Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Mike Butler: Maori wards basic facts

Maori wards became an issue again when the New Zealand coalition government announced, on April 4, 2024, that it would restore the rights of communities to determine whether to introduce Maori wards in local government.

Since the Ardern Labour government in 2021 removed the right to petition for a vote, 32 councils imposed Maori wards knowing that mostly whenever a vote was held, substantial opposition would block the proposal.

This piece serves to fill in the gaps because recent commentary promoting Maori wards mostly neglects to give basic facts, context, or background.

A Maori ward or constituency is a change to local body representation where a seat or seats are set aside for voters on the Maori roll.

The number of seats is based on a new creation called the "Maori electoral population" in the council area, not the numbers on the Maori roll in the area.

This "Maori electoral population" includes those registered in the Maori electorate, some of those Maori not registered in the Maori electorate, plus some Maori who are too young to vote

This has the effect of inflating the number of Maori seats on any council. Only around 50 percent of Maori vote on the Maori roll.

A curious feature is that a Maori roll candidate does not have to be Maori.

This has never been explained. It looks like a move to increase job opportunities for unemployed politicians of the virtue-signalling type.

A Maori ward is a voting arrangement.

This is unlike another innovation in local government in which the local “mana whenua” iwi get to appoint members to vote on council committees.

Councils argue that this is quite OK since the appointees don’t vote on the main council.

But councils never say that council committees frequently vote on decisions on behalf of the full council, and the tribal appointees share in this vote.

Maori wards have existed in local government since 2001, when the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) Act set up three Māori constituencies.

This was after that council’s Maori Regional Representation Committee proposed, in 1996, that the council establish Maori seats similar to the Maori seats in Parliament.

Iwi leaders supported the move.

Proponents argued that Maori “deserved” a seat at the table.

This argument is disingenuous because “Maori” already have a seat at the table.

This is because all New Zealand citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote, seek a seat, and sit on any local council in New Zealand if they so wish.

The establishment of the Auckland Council in 2010 brought up the issue of separate Maori representation and that resulted in the creation there of the Independent Maori Statutory Board.

In 2011, the then Human Rights Commissioner, Joris De Bres, wrote to 77 councils, asking them to consider the question of Maori seats in their next representation review.

Three councils – the Nelson City Council, the Wairoa District Council, and the Waikato District Council –agreed to start the process of establishing Maori seats.

Affected electors petitioned for votes. A whopping 79 percent opposed proposals in Nelson and Waikato while 52 percent were against the Wairoa proposal.

Representation reviews come around every six years. In 2017, five councils proposed Maori wards, there were five votes, and five proposals were rejected.

Of those who voted, 80 percent opposed the proposal in Kaikoura, 78 percent voted no in Western Bay of Plenty, 77 percent in Manawatu, 69 percent in Palmerston North, and 56 percent in Whakatane.

The overwhelming no votes prompted Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull to send a letter ostensibly representing the 78 local authorities throughout New Zealand to party leaders in Parliament asking for such a law change to outlaw the right for affected citizens to petition for a vote.

Meanwhile, the push for separate Maori seats on local bodies continued and affected residents continued to vote them out.

Eighty percent opposed Maori wards on the Hauraki District Council in May 2013, 68 percent voted no to the Far North District Council in March 2015, and 83 percent said no to the New Plymouth District Council in April 2015.

In 2020, nine councils proposed Maori wards, signatures were collected for nine petitions but on February 1, 2021, before votes could proceed, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced that the Local Electoral Act would be amended to outlaw votes on Maori wards.

Two councils installed Maori wards after a petition and a yes vote

They were the Waikato Regional Council in 2013, and the Wairoa District Council in 2016.

The coalition government’s new policy on Maori wards would include holding, in the 2025 local elections, binding polls on wards that were established without the ability for local referendums to take place.

But, don’t hold your breath. The change won’t take effect until October 2028.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comprehensive explanation of the status quo - we need to have more of this out there in the wider press. Correct, we should not hold our breath - why on Earth will we have to wait until 2028, the anti-democratic overturning of our right to have a poll came in with a somewhat embarassing haste and should leave with the same if not greater speed. Frankly we cannot understand the inertia on some of these important reversals of policy, it is completely stupid and mind numbing.

Anonymous said...

But, don’t hold your breath, apartheid is not going anywhere fast, as this gutless coalition is proving. Don't rock the boat eh!

Anonymous said...

This arrangement is to commence in 2028........ many things could occur before then so that it never happen.

Is that the real plan?

Ray S said...

A question is, Why can't the anti referendum legislation be overturned at the same speed it was introduced?

Get off your arsses Wellington and deal to this and other issues like we voted you in to do.

Anonymous said...

Voters could ask:

why not a blanket law repealing all Labour pro-CG legislation ( including the 2011 MACA law)?

Answer: this would trigger the civil unrest. This might happen anyway over Seymour's Treaty Bill - if the people are denied a referendum

Kawena said...

Captain William Hobson told the Maori people in 1840 that "we are now one people". Anything short of that is treasonous and should be treated as such! Kevan

Anonymous said...

Rays S - good point, but spineless PM Luxon seems to think he holds another mandate from the public, that includes embracing CG and an automatic Maori voice on all governing boards amongst other things. He's desperately trying not to rock the boat in the hope that it will all go away, but little does he appreciate that the masses are not fooled and nor are they happy, and they'll soon be coming knocking at his door for what was promised.

Robert Arthur said...

I suspect if councillors could have votd in total secrecy the outcome would have been similar the public referendum. But cancellation for a councillor is even more devastating than for ordinary citizens. So in final votes near all pretended to favour maori wards. Confidential public referenda will remove this burden from Councillors.

Anonymous said...

As well as bringing back the referendums, the government should make it a rule that no council members be appointed without being elected. Also that all wards should be around the same size. Most Maoi wards are much smaller than general wards. For the general elections for parliament, seats all have roughly the same number of votes. It should be that way with local government too. If there aren't enough Maori to create a ward then then shouldn't be a ward.

Susan said...

I stand to be corrected, but I understand Wairoa is the only council to establish Maori wards after a referendum was held to determine support. Waikato Regional Council voted to establish two Maori constituencies in 2011, but the community did not take up the opportunity to petition for a referendum. That being so, we do not know whether the Waikato regional community as a whole supports the retention of Maori constituencies.

Olegas Bogdanovas said...

I still do not understand why we have a MAORI EELECTORAL ROLL. Why is not just ONE Electoral Roll?

If a person claiming to be of Maori descent wishes to serve on a Council or in Parliament - why does he or she not follow the same procedure as non-Maori?