Information (they say) is power – so who is getting inside information in the Bay of Plenty?

Dunno if Alf would be kicked out, should he try to get in.

But he is curious about a gabfest being organised (and presumably paid for with public money) by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council

The headline on the council’s announcement says –

Top Speakers For Māori-Led Conference

The announcement goes on to say –

Prominent New Zealanders and Māori academics will be speaking at this month’s Tauranga conference for Bay of Plenty Māori.

And –

The conference is aimed at Māori living in, or with an interest in the Bay of Plenty.

Oh dear. Alf is not a Maori. And he does not live in the Bay of Plenty. That seems to rule him out.

The one-day conference, Te Tōanga Mai o Te Rā, or ‘the rising of the sun’, is being hosted by Bay of Plenty Regional Council at Tauranga’s TECT Arena Baypark on Monday.

So far 180 people have registered for the conference and anyone who now wants to attend will need to go on a waiting list for any cancellations.

Oh dear again. All seats are taken, even if Alf did pass muster on the ethnicity test.

So what will he be missing?

Keynote speaker is Waitangi Tribunal Chair and Chief Judge of the Māori land Court, judge Justice Joe Williams. Judge Williams will be discussing Māori into the future and the use of Māori land.

Human Rights Commissioner Joris de Bres will be chairing sessions on constitutional reform, the Māori role in local government and engaging with councils, led by Auckland University Māori Studies Professor Ann Sullivan and Te Mana o Ngāti Rangtihi Trust Chief Executive Nick Alexander.

University of Waikato Director of Māori and Indigenous Governance Research Centre Professor Linda Te Aho will lead a session on the post-Treaty era, and Otago University senior law lecturer Jacinta Ruru will lead a session on water and Māori rights.

This sounds like a platform for the promotion of co-governance.

That’s the constitutional arrangement whereby publicly elected local authorities give away much of their authority by sharing it with Maori leaders.

It’s the in thing with the Treaty crowd and with craven politicians who lack the balls to say no.

But here’s the thing that should bother us.

Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Raewyn Bennett says the conference is “an opportunity to provide tangata whenua with access to information that [is] easily available to Regional Councillors”.

She elaborated –

“Councillors and others have access to latest research and new ideas as a matter of course. The conference will assist with levelling the playing field,” she said.

Hold it right there.

Bay of Plenty councillors “and others” have access to latest research and new ideas as a matter of course?

And who – pray – are the “others”?

Ratepayers should be demanding to know what research and information is being talked about here, with whom it is being shared and why, and whether it will be made available to them.

If it is already being made publicly available, of course, there is no need for the Monday gabfest, because “publicly available” means everybody gets to look at it.

If it is restricted to a favoured few, however, ratepayers should demand to know who is being so favoured.

Cr Bennett went on to enthuse:

“Any business organisation with an eye on the future knows that informed involvement of tangata whenua is essential to the Bay’s future prosperity. For tangata whenua there is the opportunity to strengthen business relationships with each other and also to be exposed to new ideas from outside the Bay on some critical issues like water rights and responsibilities, local government, economic development.”

Again, ratepayers should be asking if they, too, can be exposed to the new ideas from outside the Bay…blah, blah, blah.

And if it so happens these ideas are already being made freely available to everybody – then, again, there is no need for a conference.

But a conference just for Maori would underscore the idea that – as indigenous people – the tangata whenua are “special”.

It would also give ratepayers a nice foretaste of the way co-governance will work and which of the co-governors will be flexing the greater amount of muscle.

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