Local Government New Zealand is calling on the Government to remove poll provisions for Māori wards and constituencies.
In an open letter to the Government, LGNZ seeks to remove those sections (s.19ZA to 19ZG) of the Local Electoral Act 2001 (LEA) that allow for polls of electors on whether or not a city, district or region can establish Māori wards and constituencies.
Following its decision in 2001 to establish Māori constituencies for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Parliament amended the LEA to give this power to councils, in consultation with their citizens. The amendment also allowed electors, through a binding poll, to either require a council to establish wards and constituencies or to overturn a council decision to that effect.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says that these poll provisions do not apply to other wards and constituencies. This marks the provision as unfair to Māori and inconsistent with the principle of equal treatment enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi.
“Either the poll provisions should apply to all wards or they should apply to none,” says Mr Cull.
LGNZ’s concern is that the current system is not fair because it does not treat the creation of all wards in a similar manner.
“The changes to the LEA were intended to increase Māori representation in local authorities but the intent has failed, in large part due to the nature of the poll provisions,” says Mr Cull.
Since 2002 the only Māori wards or constituencies established have been those introduced by the Waikato Regional Council, by council resolution in 2012, and the Wairoa District Council, agreed by poll in 2016. The effect of the poll provisions have been to discourage councils from establishing Māori wards and in one case, New Plymouth District Council, was used to reverse a council’s decision.
It is LGNZ’s view that the Government must act now to address the unfairness created by the poll provisions and put in place legislative change that will enable appropriate options for Māori representation in local authorities where local councils choose to do so.
For more information contact LGNZ’s Deputy Chief Executive Advocacy, Helen Mexted on 029 924 1221 or firstname.lastname@example.org