LGNZ calls for changes to Māori wards legislation

8:36 pm on 27 March 2018

Changes must be made to the way Māori wards are decided on, Local Government New Zealand says.

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Photo: 123rf

President Dave Cull has penned an open letter to the government asking for the Electoral Act to be changed.

He said the process is unfair and inconsistent.

"If a rural community goes to its council and says 'we'd like a ward' the council considers it and then makes a call on it. It can be appealed to the Local Government Commission, but that's it.

"With Māori wards the Local Government Commission is not allowed to have a say and if the council wants to have a Māori ward then someone can come along and say 'here's a petition we want a referendum' and you ask the whole community whether the Māori ward should go ahead."

LGNZ wants sections 19ZA to 19ZG of the Local Electoral Act removed.

The Act allowed a council to propose a Māori ward if councillors voted for one. However if more than five percent of residents in the area objected to a ward being set up - it must go to a community vote.

No other ward is decided on this way.

Mr Cull said the current law was discriminatory.

"It's treating [Māori wards] in quite a different way. You don't treat other ward proposals in this way and it's discriminatory."

He said LGNZ wanted the rules on creating wards to be consistent.

"Either you allow a referendum for all kinds of wards, or none."

But, Hobson's Pledge member Don Brash said LGNZ was "totally out of touch", with New Zealanders on this issue.

Dr Brash said the number of residents who had petitioned for a referendum after a Māori ward was proposed, showed the majority of people did not want Māori wards.

"In every one of the districts whose councils decided to impose Māori wards - Western Bay of Plenty, Whakatane, Palmerston North, Manawatu and Kaikōura - large numbers of ratepayers petitioned for a poll, showing clearly that very many do not want race-based wards," he said.

If the decision was reversed, no future consideration of Māori wards would be able to take place until after the 2022 local authority elections.

In June last year, Marama Davidson's bid to change the law was voted down 71 to 48.

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