the election rules. Think about this. There would be an outcry if parliament called an election but failed to tell electors what the rules were. The same analogy can be applied to the Puki elections.
Potential voters, registered or otherwise, were never told at the outset of the election process what the election rules were. Later, there was a reference in Te Panui Runaka to go to the Puki website for information but it was too little to late.
There was also an assumption that potential voters have access to the internet. It would be nice if this was the case. Mail is still the most reliable.
This is the system Tront has adopted despite the fact that the majority of voters wanted a direct vote i.e. vote for a particular Rep/Alt candidate. The College system can still be accommodated by making all potential voters the Electoral College. As it has turned out 9 initially put their hands, 3 withdrew, leaving 6 – the required quorum for the selection committee. I mention above, potential voters were never told about the election process; approx 260 registered members but approx 10,000 potential voters – less addresses unknown.
– The Runanga went into this election process with little thought about it’s responsibilities towards it’s members in general and the election process in particular.
– Tront has let all Runanga down by not putting in place a uniformed tribal electoral system."
– Since I wrote this submission the Arowhenua Runanga have had election. I could have voted there- my comments apply to them as well perhaps others who have yet to have elections.
– A couple of weeks ago there were some comments on the the "Busted Blond" blog critical of the Makaawhio Runanga elections. It seems to me that Makaawhio have conducted the best election so far. They opted for the indicative vote where all potential voters could participate and vote. They had a role of approx 1200 of which approx 250 voted
– My personal position is that under the present legislation the indicative vote should be mandatory for all Runanga. That is each eligible voter is a member of the college and castes a vote for the preferred candidate. The reason for this is that voters have an opportunity to vote. In the dispute, mentioned above, there was no need for a vote for the selection committee because the number candidates required match the number required. This has happened at Oraka Aparima, Whaihao and Arowhenua Runanga. The result is that the selection committee is made up of people who just put their hand. It does not take into account whether these people are qualified or have the background to selection the best Representative or Alternate ( this is not a comment on those who came to be on a selection committee in this manner but rather to point out a flaw in the college system).