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Awhi launches lobbyist.nz with industry principles for lobbying in Aotearoa

One year on from the announcement of measures to provide greater transparency around lobbying in Aotearoa, government relations firm Awhi has launched lobbyist.nz with lobbying principles for the industry.

“Twelve months have passed since new transparency measures were announced and we still have very little to show for the public money spent to date,” says Holly Bennett, founder of kaupapa Māori government relations firm Awhi.

“Our democracy deserves much more than an industry that continues to refuse to address legitimate questions regarding the nature of activities undertaken, and on behalf of whom.”

The Awhi Lobbying Principles make clear that integrity, transparency, accountability and fair access to information are key to supporting a healthy democracy.

“These principles are underpinned by the belief that the overriding duty of those who undertake lobbying activities must be the maintenance of trust in democracy.”

“However, the discussion around who should be captured by the reforms has distracted from the more important question of what it is we are trying to achieve. It is not ‘who does the lobbying’ but rather the act of lobbying itself that the public must be able to trust.

“This means that anyone who lobbies, in any way, should not participate in activities that could reasonably be believed to erode trust in our democratic institutions,” says Holly.

Since the reforms were announced, Awhi has maintained that the work be led by industry.

“In lieu of collective progress, we decided to look at a variety of existing practices across a range of kaupapa and create a set of publicly available principles for anyone who wishes to commit to greater transparency when lobbying in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Inspiration has been drawn from other professions that work in close proximity to power and must also practise high ethical standards to ensure trust in the democratic system isn’t damaged by their conduct. This included the New Zealand Media Council principles, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability in the UK.

“These principles are for lobbyists and advocates who understand that their work has the very real potential to change the course of public policy, and while advocacy means a fiduciary duty to clients, it should also mean an unalienable duty to the maintenance of trust in democracy.”

 

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