Politics | Government

Mahuta to dump 5% ratepayer petitions that stop Māori wards

The government will can a law that allows 5% of ratepayers to force a district poll if a council decided to set up Māori wards.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta says she will introduce the law before the 2022 local body elections.

The call for change follows strong criticism of the ratepayer poll system as a "racist holdover."

“Local government has asked the government to change the law to allow local council decisions to establish local wards to stand. The current system has a different set of rules for establishing Māori and general wards and that uneven playing field needs to change,” Mahuta said.

Two petitions with more than 11,000 signatures have gone to Parliament calling for change on this issue, Mahuta says.

“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."

Over the next three years a legislative reform to the Māori wards process will happen in two stages. One will ensure immediate changes before the 2022 local elections and the other will develop a permanent method for local authorities to consider the establishment of Māori wards and constituencies.

“Increasing Māori representation is essential to ensuring equity in representation and to provide a Māori voice in local decision making,” Mahuta said.  "It will also lead to greater Māori participation in the resource management process."