Hobson’s Pledge Trust

The four commissioners who replaced Tauranga city councillors yesterday imposed a Maori ward there, ignoring the pleas of 6000 residents who petitioned for a vote.

The move was set up to look like a democratic process, with the four commissioners voting after three submissions were presented, one for and two against.

But the process looked more like a show trial because imposition of a Maori ward there was a foregone conclusion.

This was because the commissioners were appointed by Nanaia Mahuta, the Minister for Local Government who is also the Minister who pushed through the law change that abolished citizen-initiated referenda on Maori wards.

The BFD. Cartoon credit SonovaMin

Since February 1, when such referenda were removed from law, Tauranga is one of 20 councils that are considering or resolving to establish segregated voting via Maori wards or constituencies for next year’s local body elections.

Others are the Hamilton, Invercargill, Palmerston North, and Wellington city councils, the Horowhenua, Kaikoura, Kaipara, New Plymouth, Ruapehu, Gisborne, Whangarei, Taupo, South Taranaki, Waipa, and Whakatane district councils, and the Hawke’s Bay, Horizons (Palmerston North), Northland and Taranaki regional councils.

These councils want to follow Environment Bay of Plenty, the Waikato Regional Council and the Wairoa District council in having racially based wards although 55 of New Zealand’s 78 local authorities have no plans to go down this path at this stage.

Nine of those councils simply ignored the signatures of their ratepayers who petitioned for the right to vote on the matter, which was permitted under the Local Electoral Act 2001 until February 1.

Bearing in mind that signatures collected in New Plymouth are not included, those received compared with those required were:

                                            Received         Required             

Northern Regional Council      8703                6027                    

Whangarei District Council      5133               3080                    

Kaipara District Council           1376               790                      

Tauranga City Council              6000              4742

Taupo District Council              1756               1241

South Taranaki District Council  903                847

Ruapehu District Council           551                385     

Gisborne District Council           792               1625

New Plymouth District Council   Not available   2874

TOTAL                                    25,214          21,611

Mistrusting their constituents, a number of these councils had asked central government to remove the right to petition for referenda.

Hamilton councillors initially voted against Maori wards but after bullying from the local iwi, Waikato Tainui, according to deputy mayor Geoff Taylor, the council will re-vote the issue on Thursday.

Councils try to justify racially segregated voting on local councils as giving effect to Section 4 of the Local Government Act 2002, guaranteeing a seat “for Maori” at the top table, reflecting the Treaty of Waitangi, and increasing Maori participation in local government.

However, the Local Government Act 2002 does not require Maori wards. Maori representation on local government overall is already proportional to population percentage, and there is absolutely nothing in the Treaty about voting arrangements.

No council proposing Maori wards has ever given voting turnout figures for the three councils with Maori wards because if they did, they would have to show that turnout continues to lag.

For instance, overall turnout in the most recent election at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which has had Maori constituencies since 2001, was 43.2 percent, but turnout for Maori roll voters was 35 percent.

The Kohi Maori constituency, where the Maori population is 18,500, returned only 4037 votes; the Mauao constituency, population 19,850, returned 2716 votes; and the Okurei constituency, population 18,300, had only one candidate so there was no vote.

Be aware, the establishment of Maori wards and constituencies in local government is a key goal of the Maori sovereignty movement.

It features on page 46 of He Puapua, which is the guiding document to implement in New Zealand the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples signed New Zealand up to in 2010.

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