29 Jun 2017

Bill to create Māori wards voted down

6:00 pm on 29 June 2017

The former mayor of New Plymouth says he is appalled but not surprised a Private Members Bill to enable better Māori representation in local government has been voted down.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Green Party MP Marama Davidson's bill would have ensured the establishment of Māori and general wards followed the same legal process.

National, Act and New Zealand First voted against the bill at its first reading.

The vote was lost 71 to 48.

Andrew Judd, who has described himself as a recovering racist, was vilified over his support for a Māori ward in New Plymouth, which was thrown out in a 2015 citizens initiated referendum.

Mr Judd said it was unacceptable that only a Māori ward could be overturned in this way.

"It is actually racist and biased. What do I want to see happen? Fairness. The same process whenever a council establishes seats at its table the process follows the same journey.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd

Andrew Judd. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"People call for one law for all and I don't disagree with that and here is a classic case where it should be one law for all. It should be the same law for both Treaty partners."

Ms Davidson, who is the Greens' Māori development spokesperson, said the bill was simple and should not have been a controversial issue.

"This discriminatory provision in our electoral law sets a double standard that has prevented Māori representation at local government level throughout the country.

"The United Nations has noted the 'persistently low' level of Māori representation in local government."

Ms Davidson said the fight for better Māori representation in local government would go on.

During yesterday's debate New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark said he was one of those in Māoridom who subscribed to the view that Māori attained and achieved on merit.

"We either succeed or we do not on our own abilities. Jerry Mateparae did not become the Governor-General of New Zealand or the chief of defence force or the chief of the army or an SAS officer simply because he was Māori.

"There were no specially reserved places at officer cadet school for Māori or within the ranks of his battalion. People join the army, put on one uniform, become one people-one unit-and get on with the job."

National list MP Nuk Korako applauded councils that were looking at how to increase Māori representation but also voted against against the bill.

"I do think that the current law strikes the right balance in making this sort of constitutional change something that the community can choose to have its say on."

Mr Judd still had a petition before Parliament on the same issue but he said yesterday's debate showed how much work he had to do to get it accepted.

"It's disheartening when the people opposing this don't even understand their own law or requirements on councils.

"They had no knowledge of the Local Electoral Act, they were misquoting the process and obviously misunderstood what this move by the Greens was all about.

"They had a responsibility to support this Bill, both under the Treaty of Waitangi, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which they signed in 2009."

Submissions on Mr Judd's petition close in December.

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