“The process of establishing a ward should be the same for both Māori and general wards.”
Since the petition against the Mori wards in Tauranga has reached enough support, it could spark a referendum which will cost the city more than $200,000.
Hobson’s Pledge in November called on Taup councillors to vote against Mori wards, but in the end the Taup District Council voted to introduce Mori wards for the 2022 and 2025 local body elections.
Mahuta congratulated the New Plymouth District Council on its decision last year to form a Mori ward, amid similar efforts to overturn the result via a referendum.
In local government, Mori wards establish areas where those on the Mori electoral roll vote for candidates standing in that area. It’s a bit like the seven Mori electorates which Mori can choose to enrol in for the general election.
Essentially, if Mori wards are established, people enrolled on the Mori electoral roll will vote for candidates in Mori wards, while those on the general electoral roll will vote for candidates in the general wards.
Since 2002, 24 local councils have attempted to establish Mori wards using the process under the Local Electoral Act 2001. Only two have been successful so far.
Where polls have been triggered by electors, all have resulted in the council’s decision being overturned. Only one council-initiated poll – at Wairoa District Council in 2016 – has resulted in Mori wards being established.
Nine councils have decided to establish Mori wards for the 2022 local elections, joining three councils who established these at earlier elections. The Government will support these councils’ decisions “to improve Mori representation”.
“Increasing Mori representation is essential to ensuring equity in representation and to provide a Mori voice in local decision making. It will also lead to greater Mori participation in the resource management process,” Mahuta said.
“We know the importance of diversity around the council table and, as part of the Government’s commitment to working to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we need to do our part to enable councils to achieve fair representation. Like in Parliamentary elections, specific Mori seats can assist with this.
“Mori and non-Mori across New Zealand have been calling for these changes for some time, including the recent presentation of two petitions with more than 11,000 signatures to Parliament.”
It comes as National Party leader Judith Collins pledged on Monday that her party will run candidates in the Mori electorates in 2023, for the first time since 2002.
Speaking to reporters in Wellington, Collins did not share her view on the issue of Mori wards because it has not yet been discussed at a caucus-level.
“We will still discuss that. It’s a matter that we’ll be taking to caucus because a policy decision like that is for caucus.”