19 April 2011

Appointees and local democracy

Brian Rudman again rails against the automatic appointment of members of the Maori Statutory Board onto Auckland Council committees:
"At the time I tried to think of any model of democracy that involved members of a committee of government appointees, not elected by the people they purport to represent, sharing voting rights on a city council with elected councillors. This system of Maori representation doesn't fit the ideal of any form of democracy that I know of this side of the old communist world."
Hmmm.  Rudman appears to have overlooked that local government legislation in New Zealand has for a long-time provided for exactly that.

Clause 31(3) of Schedule 7 of the Local Government Act 2002 allows a local authority to appoint people other than councillors to council committees, as long as each committee continues to have at least one elected member:
"The members of a committee or subcommittee may, but need not be, elected members of the local authority, and a local authority or committee may appoint to a committee or subcommittee a person who is not a member of the local authority or committee if, in the opinion of the local authority, that person has the skills, attributes, or knowledge that will assist the work of the committee or subcommittee."
Such a practice was also authorised under earlier legislation.  It reflects the idea that local democracy involves a blend of representation, diversity and expertise.

While non-councillors are entitled to sit on committees, the democratic principle is pure for the governing body of the local authority - elected members remain ultimately responsible for decisions made by committees, subcommittees or other people under delegations.  It's also worth noting that (certain quasi-decisions aside), the governing body can generally revoke or overturn a decision made by any of its committees.


Anonymous said...

Yes - well - he was told that but he ignored it.

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Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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