< December 2017 newsletter

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.

If you know anyone who can you assist in the campaigns, or is eligible to sign the petition, please pass on the information available on the Hobson’s Pledge website here.

Stop press! A petition for a poll on Maori wards in the Western Bay of Plenty District has been launched. Those who wish to sign the petition and/or help collect signatures should contact Richard on 027 474 9812, or via email: [email protected] See Sunlive articles regarding the petition here, and here. 

Organisers for a petition in Whakatane are still needed. If you have any contacts in this area who may be able to help please let us know as soon as possible. The deadline for delivering the signatures to Councils is by 5pm on February 21, 2018.

N.B. Only those whose names appear on the local body or Parliamentary electoral roll within the local body region are eligible to sign the petition.

The Mayor of Waikato District, Allan Sanson, has come out strongly against imposing Maori wards without the consent of the community. He believes councillors do not have the mandate to change the democratic process, and was quoted in the Waikato Times on 16th November as saying "It's a community decision. The community needs to give us the mandate to change representation. It's not up to 14 politicians." Here, here! Click here for the article.

However, the democratic right for citizens to demand a poll on separate Maori representation may be legislated away under the current government. The Minister for Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, says the government will consider legislating Māori seats on councils in the future. See here for a Maori Television report on the issue.

While it is disappointing four more councils, plus Auckland, are in favour of separate Maori representation, eight other councils have joined those who recently voted against this option, with varying degrees of commitment. They include Hawkes Bay Regional Council, Napier City Council,

Otago Regional Council, Taranaki Regional Council, Taupo District Council, Waikato District Council, South Waikato District Council, and Waipa District Council.

Maori Wards - Auckland Council.

At the Governing Body meeting of the 28th September, Auckland Council voted to ask the Government for a legislative change to allow for the establishment of a Maori ward for Auckland. The resolution adopted by the council does not mention the disbanding of IMSB at the same time. Based on this Auckland would end up with both the IMSB and Maori ward seats. Members are urged to contact the councillors who voted for the resolution to ask what plans are in place to disband the IMSB should a Maori ward be introduced. The ten councillors who voted in favour of establishing a Maori ward for Auckland, in principle, are:

  • Phil Goff 
  • Cathy Casey
  • Efeso Collins
  • Chris Darby
  • Alf Filipaina
  • Richard Hills
  • Penny Hulse
  • Mike Lee
  • John Walker
  • John Watson

Members and supporters are encouraged to contact the councillors to voice your concerns. You can find their email addresses by clicking here.

Contact Mayor Phil Goff @ [email protected].

News items about this issue are available here,  here and here.

It was agreed at our last meeting that there was no pressing need at this stage to start a petition to prevent the introduction of a Maori ward for Auckland. However, all were encouraged to support the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance on-line petition. It is available here.

Mayor Goff and his supporters on council do not want to hear from you

At a meeting of the Auckland Council Finance and Performance Committee on 21st November councillors voted to prevent ratepayers and members of the public presenting their views directly to councillors at public hearings on the Council’s proposed Long-Term Plan (also known as the ten-year budget), and the Auckland Plan. Councillors Greg Sayers and Daniel Newman put forward an amendment to the Mayor’s proposed consultation plan which would have allowed the public to submit on the ten-year budget at public hearings — as every other council allows for. The resolution was defeated by a single vote, (resolution number FIN/2017/164 (b)). It adds insult to injury that this was done with the vote of an unelected and unaccountable IMSB member. See the Democracy Action media release here. A copy of the meeting minutes is available here.

The Sea Change Marine Spatial Plan for the Hauraki Gulf

The process which lead to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan (Sea Change) did not follow the traditional path whereby councils draft a proposed plan, then invite submissions from the community. Instead, the six contributing authorities decided to adopt a new concept - a formal collaborative process whereby (so-called) representatives of the community formed a working party overseen by a project steering group comprised of mana whenua, crown and council representatives. The task of the working party was to come up with a set of recommendations designed to improve the health of the Gulf. These recommendations, over which the tangata whenua dominated steering group had veto powers, are expected to inform the draft plans of the various councils going forward.

The process mirrors that undertaken by Waikato's Healthy Rivers Plan - several years of negotiation, millions of ratepayer dollars (though the working party itself did not get paid,) and the benefit of scientific advice often over-ridden by political considerations. The major difference being that the Marine Spatial Plan is non-statutory, therefore the recommendations are theoretically non-binding on the councils. However, there is some debate as to how far councils can ignore the recommendations of a body charged with a specific task unless the recommendations are completed rejected and the process begun again.

The selection of the working party began with two large hui in the Auckland and Waikato regions. Attendees were invited by their respective councils and included many fishermen, aquaculture interests, the Port, plus recreational and environmental interests. Only four representatives of land based industry were invited to the Auckland hui out of around 150 attendees - even though any Gulf Plan will potentially generate numerous new land use rules.

From these two hui 60 people were chosen by an unexplained process to become the "selection panel" for the working party. These people then selected representatives of the major stakeholder groups in the Gulf by listening to a series of impromptu two minute speeches and lining up behind their favoured candidates. The only stakeholder group that was permitted to choose its own candidates were iwi. None of the other stakeholder groups appeared happy with the process.

Having been selected, the working party representatives were meant to report back to their respective stakeholder groups to ensure they were "on the right track" and indeed, there were official report back sessions to all interested members of the public. It was hard to determine what methods they were intending to promote for improving Gulf health.

After nearly three years the working party presented a package of recommendations which they stressed were not to be cherry-picked. They said every stakeholder group had won something. The impression was that a series of deals had been cut to reach agreement. The problem with this "not to cherry pick" directive was that the community would effectively be denied the chance to suggest changes to the draft proposals.

Tangata whenua's win was a recommendation that they co-govern and co-manage the entire coastline of the Hauraki Gulf. Agreeing to this proposal effectively gives tribal authorities control of the Gulf itself and all the land that drains into it.

It was noted at our November meeting that it is little wonder the Sea Change Plan pushes the co-governance model so strongly, given the makeup of the Project Steering Group, which was formed to oversee the creation of the Plan. What began as a 50/50 co-governance arrangement, transformed into a group consisting of nine representatives of Maori interests, and only four representatives of democratically elected authorities. What appears to be a takeover of the process by Maori interests was further exacerbated by the change of the Independent Chair of the Stakeholder Working Group in September 2015 to Paul Beverley. Mr Beverley specialises in Māori and Treaty settlement law and negotiations, and in designing co-governance and co-management structures with Māori. He has advised widely on Māori issues relating to the coastal area.

The question must be asked, is the process followed during the development of the Sea Change Plan an example of how co-governance works?

With the ultimate goal of the co-governance of all natural resources - iwi leaders want to be at the decision-making tables, but believe they should not have to rely on voters to get there - it is important to voice our opposition regarding these co-governance proposals, particularly to the Auckland Council, and the other members of the Hauraki Gulf Form (HGF). It is recommended we all, as individuals, contact the Mayors and Councillors requesting the rejection of the co-governance proposals in the Sea Change Plan. A list of the members of the HGF is available on the Gulf Forum website here.

Iwi bid for control of the Waitakere Ranges

On 26th October, an Auckland iwi sent a letter to Auckland Council demanding closure of the Waitakere Ranges. Te Kawerau te Maki, who claim mana whenua* status over the area, state that due to the Kauri die-back disease, they are determined to impose a rahui - with or without the council’s support. They seek a total prohibition or quarantine on human presence. Click here for a copy of the letter.

Iwi have no statutory powers to impose a rahui, however their enhanced status appears to have given them the ability to influence the relevant authority to comply with their demands. In answer to Te Kawerau te Maki’s demand the Auckland Council, after acknowledging it would be impossible to police the closure of the entire Waitakere Ranges, has more than doubled the number of tracks now closed to the public. The council has also agreed to work with the iwi on protection measures. See NZ Herald news report here.

While the Kauri die-back disease is a serious problem, the attempt by Te Kawerau te Maki to impose their will on both the council and the public in such a dictatorial manner is very concerning. Now that the tribes of Auckland have been given ‘mana whenua’ status, is this a harbinger of things to come?

NGOs who have been dedicated to environmental protection for many years must be looking on with envy at the level of power now afforded iwi.

* Māori who have historic and territorial rights over the land.

Go back to the December 2017 newsletter


The welcome reinstatement of a democratic right

A more democratic approach to Māori wards is being proposed by the government, one which would allow voters to challenge any decision made by councils regarding Māori wards through a binding poll. This proposal is outlined in the Local Government (Electoral Legislation & Maori Wards & Maori Constituencies) Amendment Bill. Continue reading

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

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. 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

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

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