Politics | Māori wards

Opinion: Removing Māori wards is a racist, targeted attack on tangata whenua says Mariameno Kapa-Kingi

Far North Mayor Moko Tepania watches as Hilda Halkyard-Harawira was sworn-in as a Māori ward councillor. Photo / Susan Botting, LDR


• The Government has introduced legislation it says restores the rights of communities to determine whether to introduce Māori wards for local councils.

• The Local Government (Electoral Legislation and Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill will give councils that established a Māori ward without a referendum the chance to reverse their decision, or hold a binding poll at the 2025 elections.

• A total of 49 councils either already have Māori wards or had planned to introduce them at the 2025 elections.

Mariameno Kapa-Kingi is a first-term Te Pāti Māori MP and won the Te Tai Tokerau electorate. Before being elected she worked in the areas of iwi social services and governance.


The removal of Māori wards is another racist, targeted attack on Māori, for being Māori. We are being forcibly removed from the decision-making table that we built in the first place and invited Pākehā to sit at in 1840.

This is an attempt to silence tangata whenua, whose demise is what founds and continues to fuel this illegitimate parliament machine, and its extensions in local councils. It has been 184 years and this Government still thinks we Māori must prove our right to exercise power in Aotearoa. It is the government and parliament institution that should be proving its right to exercise its power over us.

Yet, perversely, because we have been made a minority on our own whenua, we are fighting now for crumbs of what we actually have a right to – full and undisturbed sovereignty. This Government, and the racists it represents, blindly ignore the truly undemocratic historical violence against tangata whenua.

Stealing our land, wrongfully seizing political power, white-washing our identity, our knowledge, and creating laws that demote us to second-class citizenship. The removal of Māori wards is simply a continuation of imperial abuse on tangata whenua.

The argument is that Māori wards will be the demise of democracy. To remove Māori wards is an assault on Te Tiriti, the only reason a democracy inclusive of Pākehā could ever exist.

Te Tiriti was created so the Queen of England could control her unruly Pākehā in Aotearoa. I support the recent letter of my whanaunga Margaret Mutu for the British Crown to rein in these unruly Pākehā sitting in government now.

Disestablishing Māori wards further undermines councils’ autonomy in their rohe. This rings true for the Far North district of Te Tai Tokerau. This rohe alone covers over 6000 square kilometres, a whenua where Māori make up nearly 50 per cent of the population.

The establishment of Māori wards in the Far North district also gave the 13 iwi entities, the 252 hapū, Māori Social Service, reo and local trust organisations a voice. That voice bridges into greater confidence in what is meant to be their local government.

To assume all Māori in the Far North would also front and vote in any election is also blatant ignorance. This law merely feeds the latent mistrust of my people in the system. You see, my people are not disengaged from government, they are disenchanted.

We are less likely to vote if our incomes do not meet daily needs and if we do not see ourselves reflected in, or as having a true influence over, decision-making. This is a reality for many of my own in Te Tai Tokerau.

This is why Māori wards matter.

Te Pāti Māori's Mariameno Kapa-Kingi, who is the MP for Te Tai Tokerau. Photo / Tania Whyte

The Far North emanates this very sentiment. With the establishment of Māori wards, even those Māori in the most remote areas of Te Tai Tokerau, including Panguru and Mitimiti, are now engaging with council. Removing Māori wards ultimately removes any care for people who reside in these types of remote areas. This devalues our people.

Māori wards bridge the gap between our communities and makers of law. They offer councils expertise in what remains unreachable to them. Māori ward councillors engage directly with our communities because we know the suffering of our people and the necessity of resource but also the intelligence, resilience, and ingenuity of tāngata Māori.

All four Māori ward candidates for the Far North District Council are fluent in the reo of this whenua and the reo of this colonial empire. They are experts of two opposing worlds, fluent in not only the languages but cultures themselves.

To those who oppose these sentiments I say, do not fear Māori liberation as our current government does, but instead walk beside us, with us. Te Tiriti was always intended to create an Aotearoa where all peoples can thrive whilst tino rangatiratanga of Māori is maintained. Tiriti justice is good for all.

Māori mā, we are the sovereign of our own liberation and of our own minds. We do not nurture the colonial dreams of Pākehā. It is this Pākehā desire that has endeavoured to silence our Māori voices from central government, local government, regional councils. Join the rangatira revolution and stand up for our rights.

- NZ Herald