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Source: New Zealand Government

The Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill passed its third reading today and will become law, Minister of Local Government Hon Nanaia Mahuta says.

“This is a significant step forward for Māori representation in local government. We know how important it is to have diversity around the council table and this forms a part of the Government’s commitment to working to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

“We have heard the calls from councils, and from Māori and non-Māori across New Zealand, to make these changes and are supporting councils to increase Māori representation by putting in place the same rules to establish Māori wards as general wards for the 2022 local elections.

Over the last 20 years we have seen councils struggle to put in place decisions to institute Māori wards. This Bill removes the poll option from the process for councils to establish Māori wards and constituencies, and provides councils a new start at deciding whether to have Māori wards at their next elections without the prospect of a poll looming ahead of them.

“These polls have proven to be an almost insurmountable barrier to councils trying to improve the democratic representation of Māori interests. This process was fundamentally unfair to Māori.

“What we have done in the House today will enable democratically elected local councils to ensure that their Māori communities can have a voice around the council table,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

“Māori wards are an important step forward for many other councils that are seeking to improve the way they partner with and represent Māori in their communities.”

This Bill is a first step in a two-step process. Its focus is on supporting councils at their next elections in 2022. Enduring changes for the 2025 elections and beyond are being prepared and the Minister intends to bring another Bill to the House later in this Parliamentary term when those changes are ready.

Background

This Bill amends the Local Electoral Act 2001 to:

  • align the treatment of Māori wards and Māori constituencies with the treatment of general wards and general constituencies as much as possible; and
  • remove all mechanisms for binding polls to be held on whether Māori wards or Māori constituencies will be established; and
  • provide local authorities with an opportunity to make decisions on Māori wards and Māori constituencies, in light of these changes, in time for the 2022 local elections.

At present, the Local Electoral Act 2001 provides that if a council resolves to establish wards or constituencies for electors on the Māori electoral roll, a local referendum (a poll) on whether Māori wards or Māori constituencies should be established must be held if at least 5 per cent of the electors of the city, district, or region demand one.

These polls have proved to be an almost insurmountable barrier to improving Māori representation in local government and, in some cases, a deterrent to local authorities considering establishing Māori wards or Māori constituencies.

MIL OSI