Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta wants to make it mandatory for councils to consider Māori wards.
“Under the proposed changes, when councils undertake their regular Representation Review every six years, the first step must be a decision about whether to establish Māori wards or constituencies. Currently there is no obligation to consider Māori wards at all”, said Ms Mahuta.
The Minister reckons that even though Councils have been able to create Māori wards for 20 years, in her opinion the option was underutilised until Parliament removed the barrier of the binding poll provision last year.
This is one of the key provisions in the Local Government Electoral Legislation Bill - which brings together a range of diverse issues for changes. Another one is the removal of the cap of 20 elected representatives at Auckland Council, “to reflect the city’s growing population and allow for potential Māori wards”, the Minister said.
On her Drive show last Wednesday July 27, NewstalkZB host Heather du Plessis Allan described the bill as “a clever move” by Mahuta to try to essentially force Māori wards on councils, or at least make it very hard for councils to resist introducing Māori wards.
“That makes it very likely, doesn’t it, that a lot of councils will opt to introduce Māori wards. Because if they consider the wards and then actively choose not to introduce them, what are they?" du Plessis-Allan said
She went on to say that no one wants to be called a racist, so they’ll probably just take the easy option and introduce the Māori wards. But,
“Māori wards are historically deeply unpopular. In the nearly two decades since 2002, 24 councils tried to introduce Māori wards and only two ended up being successful.
“For example, Taranaki: their attempt in 2015 ended up voted down by 83 percent of ratepayers.
“You can say a lot of disparaging things about Nanaia Mahuta but what you have concede is that when it comes to really applying herself to undermining democracy, she can be very strategic and clever,” she said.
In response to the bill, Winston Peters said Mahuta’s move to make it mandatory for councils to consider introducing Māori Wards is unconstitutional “… and depicts a seismic shift in our democracy.”
“Labour’s separatist agenda had become so overt it should frighten every New Zealander who cares about the future of our democracy”, Peters said.
The bill will soon be open for submissions
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