Official information stand-off: defiant Maori could transform Crusher into Shredder Collins

Uh, oh. Auckland’s Independent Maori Statutory Board has bought itself a fight with Crusher Collins.

The buggers are playing the race card, claiming entitlement to special treatment when it comes to compliance with the requirements of the Official Information Act.

Dunno how the Treaty of Waitangi lets them off the hook, exactly, but you can be sure they can bewilder us with a profundity of fancy arguments on the matter.

Accordingly they are refusing to cough up some simple bits of information lawfully and reasonably sought by Crusher in her capacity as MP for Papakura.

This is in defiance of a recommendation of the Chief Ombudsman.

Radio NZ gave us the gist of what’s happening (here) last night.

Crusher is peeved that the board has provided her with unsatisfactory information.

The board insists it has given her all it intends giving her (which falls short of what she asked for).

The board’s chairperson, David Taipari, says Ms Collins requested the board members’ names and the towns and districts they live in.

He says the board provided the information, although two of its nine members gave their tribal boundaries instead, because that’s the basis on which they were appointed.

Mr Taipari says Ms Collins was unhappy with that, and asked the Chief Ombudsman, Beverley Wakem, to investigate.

Nice one, eh?

Two of these board members won’t give Crusher the information she legitimately asked for.

They are giving her the information they believe she should have asked for, or the information they think is as much as she is entitled to demand from them, or some such.

So what happened next?

Ms Wakem recommended the members provide the names of their towns and districts but the board rejected that, saying it supports the members’ Treaty rights to provide their whakapapa, or genealogy, and their tribal boundary.

There it is.

The bloody Treaty.

It gives our indigenous people a slew of special rights – or so they keep claiming, on an insidious case-by-case basis.

More often than not we craven Pakeha politicians roll over on each occasion and say yep, that’s what the Treaty says.

This makes it a remarkable document indeed, because Alf has read the English version and is damned if he can its application to lots of things to which it nevertheless is applied.

And bit by bit Maori are accorded rights that the rest of us are not accorded and never will be accorded.

But Crusher isn’t a craven Pakeha politician, and Alf imagines she might not be so ready to roll over and extend the special right of immunity for Maori from the requirements of the Official Information Act.

Ms Collins, who is also Justice Minister, says she’s pursuing the matter on behalf of a constituent who believes the information should be available to ratepayers.

If that’s what she believes, we can expect a fresh attempt to winkle the information out of these maverick Maori.

But not without a fight.

Mr Taipari says Ms Collins is being pedantic and the board has more important issues to resolve.

Nothing is more important to Crusher – you can be sure – than getting the information to which she believes she is entitled.

And nothing is likely to rile her more than accusing her of being pedantic as she goes about doing her job as a local MP.

In her capacity as Minister of Justice, Crusher this week welcomed a Law Commission report that recommends modernising law that controls government openness and transparency.

The report is the product of the first major review of the Official Information Act 1982 and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

It makes several legislative and operational recommendations.

The recommendations include changes to some of the grounds for withholding official information, changes to complaints processes, extending the coverage of the Official Information Act to include Parliamentary agencies, and an increased role for Ombudsmen to provide guidance for agencies.

Ms Collins said the Government will now consider the report.

“The Government is committed to openness and transparency, while trying to cut red tape and streamline processes for agencies, businesses and individuals.”

It looks like she should add the challenge of trying to cut brown tape.

Alf would also suggest a special clause in the upcoming changes to the Official Information Act. It would entitle her to put the Treaty through a shredder, if anyone should claim a racial privilege entitles them to exemption from the legislation.

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