Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 25. All the latest news from New Zealand, updated throughout the day. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Members make The Spinoff happen. Every dollar contributed directly funds our editorial team – click here to learn more about how you can support us from as little as $1.
8.00am: Māori wards bill passes, National promises to overturn
National has unveiled its first policy of the 2023 election: overturning a new law scrapping the public veto on councils setting up Māori wards.
The bill finally passed yesterday afternoon, after the Opposition spent much of the previous day filibustering. Labour had used urgency to get the law change into the House despite just one week of select committee scrutiny.
Local government minister Nanaia Mahuta said there had been a generational shift since the prior law was first introduced in 2002 – a government Mahuta was part of. Had she known the 5% barrier was too low “I never would have voted for it”, she said.
National offered staunch opposition to the bill, speaking on every single one of its 10 clauses. Leader Judith Collins called it “shoddy law making”.
“Jacinda Ardern and Labour did not campaign on this issue at the last election and have not adequately consulted with New Zealanders,” she said in a late night statement.
“Labour only gave the public two days to make submissions. There were 12,506 of them, with 76% opposed to the changes.”
The party’s local government spokesperson Christopher Luxon said: “It’s not for central government to get in the middle of the relationship between councils, iwi and hapū.”
Top stories from The Bulletin
For a lead story today, a confrontation that has been brewing for a while, with several flashpoints along the way. Corrections minister Kelvin Davis has accused activist group People Against Prisons Aotearoa of “basically inciting” the Waikeria prison riot earlier this year, in particular through a pamphlet that advised prisoners unhappy with living conditions to protest, reports Radio NZ. Davis brought it out in parliament under questioning from Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi on the conditions in prison, noting that Waitati himself was quoted in it. Davis told reporters he wasn’t “saying he’d [Waititi] distributed it, but he is quoted in it”. The pamphlet has since been referred to police.
Waititi had been involved in ending the multi-day riot, by going into the prison to secure the surrenders of those who were still holding out. He said he was “flabbergasted” to have been accused by the minister in such a manner, and said Davis was “choosing to deter us from the actual kaupapa which is around the incompetence of Corrections at this particular time to look after our people in prison.”
The incident in turn prompted a partly derisive, and partly angry reaction from activists groups, including PAPA. Their response can be read here. One point that has been made is the argument that it isn’t a subversive document – you can read it in full here. In large part, it advises prisoners of their rights under law, and outlines organising methods to secure those rights. There is also a crossword and Sudoku on the back page.
Activist groups have subsequently accused Davis of using the issue as a smokescreen for conditions within prisons. Justspeak put out a release saying “minister Davis needs to take responsibility for the systemic failures in Corrections facilities across Aotearoa and demonstrate his Government’s commitment to actually making change, rather than attempting to deflect attention from the human rights abuses happening on his watch.” And Amnesty said “the portfolio he [Davis] is responsible for, Corrections, has committed grave human rights violations and broken New Zealand and international law. And this has a human cost.”
An important piece of context for this story: Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner reports a district court judge has just issued a stinging assessment of conditions in Auckland Women’s Prison, which found degrading and cruel treatment and multiple examples of Corrections breaking its own rules. It stands to reason that if it is happening in one prison, we might well suspect that it is happening in others too.
Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the day’s best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.