Appropriate levels of decision making – Te Tiriti and MMP

Appropriate decision making is one of the core principles of the Greens and it is very useful when we are grappling with the developing discourse around MMP and also decision making under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

This core principle means that we uphold the importance of voting as a vital tool in decision making and we can explore how voting is structured to make sure votes are meaningful and as fair as possible to all. Hence MMP is a better system for more people in a representative democracy. However good decision making is not just about counting votes. If a consensus can be developed and all participants own the decision then often a longer lasting decision can be implemented. Many of us experience this at Green events and at marae hui.

Hence the need for skilled consensus building not only within the Greens but across the country. In recent legislation co-governance of the Waikato River was established whereby a joint authority of tangata whenua appointees and elected tauiwi was set up to work on clean up of the awa. This is an example of a different model of decision making which reflects the long struggle for the clean up of the Waikato and for recognition of cultural models and relationships to reflect both traditions. It is not a full Te Tiriti recognition but a negotiated compromise.

Some people think that to embrace a more varied and participatory model of decision making undermines a bitter fought and hard won principle of “one person one vote”. My personal view is that some situations can be resolved through voting and a secret ballot but others are enhanced by dialogue and a commitment to finding an outcome that all can live with.

The majority vote model has worked well for majorities but has always led to a group of marginalised people who feel voiceless. We need to foster a range of mechanisms that reflect the nature of the decision to be made. If everyone is needed to clean up a river then everyone’s cultural strengths need to be at the table. It will take time to develop new ways of decision making which upholds the best from our cultures and traditions but it’s exciting. As a member of a so called “minority (women) which have always been 50% of the population I vote for that! Most of the groups I work in have been developing consensus tools but we don’t throw away any of our traditions.

24 Comments Posted

  1. I like this quote to.

    In 1941, the editor Edward Dowling wrote: “The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”

  2. Kia-ora
    I have posted this elsewhere, but it is relevant to this discussion.

    “Democracy is the worst political system, except for all the others.” Winston Churchill et al.

    John Adams, letter to John Taylor (15 April 1814)
    “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both”

    George F. Kennan, in American Diplomacy (1951)
    “You may fool all the people some of the time; … some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time”.

    Attributed to Abraham Lincoln by Alexander K. McClure (1904) “Abe” Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories.
    “If Voting Changed Anything They’d Abolish It.”

    Greens talk about consensus decision making as the ideal and it is good when it happens, but who is the final arbiter of consensus?

    Who decides when consensus is reached? What is the final arbiter! Democracy means decisions taken by all. Consensus is one method but when consensus fails do we abide by the decisions of all taken by such methods as BCIR or do we abide by decisions of politicians who seem to get it spectacularly wrong most of the time.
    At the moment we have so called representative democracy which simply means we have a choice of dictatorship every three years. If most people do not like what they are doing you have little choice but to elect the opposite party who may or may not reverse what has been done.
    Just because you may or may not like the results of a recent BCIR is no reason to say that is the wrong way to run a democratic system. The majority are more likely to get it right than a minority of power hungry self centred idea-loges in Parliament. How many of the things imposed on us by Labour and National have been in the best interests of more than a few narrow groups in NZ. The sheer arrogance of politicians and journalists contempt for the “great unwashed” and the inability to give up power to the governed is behind most of the objections to citizens having a say in Government.
    The Swiss system on the whole runs very well. Including protecting minorities. There has been hiccups with BCIR in California, but not in many other places where it is used. The Icelanders telling the banks to get s-fed was great.
    We need more power devolved to the voters..
    People who have voting power will also demand better information from politicians and journalists.

    ” In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had 500 years of democracy and peace — and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock”.
    Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man, 1949.

    But which one would you rather live in?

  3. Tau iwi is offensive in both Maori and Pakeha Cultures. As soon as I hear the word I tune out.
    Who are the foreigners? My family who have both Maori and Pakeha relations (Through my fathers family as Pakeha we have been here for 6 generations). Or Peter Sharples whose father is English.

  4. Are We There Yet? A conceptual framework for evaluating democracy in Aotearoa.
    Paul G. Buchanan.

    “For many New Zealanders, be they Pakeha, Maori or from other ethnic, national or religious backgrounds, the take on Kiwi democracy is that it is dysfunctional and needing of major reform. The trouble is that a majority may agree that democracy in Aotearoa is not working “properly,” but there is no majority consensus on how to fix it. Perhaps that is due to a failure to fully appreciate what the term “democracy” means.

    This extends to academic analyses of New Zealand democracy. That field is dominated by voting behaviour specialists, cultural relativists and constitutional law experts. The former are preoccupied with discerning the minutia of voting, party and coalition dynamics and media coverage of campaigns under Mixed Member Proportionality (MMP). Cultural relativists, ignoring the fact that there are many societies in which colonial and pre-colonial cultures mix, write about Aotearoa as if it were sui generis. As hard as it may be for some to accept, New Zealand is just another point in the spectrum of post-colonial democracies, and its issues are no more or less than in any other. As for the constitutional law experts, they are most useful in giving ex post facto interpretation to matters of legal import. In each case the focus is on the why and how of contemporary democratic practice in Aotearoa rather than the fundamentals of it.”

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0908/S00080.htm

  5. I am concerned that Catherine may be stumbling into a minefield here. Certainly there are hazards associated with the democratic process, and those hazards have been accentuated in modern democracies where the mass media organisations have a decisive influence upon the outcome of the political process – “power without responsibility”.

    But if you say “we will abandon the democratic paradigm” then you need to have definitive notions of what will replace it. And those notions must stand up to critical scrutiny.

    In all states there are checks and balances on the power of the demos. The most obvious one is the judiciary which is in turn governed by the fundamental law of the land. Another, in certain jurisdictions, is the clergy, governed by the holy scripture – Talmud, Bible or Koran. By contrast Catherine’s proposals seem to be open ended. They would allow for virtually any kind of political decision which the governing parties might arrive at out of self-interest, bloody-mindedness, or mere whim.

    The point about judicial and religious checks and balances is that they are not arbitrary in nature. They rest on foundations which most members of the body politic in question regard as being reasonable, just and equitable. Those foundations are open to critical examination by all because they exist as constitutional or canon (Sharia) law. They therefore do not give arbitrary power to any individual or group, as Catherine’s proposals would.

    Catherine does not appear to have done a lot of research into the failings of modern democracy. If she were to do so, she might suffer a measure of personal embarrassment as a result. And therefore her proposals – essentially to give a disproportionate measure of power to certain groups in society – contain dangers of which she does not appear to be fully cogniscant.

    I suggest that the way forward for the Greens is to work towards a formal constitution which protects the status of Maori in Aotearoa while giving exactly the same protections to every other ethnic group. In other words a constitution which need make no mention of “Maori” or “Pakeha”. That, I suggest, is the only feasible way to provide for a just and amicable society. As I have argued previously, every expression of the theory of benign racism within the British dominions has ended in catastrophe. If Catherine were to get her way, New Zealand would suffer a similar fate to Fiji, Sri Lanka, Cyprus etc.

  6. Chris Trotter:

    “I have to confess, however, to having much less sympathy with your views on “consensus”.

    As an antidote to your easy-ozy tolerance, I would reccommend the famous 1970 feminist essay “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” (just type the title into Google).

    “[D]ialogue and a commitment to finding an outcome that all can live with” works well where you have a group of people who share a solid base of core values and have undertaken to abide by the rules of consensus-based decision-making (CBDM).

    Absent these commitments – i.e. in the hard, cold world of adversarial politics – CBDM simply doesn’t work.

    The reason why it doesn’t work is easy to see if you just think about it for a moment.

    All that’s required for the system to break down is for the majority/minority who do not want to make decisions in this way to simply refuse to accept any and all decisions not put to a vote.

    The only way to get around this tactic of using CBDM against itself is to revert to some sort of voting system – which rather defeats the purpose! ”
    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2010/05/taking-greens-seriously.html

  7. On a nother post Catherine Says:
    “I cannot wait for the day when we have a proper dialogue at a regional level where tangata whenua can educate people who do not have a concept of what customary knowledge is, what the life force of a river is all about, and how we maintain and sustain it for the well-being of everyone in the community.
    .
    so I don’t think catherine sees the input as equal and hence we can assuage/relax/ dickie with(?) the “one woman one vote” rule.
    http://www.greens.org.nz/speeches/more-sophisticated-era-under-te-tiriti-o-waitangi

  8. jh

    You misunderstand what you read and then reply to the straw man you have constucted, rather than what was said.

    The long struggle for a clean up of the river, was one that both Pakeha and Maori participated in, not that you would have known that.

  9. “Hence the need for skilled consensus building not only within the Greens but across the country. In recent legislation co-governance of the Waikato River was established whereby a joint authority of tangata whenua appointees and elected tauiwi was set up to work on clean up of the awa. This is an example of a different model of decision making which reflects the long struggle for the clean up of the Waikato and for recognition of cultural models and relationships to reflect both traditions.”
    …..
    this suggests that it is a Maori cultural tradition to look after a river but not a Pakeha one. This doesn’t take into account modern society where population increases due to modern medicine and technology pushes production to a maximum so we have industries using energy and resources and consequently waste products. Maori are as much a part of this society as Pakeha. Pakeha anglers are very angry at the pollution of streams due to dairy farming.

  10. This is the clearest response (from Toad) to the notion that we need to move away from one woman one vote:
    .
    “The Greens don’t have a defined position on what that constitutional arrangement should be – just that all New Zealanders need to start talking about it, rather than hoping the issue of tino rangatiratanga will go away, because, it didn’t under past assimmilationist policies, and it won’t.

    Trotter seems to want us to all forget that Te Tiriti was signed, or to deny that it has any significance today.”
    ….
    The fact is that while the treaty was signed the issue of who was to hold power was fudged by having two versions (Maori and English). Colonists were allready on way (and it only took about ten years until Pakeha equaled Maori). This all happend at the cusp of the modern age. Prior to that “trouble makers” were swiftly dealt with and there were no film crews or members of the public with video cameras and no civil rights lawyers with flash haircuts. So we either ignore the wrinkle(treaty) or we do what the Greens want and honour it literally but then we go beyond “one woman one vote” and a whole lot of other things men will find unacceptable or we go the other way and have a war with Maori nationalists (a popular choice in Peace Movement circles) or we have this waltzing matilda treaty process and hope people get tired and it will go away.
    The choices remind me of a Russian parable about being given a choice of three punishments 1. awful 2. horrible 3. Eat stinking fish. The person tries awful but gives up then tries horrible and finally has to eat the stinking fish.

  11. “Cultures evolve because of political movements. Always have done, and always will do. ”
    …..
    what about adaptation to circumstance as where people who fish develop a different culture to those who dwell in the desert. Then there is freely adopting a new practice as when language (my great grandparents spoke gaelic but also English) develops or people choose music or copy the Japanese and take shoes off in the house?

  12. @jh 9:54 AM

    Cultures usually evolve and adapt (the English language is a good example). What we are seeing here is a political movement using culture to create a differentiating border within our society.

    Cultures evolve because of political movements. Always have done, and always will do. Pakeha can never go back to 1840 (despite the apparent desire of some like you, jh, to do so). Nor can Maori go back to 1840.

    While you seem to understand the history, you don’t seem to understand that today we are just a point in what will in future be history. And where that leads us will be determined by the “political movements” you seem to despise.

    I want to see an Aotearoa / New Zealand with a better understanding and relationships between Maori and Pakeha than there has been in the time since Te Tiriti was signed.

    You seem to support drawing a line in the sand (in the same manner John Key has done with Te Urewera) to ensure grievances and misunderstanding continue forever.

  13. Anyone still tempted to discuss any of jh’s ‘points’ will be interested to learn that he posts anti-Green Party comments on Kiwiblog, with the intent of stirring up similar sentiments amongst those righteous boys and girls.
    Calls himself ‘hj’. Sure had me fooled with his tricky re-branding!

  14. “Worth Waiting For: The people of South Africa, oppressed for decades by a system which conferred exclusive political, economic and social authority upon a militant ethnic minority, queued in the sun for hours to exercise “one person, one vote”. The New Zealand Greens dismiss this fundamental democratic process as “the limited concept of conservative Pakeha that one man, one vote is the only manifestation of democracy possible in Aotearoa”.
    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2010/05/taking-greens-seriously.html
    .
    Good one 😉

  15. “It will take time to develop new ways of decision making which upholds the best from our cultures and traditions but it’s exciting”
    ….
    Cultures usually evolve and adapt (the English language is a good example). What we are seeing here is a political movement using culture to create a differentiating border within our society.

  16. Some people think that to embrace a more varied and participatory model of decision making undermines a bitter fought and hard won principle of “one person one vote”. My personal view is that some situations can be resolved through voting and a secret ballot but others are enhanced by dialogue and a commitment to finding an outcome that all can live with.
    ……
    Ah yes, there is one critical element to all this and that is the skilled person (might I say the “right thinking one”) who facilitates the correct decision…. (Phil U’s someone with a white board comes to mind)
    ….
    Personally I don’t think post modernists will lead us anywhere the smart money is on argument mapping (applied critical thinking); there is where we will find consensus.

  17. “Hence the need for skilled consensus building not only within the Greens but across the country. In recent legislation co-governance of the Waikato River was established whereby a joint authority of tangata whenua appointees and elected tauiwi was set up to work on clean up of the awa. This is an example of a different model of decision making which reflects the long struggle for the clean up of the Waikato and for recognition of cultural models and relationships to reflect both traditions. It is not a full Te Tiriti recognition but a negotiated compromise.”
    ….
    Unfortunately not everyone recognises the “cultural models and relationships” of the other (alleged) “world view”. You may call non maori foriegners but (eg) the late Michael King says:
    .
    Among the subsequent experiences that have sharpened that feeling for me are being informed by members of the Aahi Kaa group that I was in fact a tau iwi or foreigner in this land; and, just as offensively, listening to Cabinet Minister Doug Graham say that Maori people had spiritual feelings for lakes, mountains and rivers, and that Pakeha people did not. Doug Graham might not have those feelings: but I and my family have them, as have the thousands of other Pakeha people I have encountered in four decades of walking, tramping and camping on this beautiful land; and doing their best to preserve the contours and the character of Papa-tua-nuku from a variety of commercial interests which have sought to destroy that character by ill-considered development projects.
    http://sof.org.nz/origins.htm

  18. “If a consensus can be developed and all participants own the decision then often a longer lasting decision can be implemented.”
    …..
    what happens where a raceway (Ruapuna) is annoying the local residents but the raceway fans come from all over Christchurch?

  19. Well it’s certainly good to see Catherine Delahunty taking Chris Trotter’s arguments seriously enough to reply. I guess she’s returning the “favour” of Trotter “Taking the Greens Seriously”.

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