Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, 

tena koutou katoa, 

On the 17th October we will all be going to the polling station. As well as voting for who we want to represent us in parliament we will also be asked to vote on two referendum. This week President Setaita signed the attached joint statements along with the leaders of nineteen other national churches of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Recently, Trinity Methodist Theological College staff circulated a statement noting, it is our moral imperative to engage in informed participation in our country's collective ethical discernment. Their statement was not a prescriptive statement telling people what to choose. Rather, it was raising some points for serious consideration as people come to make their choice. 

During this week we have become aware of some churches holding information evenings focussing on these referenda. We congratulate the parishes who have organised forums to help their communities engage with the issues. These are complex questions and there is no one Christian response, but please be prayerful and engage with others in conversation so that when you go to the polling station, you go informed and ready to cast your vote with confidence. 

We have also been engaged in a conversation with Michael Lemanu, Tauiwi Children, Youth, Families Ministry National Coordinator. Our young people have been engaged in conversation about the future and what they have learnt following the Covid-19 experience this year. Shortly they will be introducing two new programmes: 

1. TYTANZ Youth Service Online: This will be the start of a monthly online streamed 'service' for young people of the church, run by the Tauiwi National Youth Ministry Team. The main vision is to create a new Virtual Connexion for our young people to be part of. 

2. TYTANZ Talanoa Podcast: This is a new venture being explored where our young people will interview people from around the church and talanoa together. In the spirit of talanoa it is intended to be an informal type of conversation with a loose structure but, is mostly intended to hear the stories and thoughts of our people. 

We congratulate Michael and his team for these initiatives and are looking forward to supporting these programmes. We encourage you to find out more details from Michael and support the work of Tauiwi Youth. We are also excited to see the vision and creativity of TYTANZ who are offering leadership and exploring new ways of being in connexion. 

'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui. Setaita and Nicola 

A joint statement by the national leaders of most New Zealand church denominations 

We urge people of Aotearoa New Zealand to vote very cautiously in the two Referendums, because both decisions carry the risk of inflicting serious long-term damage on our society, endangering vulnerable people, and making our country less safe for everyone. 

1. The End of Life Choice Act 

As church leaders, we are very familiar with people being terminally ill and dying, and we have great empathy for the sorrow and anxiety they often go through. 

We understand the reasons why euthanasia appeals to some people, as a way of alleviating individual suffering in the context of very serious illness. However, we do not support the End of Life Choice Act. We believe it would be an unethical and dangerous step for New Zealand society to allow doctors or nurse practitioners to actively end someone's life or to assist them to commit suicide. We believe that is a line New Zealand should not cross. 

We are confident that with good palliative care most people die with pain well controlled, and very often peacefully. 

We believe that the End of Life Choice Act is too loosely framed, is more liberal than euthanasia laws in most other countries, and that it lacks enough effective safeguards, particularly against coercion: there is no 'last resort' clause, no requirement to see a palliative care specialist, no mandatory requirement for psychological assessment, no mandatory cooling-off period, no requirement to consult or tell family, no independent witness, and no adequate protection for doctors who object to euthanasia on spiritual or ethical grounds. 

We note that overseas provision for euthanasia has almost always been widened to include other conditions, and those under 18, and has also been associated with an increasing incidence of involuntary euthanasia. We believe that those who will ultimately suffer most from euthanasia are society's most vulnerable: the aged and frail, the poor, cultural minorities, and disabled people.  

We respectfully encourage New Zealanders to help keep our society safer for those who are very vulnerable, and to vote against the End of Life Choice Act. 

2. The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill 

We support the recent new provision in law (2019) for cannabis-based medicine to be available on prescription. 

We also support the general move towards decriminalising cannabis users, and instead concentrating on a non-punitive health-based approach of helping those being harmed by cannabis use and addiction. We note that police are generally no longer prosecuting recreational cannabis use (and we want them to apply that discretion without any bias). 

However, we do not support the legalisation of cannabis use, as proposed in the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. We believe legalisation would help normalise cannabis use and increase its use (as has happened overseas). Cannabis use remains addictive and dangerous for some people, especially those under 25, and can induce psychosis, depression, loss of cognitive function, lung (and other) diseases, suicidal tendencies, and foetal harm. 

Legalisation, and the rise of a cannabis industry with a network of retail shops in many communities, would undermine societal messages about reducing drug use (and also undermine the campaigns against smoking, and about driving under the influence of drugs). 

The evidence from overseas is that legalisation would not end the black market in cannabis. In Canada, over 70% of cannabis is still purchased on the black market). Illegal dealers including gangs would continue to sell cannabis (at lower prices, with unsafe levels of THC, and also to those under the age of 20). 

We are concerned that legalising and normalising cannabis use will increase domestic violence, cannabis-related road deaths, work place accidents, and educational failure. We are also worried that society's socio-economically disadvantaged groups are likely to suffer most from the increased availability and use of cannabis. 

We suggest that voting 'No to the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill carries significantly fewer risks of long-term damage to New Zealand society than a 'Yes' vote. 

We also suggest that a 'No' vote still leaves space for New Zealand further decriminalising cannabis law in relation to users, while retaining penalties only in relation to producers and dealers. At the same time it could strengthen a health-based approach towards those affected by drugs, while continuing to message society about the risks of all drug use. 

Signed by Leaders of nineteen churches. 

Prayer for this week
E Ihowa Atua,
O nga iwi matou ra
Ata whakarangona;
Lord of justice and peace,
we thank you for the freedoms we enjoy
to choose our leaders
and shape the course of our common life.
Give us wisdom to use the power we share for the good of all,
the relief of those in need and the furtherance of wholeness and truth;
God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Through Jesus Christ.