Politics | Māori Ward

Government will require referendums on every recently created Māori ward

One mayor called the reversal, “at odds with their own values of fairness and localism”.

The government will reverse a law change making it easier to establish Māori seats around council tables, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown says.

That means at the 2025 local elections, there will be a binding referendum held about the future of every Māori ward set up in the past few years.

Ahead of the 2022 council elections, the government made legal changes so it would be easier for councils to establish Māori wards.

The establishment of Māori wards did not mean Māori voters had an extra vote but they could choose to vote in a Māori ward instead of a general ward for councils that opted to establish that option.

The previous government’s law change meant citizens-initiated referendums could overturn council decisions to establish Māori wards. In a statement, Brown said the power to disestablish or block Māori wards through local referendum should remain an option.

“The coalition government will reverse the previous government’s divisive changes that denied local communities the ability to determine whether to establish Māori wards,” he said.

Local Government NZ does not support the government’s reversal on Māori wards.

“The coalition government’s proposal to re-establish referenda on Māori wards and constituencies will take local government backwards and is at odds with their own values of fairness and localism,” LGNZ president Sam Broughton said.

The coalition had signalled this change, through its agreements with NZ First and ACT, two parties that campaigned against the easier avenue for Māori wards.

“If councils do not wish to hold a poll, those councils will be given the opportunity to reverse their decision to establish Māori wards or to disestablish those wards prior to the 2025 local body elections,” Brown said.

- Stuff