< November 2020 newsletter


Campaign to overturn direct democracy hots up

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is vowing to remove the public poll option when councils vote to create Māori wards. Mahuta, who retained the portfolio after the October general election, said she was "all ready to go once the government is formed".

The Local Electoral Act’s binding poll system is a form of direct democracy that enables electors to choose for themselves by simple majority vote whether they want race-based council representation. Dr Muriel Newman explains the significance of the petition rights for Māori wards in her NZCPR article Repealing Democratic Rights:

“Maori wards were introduced into the Local Electoral Act by Helen Clark in 2001. Because this involved changing the voting system to include the Maori electoral roll, the same constitutional safeguards that already existed in the law were applied. Those section 27 to 34 safeguards had been introduced to protect electors from council attempts to change the voting system between First Past the Post (FPP) and Single Transferable Vote (STV) without consulting the public.

As a result, the Maori ward petition rights in sections 19ZA to 19ZH, which mirror those in sections 27 to 34, enable electors to challenge a council’s constitutional decisions through a district-wide referendum – if they gain the support of 5 percent of voters in a petition.

Essentially Helen Clark’s ‘direct democracy’ veto can only be applied when councils change the voting system without community consultation – namely through switching between FPP voting and STV, or introducing the Maori roll and Maori wards.”

Dr Newman includes reference to constitutional law expert Professor James Allan, formerly of Otago University, now at Queensland University. Professor Allan explains:

“there are legitimate and illegitimate ways to attempt to change constitutional arrangements. A binding referendum would be a legitimate process.  Another legitimate process would be for all parties that are inclined to support this law change to make it a clear, major component of their manifesto before the next election, so that after that election a ‘cross-party agreement’ had some legitimacy.”

Professor Allan also warns:

 “Let’s be clear.  Deals stitched-up after elections without changes having been signalled to voters by parties before the election, on something as fundamental as changing constitutional arrangements, are totally illegitimate.”

We note that the proposal to abolish referenda on Māori wards was not listed as a priority in the 2020 Labour Manifesto. However, the document did make the following commitment:

“Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset.” (p.23)

Nothing epitomises this policy more than a referendum by which the local population decide who sits at the Council table.

Democracy Action believes the Government has no mandate to deny citizens the right to call for a poll on council decisions to introduce Māori wards. Rather than this being a priority, the proposal should be abandoned.

Instead, we suggest that Government upholds its stated commitment to involve full participation of the population in any major decisions about local democracy by requiring all local bodies who wish to make a change to representation arrangements, such as Māori wards, be required to undertake a poll of electors.

As Bruce Moon, author of “New Zealand – The Fair Colony”, writes in his opinion piece Democracy in Peril

“The existing poll right with respect to a Maori ward is a constitutional right of all New Zealanders and any attempt to remove it should properly be put to a national referendum”.

Andrew Judd on the warpath to abolish a democratic right. Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd has been invited by Network Waitangi Whangarei to speak against the polling provision and about Māori wards at two public meetings in Whangarei on 27 & 28 November. Judd is actively campaigning to overturn the right of electors to demand a poll over Māori wards. But he and the Maori Party want to go even further - they are calling for a law change so up to half of all councillors in New Zealand are Māori. Judd reckons that: "The reasonable interpretation of the Treaty is that you would have fifty-fifty representation around the table."  

Creative NZ has even joined the fight. Acting outside its mandate, it is funding controversial opinion pieces to pressure the Government to abolish the poll provision. 'Point of Order' covers this issue in the following two articles:

Creative NZ support for propaganda adds up to $222,000 that won’t go to artists

Creative NZ gives support to the art of pressing MPs to change “racist” law and facilitate race-based voting systems

What you can do:

Write to your local MP, the Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta, the Prime Minister, and the leader of the Opposition, expressing your views on retaining your right to a vote on Maori wards. Their contact details can be found HERE.

Also, write to local papers, and post messages on social media, and to your friends and family about Minister Mahuta's campaign to abolish a democratic right.

Media Coverage

Stuff: Mayor calls for half Maori councils

RNZ: Mahuta vows to clear obstacles to creating Māori council wards

Breaking Views: Mike Hosking: Push for Maori wards on councils is racist and undemocratic

Go back to the November 2020 newsletter


RELATED ARTICLES


We want a vote on Māori wards!

The Local Electoral Act’s binding poll system is a form of direct democracy that enables local electors to choose for themselves by simple majority vote whether or not they support race-based council representation. However, to trigger a poll 5 percent of electors must support a petition to hold the referendum. Campaigns to do so have already started in several regions. Please offer your support and encouragement to those who are standing up for the right to have a say on whether we support designated race-based seats at the council table. Continue reading

Mayors seek law change to thwart citizens’ right to have a say on Māori wards

Every six years local bodies are obliged to review the ward system. We have seen a flurry of such activity over the past few months, with both New Plymouth and Tauranga acting to establish Māori wards, and others considering whether to follow suit.  Continue reading

Compulsory Māori seats touted for Northland

Northland Māori are making a push for greater representation in local government, renewing calls for local Māori seats. Some say government intervention is necessary and that may include compulsory Māori seats. Pita Tipene of Ngāti Hine laments that local government legislation and processes are "shutting out our people". Continue reading

Maori wards for local authorities?

Four more councils have voted to foster racial division - councillors in Palmerston North, Manawatu, Whakatane and Western Bay of Plenty districts have voted to proceed with separate Maori wards, doing so without consulting their constituents. It is now over to locals to demand a vote. Help is being sought to collect signatures for petitions to spark polls in these areas. Continue reading

Maori wards supporters want to overturn the Māori ward poll law

In response to the binding poll in Palmerston North, a lobby group in the Palmerston North/Manawatu area has launched a campaign to promote the introduction of Maori wards, and to encourage voters to say "yes" to Māori wards in the upcoming referendums. A report on their campaign launch is available here. As well as campaigning to promote Māori wards, supporters want to overturn the law which enables voters to challenge any Māori ward decision through a binding poll. Continue reading

Citizens Get To Vote On Maori Wards - Congratulations To All Concerned!

Thanks to the hard work of locals, in some cases with the support of the people at Hobson’s Pledge, all five councils that voted to introduce Māori wards, (i.e. Manawatu, Whakatane, Western Bay of Plenty, Palmerston North and Kaikoura), will now be polling their citizens in a binding referendum as to whether they support Māori wards for their area. See Hobson’s Pledge media release here.

Countering The Campaign To Abolish The Poll Provision

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), along with the Green Party and ex-New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd, are agitating to remove those sections of the Local Electoral Act 2001 that allow for electors to vote on whether or not a city, district or region can establish Māori wards. Continue reading

LGNZ's Campaign to Abolish the Poll Provision

Local Government NZ (LGNZ) is campaigning vigorously to abolish the sections the Local Electoral Act 2001 which relate to the rules for binding citizens initiated polls concerning the establishment of Maori wards. The members of National Council of LGNZ want its members to be able to impose Maori wards unchecked - thereby depriving members of local communities of an individual democratic right expressly written into law. For a comprehensive and well researched essay on this issue, please click HERE. This essay, authored by Michael Coote - a freelance writer and financial journalist - was published on the NZCPR website on 22nd April. Michael explains what LGNZ is seeking, and the reasons why. Continue reading