Indigenous | Māori wards

Told Parliament what you think about bringing back referendums on Māori wards?

The coalition government is pushing hard to pass a bill allowing councils to disestablish Māori wards or to hold polls on whether the ward should be continued.

The bill has passed its first reading in Parliament.

The proposed referendums will be held during 2025 elections and results will be binding, taking effect in the local government term in 2028.

In 2022 Labour abolished the requirement for councils to hold a referendum before creating Māori wards to ensure the government would respect the Treaty partnership through Māori representation in local government decision making.

That resulted in Aotearoa going from three councils with Māori wards to 49.

Opponents have described the lack of referendums as undemocratic and divisive.

Stuff featured an article by New Plymouth councilor Dinnie Moeahu, who argued Māori wards were a democratic tool that ensured proportional representation and that equitable opportunities were part of the democracy.

And Dr Annie Te One said that without Māori wards, Māori were consistently underrepresented, “which means our ability to actually develop a sustainable Te Tiriti o Waitangi governance framework is also not able to be done, so really they are democratic and good for everyone.”

In response to Local Government Minister Simeon Brown’s announcement in April that the government would bring back the referendum, the Waitangi Tribunal held an urgent inquiry, Wai3365, and found the Crown had breached Te Tiriti by failing to consult with Māori.

It found the legislation would likely raise human rights issues under The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and breach the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Breaches detailed in the report are as follows:

  • the principle of partnership;
  • the duty to act in good faith;
  • the Crown’s duty to actively protect the rights and interests of Māori;
  • the principle of equity;
  • the principle of mutual benefit;
  • the duty to consult with Māori; and
  • the breach of options - that being the option of Māori voters to choose whether to be represented by general or Māori wards councilors.

The public has until Wednesday to submit on the Local Government (Electoral Legislation and Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill which can be done here.