Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell will present a petition to Parliament at the urging of New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, who championed a Maori ward in his city - a move blocked by a public vote last year.
The process for setting up a Maori ward is detailed in Section 19Z of the Local Electoral Act 2001. Currently, whenever a territorial authority of regional council resolves to establish either Maori wards or constituencies respectively, the intention must be publicly notified and residents may exercise the right to demand a poll.
Flavell’s petition calls for a law change drop the poll by establishing Maori wards using rules similar to those for setting up other local government wards, as detailed in Section 19V of the Act.
New Plymouth residents voted “no” to Judd’s proposal in May 2015 when 83 percent rejected a Maori ward. Turnout was 45 per cent.
A push for separate Maori representation in local government came after the Auckland council amalgamation in 2010 that brought with it the Auckland Maori Statutory Board.
Human Rights Commissioner Joris de Bres wrote to all councils, in 2011, asking them to consider the question of Maori seats in their three-yearly representation review.
In response, of 78 councils nationwide, 49 told De Bres that they had already considered the Maori seats option but had not taken it any further. Three councils – the Nelson City Council, the Wairoa District Council, and the Waikato District Council –agreed to start the process.
Affected electors demanded polls, and the results of those polls were:
• Wairoa District Council, March 2012, 51.89 percent were against Maori seats. Around 46 percent of the Wairoa population are Maori, well above the national average of around 16 percent. Turnout was 47.3 percent.Those keen on separate seats in Rotorua last year tried a different approach by skirting around the requirement for a ratepayer poll through a council-iwi partnership plan.
• Waikato District Council, April 2012, 79.2 percent opposition. Turnout was 30.16 percent.
• Nelson District Council, May 2012, 79.41 percent opposition. Turnout was 43.4 percent.
• Hauraki District Council, May 2013, 80.4 percent opposition. Turnout was 39.12 percent.
• Far North District Council, March 2015, 68 percent opposition. Turnout was 35 percent. Nearly 44 percent of the Far North District is of Maori
Despite heavy opposition in more than 1800 written submissions, the Rotorua Lakes Council approved, in May 2015, in an eight-to-five majority, an arrangement in which two representatives nominated by a new elected Te Arawa board would sit on the council's two main committees with voting rights
The National-led government used yet another approach in 2012, by imposing on the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council a co-governance agreement written into the 2011 treaty settlement of northern Hawke's Bay tribe Ngati Pahauwera.
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson approached the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council with two options. Either set up a co-governance board for each river in the region along the lines of the Waikato River settlement, or, set up a single committee to cover all natural resources in the region. The regional council opted for the latter proposal.
The regional planning committee comprises 10 councillors and 10 iwi appointees with two chairs, one appointed by the council and one by iwi. The appointees are full voting committee members.
The first push for separate representation in local government appeared in 1996, when Environment Bay of Plenty’s joint Maori-council working party proposed legislation to establish a Maori constituency based on the Maori roll to elect three councillors. Submissions showed 760 in favour and 252 against.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) Act 2001 prescribed a formula for calculating the number of Maori council members. Environment Bay of Plenty regional council established three Maori seats in 2001.
Now here’s the thing. Flavell said, according to the New Zealand Herald, that mandatory Maori wards on every council would give those with some Maori ancestry better representation at local government, and would better reflect the make-up of communities.
"Everyone is aware of the low participation of Maori in local government and the existing legislation is clearly inadequate," he said.
Yet voter turnout for Environment Bay of Plenty’s three Maori constituencies continued to lag. There are 30,096 electors on the three Maori constituencies, with a total of 7812 Maori constituency votes cast in 2013. Turnout in 2013 was between 20 percent and 32 percent, compared with 2010 turnout of between 27 percent and 41 percent. The general constituency turnout in 2013 was 45.7 percent.
Apparently, the Maori Party petition to get rid of the voter poll as apart of establishing separate Maori wards or constituencies is more to do with grandstanding by Flavell and Judd than improving Maori participation in the electoral process.
Maori Party calls for law change, NZ Herald, April 10, 2016. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11619847