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.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta made the announcement in New Plymouth on February 1, saying the move will be made in time for the 2022 local body elections, and will mean decisions made by nine councils to establish Māori wards for that election cannot be overturned by local voters.
She said that legislative reform to Māori wards processes would be progressed in two stages over the next three years. The first stage of the legislative reform would include immediate changes to establish transitional measures making the establishment of Māori wards easier ahead of the 2022 local elections.
The second stage would develop a permanent mechanism for local authorities to consider the establishment of Māori wards and constituencies.
The new legislation will also extend the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards to 21 May 2021, providing them with a fresh opportunity to make decisions on Māori representation at the 2022 local elections.
This retrospective legislation is a slap in the face of all the concerned citizens who have been beavering away over the past four to five months gathering sufficient signatures to reach the threshold to demand a poll on Maori ward/s, and to those who signed these petitions in good faith. Tauranga recently reached their goal – heartiest congratulations to all concerned – and Democracy Northland report that they have been overwhelmed with support, having gathered signatures well in excess of the numbers required. Other areas report that they too are close to their targets.
High fives all round for working so hard to give your community the opportunity to have a say, and a special shout out to the young man in South Taranaki who has been so diligently going door-to-door collecting signatures.
It is good to see that some are not taking this development lying down. As the law has not yet changed, Democracy Northland will continue with the petition process. Even with a law change they will be presenting their three petitions to the councils concerned.
In other areas, people are continuing to collect sufficient signatures to trigger referenda, even though no referendum will result. They are doing this to protest this anti-democratic move by "our increasingly authoritarian government", and against our “lying, conniving mainstream media.” In the next couple of weeks they will be working in the Hawera, Taumarunui, and Taupo areas. If you can join them, please email me at: [email protected]
Action Alert: Given that the government is to retrospectively change the law to extend the time local bodies can decide to introduce a Māori ward/s until 21 May, we have no doubt iwi, along with some councillors and council officers around the country, will be gearing up to push for separate Māori representation in their areas. This could well result in a deluge of applications. We recommend keeping a look out for such a development, and if such a proposal arises, we urge you to contact your local representatives to express your views. Additionally, be prepared to make a written submission, and/or an oral presentation to the council committee considering the matter.
For example, Jill Day, Wellington Council’s Māori partnerships portfolio leader, has already filed a motion to establish a Māori ward for the city at the next election. The vote will take place on 2 March. Note that this ward would be additional to the decision already made that iwi reps, with voting rights, will join the Wellington City Council committee meetings.
Action Alert: Taxpayers Union have launched a petition to oppose the government’s plan to retrospectively disable referenda for the introduction of Maori wards. Click HERE for the link.
Be careful what you wish for! Interestingly, the Mayor of the Wairoa District Council, which introduced Maori wards in 2016, is now questioning the change. Mayor Craig Little believes they did not receive enough information about the implications, which has effectively halved the number of candidates that voters can vote for from six to three. As a result, interest has declined, and voter turnout has dropped from 63 percent in 2016 to 51 percent in 2019.
Democracy Northland - MINISTER SIGNALS INTENTION TO REMOVE PETITION RIGHT
Op-ed by Craig Bauld published in The Gisborne Herald: ‘Driving a wedge on basis of race’
Breaking Views: Bob Edlin: Race-based wards to be introduced more easily
NZ Herald: Mike's Minute: The case against Māori wards
Act Party media release: Labour’s Māori Ward Plan Deeply Divisive
As to the ‘other’ opposition’s media release regarding this issue – all we are hearing are crickets. No challenge to the government from the Nats over this draconian move to remove a democratic right. They must still be too busy congratulating each other on their decision to stand candidates in the Māori seats in the next general election.