As covered in our March newsletter, the Government has passed the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act 2021. This legislation abolished a democratic right that allowed the community to force a public vote if their council made the decision to introduce Maori wards. The legislation also reopened the window for councils to consider Maori wards in time for the 2022 elections, which some are now doing.
When the new legislation was announced, Minister Nanaia Mahuta warned that this was an interim measure, and there would be a second piece of legislation that would provide a “permanent mechanism” for local authorities to establish Māori wards/constituencies before the 2025 local elections. This is likely to be informed by the cabinet paper “Mechanisms for Māori participation in local government”, dated May 2018, which came to light after an Official Information Act request. The paper outlines considerations in relation to Māori representation and participation in local government. The document includes the following statements and discussion points:
- Preservation of existing mechanisms for participation. Keep existing mechanisms in place.
- Setting a mandatory baseline. Set a national baseline for Māori engagement, while allowing for regional variation. This could include mandatory mana whenua and/or Māori representation on councils and mandatory mana whenua and/or Māori representation on committees.
- Distinguishing between mana whenua and non-mana whenua: Consider whether mana whenua representation should be dealt with differently to non-mana whenua Māori representation as there is no provision for Māori wards/constituencies on councils to be exclusive to mana whenua representatives.
- A review of the number of wards/constituencies: The Local Electoral Act formula limits the number of potential Māori members for each council, based on the Māori electoral population of that area. The question being asked is whether the number of potential Māori wards under the Local Electoral Act is sufficient under this formula.
- A mixed elected/appointed model. Should there be appointed mana whenua and/or Māori members on councils where there are skill gaps among elected members (similar to DHBs)? These positions could come with or without voting rights.
- A review of financial support. Increase funding to allow Māori/iwi to participate.
See the chart below for a summary of the points under consideration.
You can read the Local Government briefing papers referred to in this article by clicking here.
It is unclear which of the provisions outlined above will be included in the Government’s further “improvements'' for the 2025 and subsequent local body elections. However, we are aware that in some quarters the creation of Māori wards/constituencies is only seen as one step on the path towards what is called 'Treaty-based local governance'.
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