Louis circle
Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

The Maori wards legislation may have passed in Parliament, but that doesn’t mean councils have to abandon local democracy.

Yesterday RNZ reported that five Whangarei District Councillors are challenging their council’s decision to introduce Maori wards.

This needs to happen at councils across the country. The nine councils that chose to establish Maori wards for 2022 did so with the reasonable expectation that the decision would be subject to a binding referendum. Now that the Government has disabled the petitions to initiate referenda, those decisions should be revisited.

Councillors don’t need to go so far as abandoning Maori wards – they can simply vote to initiate a referendum themselves, and commit to honouring its result. This compromise is more likely to achieve support across the council table than scrapping the whole proposal.

The legislation to disable Maori ward petitions was a Wellington-driven push to safeguard left-leaning majorities on local councils. Councillors shouldn’t abandon local democracy to appease Nanaia Mahuta.

The BFD. Cartoon credit SonovaMin

Here Are the Councils That Asked the Government to Disenfranchise You

The following local councils lobbied the Government to disable referenda petitions on Maori wards:

  • New Plymouth District Council
  • Nelson City Council
  • South Taranaki District Council
  • Rotorua Lakes Council
  • Ruapehu District Council
  • Taupo District Council
  • Whanganui District Council
  • Northland Regional Council
  • Opotiki District Council
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Wellington City Council
  • Wairoa District Council
  • Gisborne District Council
  • Bay of Plenty Regional Council
  • Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Maori Committee
  • Kapiti Coast District Council

You can find all these submissions here. Not a single local council submitted against the legislation.

Some of the statements made by council representatives are quite remarkable, with many suggesting the legislation doesn’t go far enough.

Some councils claim to be concerned about the one-off cost of a referendum. The Taxpayers’ Union is notoriously tough on council spending, but even we wouldn’t justify restricting democracy on the basis of dollars and cents!

Read for yourself:

“Maori Wards are a start … but they are not good enough”
Amanda Clinton-Gohdes, Councilor, New Plymouth District Council
Video submission, 0:10 – 5:55

“If we are honouring Te Tiriti, we are looking at a co-governance structure and that is 50/50 representation”
Teri O’Neil, Councillor, Wellington City Council 
Video submission, 19:45 – 25:38

“Of course, it’s (cancelling a poll on Maori Wards) going to save us $80K-$100K as well” 
David Trewavas, Mayor, Taupo District Council
Video submission, 2:32:10 – 2:40:21

“You’re right we don’t need them (Wairoa’s Maori Wards)”
Craig Little, Mayor, Wairoa District Council
Video submission, 2:14:25 – 2:25:35

“And I eagerly await the second wave of legislative changes that Minister Mahuta has indicated will occur”
Lyn Resiterer, Mayor, Opotiki District Council
Video submission, 0:05 – 9:15

“In 2014 NPDC resolved to establish a Maori ward for the first time. A petition was organised within the community, a subsequent poll overturned the Council’s decision in 2015”
New Plymouth District Council
Written submission

“We committed to continue to expand the decision-making roles of Maori at our Council and this is occurring through appointments to committees and sub-committees of Council. These appointments all hold voting rights.”
Nelson City Council
Written submission

“The establishment of Maori wards and constituencies promotes democracy”
Waikato Regional Council
Written submission

“For Maori to have representation in Council decision-making, a mix of mechanisms needs to be implemented. The establishment of Maori wards is only one part of this package of mechanisms.”
Taupo District Council
Written submission

“If the Bill is not enacted, we will be required to conduct a poll by 21 May 2021 at a cost of approximately $240,000.”
Northland Regional Council
Written submission

“Matters of representation and relationships must be addressed in a deliberative manner that employs balanced and considered dialogue, contextualisation and appreciation of local issues and circumstances – not by poll.”
Gisborne District Council
Written submission

What a load of tosh.

Here at the Taxpayers’ Union, we see it as our role to highlight and expose what our local “representatives” are saying behind closed doors. The best tool to stop madness is sunlight.

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The Maori Wards Debate Now Lies with Local Councils
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