< September 2023 newsletter

Māori seats for Auckland Council: Yes/No? Have your say

Citizens of Auckland - please take this opportunity to say whether you want the council to introduce Māori seats. Consultation closes at 11:59pm on Sunday 24 September 2023. 

Auckland Council is currently seeking feedback on their proposal to introduce up to three dedicated Māori seats.

As well as gauging support for this proposal, the Council is asking for feedback on how the seats should be filled - by election, or by a combination of election and appointment. One option is for Auckland citizens on the Māori electoral roll vote for representatives to fill one or two of these seats, with a possible third to be appointed by mana whenua (Māori with ancestral authority over a specific area of land). More information on the options is available on the council website at: https://akhaveyoursay.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/maori-seats

Auckland Council already has ways to ensure Māori influence policy and participate in the decision-making process.

If adopted the Māori seats would be in addition to the Independent Māori Statutory Board (IMSB), a body established as an alternative to Māori wards. For an enlightening account on the background to the introduction of the IMSB, listen to Rodney Hide explain on Reality Check Radio HERE.

The IMSB is highly undemocratic – it gives political power to a group of people who are legally accountable to no-one.

The IMSB members are neither elected by nor accountable to Māori voters, let alone the wider community. Under section 82 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 they do not appear to be legally accountable to anyone.

The IMSB is represented on all committees of the Governing Body, mostly with provision for two IMSB members, with voting rights on most of them, (although not on the Governing Body itself). This confers an unusually significant level of influence upon a group that lacks accountability to the community. As noted by Councillor Mike Lee during the Governing Body meeting on 22 June 2023, when approval was being sought on the public consultation material regarding Māori seats, votes cast by IMSB members can potentially - and sometimes do - sway decisions against the preferences of the majority of elected councillors. See video below.

To view this on Auckland Council's YouTube page, see: Auckland Council Meeting of the Governing Body - 22 June 2023 - Item 10 (between 54:16 and 58:52).

The fact that the IMSB has been granted voting rights on committees is the primary reason why this Board and how it influences the decision-making process must be an integral part of the discussion on whether to introduce Māori seats. The Council’s public consultation document does not make clear this Board has voting power, and how this influences the decisions made by Council.

The IMSB is just one of the ways Auckland Council ensures Māori are involved in decision-making processes. For additional information on this, please read the Democracy Action article in the elocal magazine (by clicking HERE), and also our August newsletter - 'AUCKLANDERS' VIEWS TO BE SOUGHT ON MĀORI WARD SEATS

What's ahead? The IMSB sees the council's current Maori seats proposal as just another step, (a scenario like the proverbial boiling frog in the pot). At its March meeting a resolution was passed recommending equal partnership and representation on Council.

People of Auckland - please take this opportunity to say whether you want the council to introduce Māori seats. Consultation closes at 11:59pm on Sunday 24 September 2023. 

Go to akhaveyoursay.nz/maori-seats to read Auckland Council’s consultation materials and to submit using the online form provided. 

You only need say whether you support, or do not support Māori seats - you do not need to elaborate.

If you do want to add a comment, please see below some suggested points you could make, (in your own words please):

  • Race based seats are inherently racist
  • Separating citizens into "Māori" and the "rest of us" is divisive and will damage our communities.
  • Time and time again New Zealanders, when given a vote, have rejected racial segregation. According to law firm Tomkins Wake, in the 20 years to 2021 that New Zealand law provided for the establishment of Māori wards constituencies in local government, 24 councils attempted to establish Māori wards, and just three succeeded. Twenty one were rejected due to citizens' initiated referenda.
  • There is no impediment to Māori being elected to the Council. We all have the opportunity to represent our community through democratic elections.
  • Councillors should make decisions on behalf of and for the benefit of the whole community. Separate Māori seats will result in the election of councillors who are responsible only to Māori, with no obligation to consider the interests of the rest of the community.
  • The option of appointed Māori seats (as suggested by the Royal Commission) is fundamentally undemocratic.

Auckland Council’s consultation page has details of webinars and public events that you can attend to find out more or to submit in person. Two ‘Have Your Say’ events are offered to allow the public to present directly to the Governing Body.

  • Public (14 September, 1pm – 5pm)  To register, please email [email protected] and include the speaker’s name, entity or group name (if you represent an entity or are part of a group) and contact details.
  • Mana whenua and mātāawaka (2 October, 10am – 5pm)

As well as sharing your views through the Council’s online form, we encourage you to contact your ward councillor/s directly to let them know whether you support Maori seats or not. A list of wards and councillors can be found here.

For more information please read the Democracy Action article in the elocal magazine, available by clicking HERE.

Also, 'AUCKLANDERS' VIEWS TO BE SOUGHT ON MĀORI WARDS’ published in the Democracy Action August newsletter. This outlines other ways Auckland Council already ensures Māori influence policy and participate in the decision-making process.



Go back to the September 2023 newsletter


Democracy Action oral submission to Auckland Council re: designated Māori seats

Oral submission to the Auckland Council Governing Body on 2 October 2023 Good morning your worship Mayor Brown and Councillors. Thank you for this opportunity to share our views on the council’s proposal to introduce designated Māori seats. I am here representing Democracy Action – a group of citizens advocating for the protection of democracy and equality of citizenship. Continue reading

Auckland Council rejects Māori seat proposal

After an impassioned debate, Auckland Council voted 11-9 against establishing Māori seats at the 2025 local body elections. Instead, they accepted a proposal put forward by Mayor Wayne Brown to look at Māori representation as part of a wider governance review to be undertaken by a working party made up of councillors and local board members. The working party has been asked to report back to the governing body by 31 December 2024, thereby missing the deadline to establish Māori seats for the 2025 election. Continue reading

Kāpiti Coast Council proposes Māori ward

Kāpiti Coast District Council is seeking the community’s views on whether to establish a Māori ward. A Māori ward councillor would represent citizens on the Maori roll. Feedback closes at 5pm Friday 13 October. See: https://haveyoursay.kapiticoast.govt.nz/MaoriWard Continue reading

Aucklanders' views to be sought on Māori wards

Following preliminary engagement with iwi and urban Māori in 2022, Auckland Council will shortly be asking Aucklanders for their feedback on whether they support - or do not support - the introduction of a dedicated Māori seat/s on Council. Public consultation will run from 21 August until 24 September. Continue reading


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. Continue reading

No intention to consult with Auckland citizens on Māori wards

Auckland Council is about to engage with mana whenua and mātāawaka about the creation of dedicated Māori seats but have made no plans to consult with the wider Auckland community - even though one of the two models under consideration does not comply with the important democratic principle of proportionality. The adoption of one of the models - the recommendation put forward by the Royal Commission when the supercity was established - would allow for three dedicated seats, thereby increasing Māori representation to a level greater than their proportion in the population. Continue reading

Rotorua Lakes Council pushing for Māori co-governance

The Rotorua Lakes Council no longer believes in one person one vote, each of equal value. Instead, it believes that if you are not Māori, your vote should be worth less. The Council is currently pursuing a law change to enable an undemocratic representation model to be implemented. The model it prefers would consist of three Māori ward seats, three general ward seats, and four at-large seats. However, adopting this arrangement would give the 19,791 citizens on the Māori roll 2.6 times the voting power of the 51,618 citizens on the general roll. Continue reading

Do your Council’s representation arrangements fail the equal rights test?

Councils owe a duty of fair representation to all the citizens they represent, yet this fundamental principle of democratic governance is being ignored by councils as they build “Treaty partnerships” with their Māori citizens. This is very apparent at Rotorua Lakes Council, where undemocratic arrangements have been introduced to “strengthen the voice of Māori in our decision making”.  Continue reading

Local Government update

Government plans a local government system that actively embodies the Treaty partnership. On 23 April 2021 the Minister of Local Government established a review into the future for Local Government:  “The overall purpose of the Review is, as a result of the cumulative changes being progressed as part of the Government’s reform agenda, to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody the Treaty partnership”. Continue reading

Update on separate Māori representation on councils

Photo: Political lobbying - tikanga style Manawatū District Council chambers 20 May 2021 – how to turn a No to Māori wards vote to a Yes In a flurry of activity leading up to the final date to amend governance arrangements for the 2022 local body election, thirty-five councils have opted to establish Māori seats, some making an abrupt about-turn at the last minute after intense lobbying from iwi. Continue reading

Māori seats in local government a step to 50-50 power share

Photo: Andrew Judd hiding from a taniwha Before the ink has dried on the establishment of separate Māori seats on 38 councils, calls for "more equitable representation and a partnership with Māori" in a 50/50 power sharing model have arisen - not only from Māori sovereignty activists, but also from some councillors. Continue reading

Tauranga citizens to be further disenfranchised

The anti-democratic madness continues apace in Tauranga. Following the Government-appointed Commissioners recent decision to establish a Māori ward, they have also agreed to a new committee – the Strategy, Finance and Risk Committee - which embodies the 'Treaty partnership', but goes further than that, effectively shutting out the wider community. Continue reading

Māori wards update - May

Even though time and time again referenda have shown that most New Zealanders are opposed to race-based voting systems, 24 local authorities have recently either made the decision to proceed with Māori wards or have indicated an intention to do so. In addition to those mentioned in the April edition of the Democracy Action newsletter, the following have voted to proceed down this path: Continue reading

Further Councils Considering Establishing Māori Wards

Councils: Waipa, Hawke’s Bay, Horizons, Horowhenua, Hamilton As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the new Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act 2021 extended the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards for the 2022 triennial local government elections to 21 May 2021. This has brought forward a flurry of proposals and votes.  Continue reading

Government legislates away a democratic right

“Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset.”  So pledged the Labour Party during the 2020 election campaign. Just four months later they have broken this promise in spectacular fashion, passing under urgency the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act - thereby abolishing the right of local communities to petition for a referendum on Maori wards or constituencies. Continue reading

No respect for democracy - Government to muzzle citizens

In a shock announcement, the Government reveals it intends to use the extraordinary powers reserved for use when the nation is under threat to get rid of legislation that enables referenda on Māori wards. Continue reading

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". Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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.