Embracing a localist future: an update from Dinnie Moeahu

20 September 2023

In our journey towards building a more inclusive and equitable society, the role of local government is pivotal.

As we delve into the Future for Local Government report, the significance of three key areas of discussion, as highlighted by Te Maruata, becomes abundantly clear.

These areas encompass the essence of fostering a thriving democracy steeped in the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, embracing the voices of our youth, and ensuring broader representation for all. Let's explore these facets that have the potential to transform our local governance and, by extension, our entire nation.

Upholding the principals of Te Tiriti o Waitangi: a clear and consistent legislative framework

Te Tiriti o Waitangi stands as the foundational document upon which New Zealand was built. However, its true essence has often been lost in the complexities of local government operations. The first imperative identified in the report is the need to review all statutes pertaining to local government's obligations under Te Tiriti. This is a bold but necessary step to create a legislative framework that unequivocally guides councils in giving effect to Te Tiriti principles.

To achieve this, councils must engage with Māori communities, develop meaningful partnerships, and ensure that their policies and actions reflect the unique cultural and historical context of Aotearoa. By aligning local government with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and just society where indigenous voices are not only heard but also respected and acted upon.

Lowering the voting age to 16: empowering our youth

The second crucial proposal in the report calls for lowering the voting age to 16. Te Maruata strongly supports this idea whose time has come. Young people today are increasingly engaged and informed, and their perspectives deserve to be integrated into the democratic process. Lowering the voting age is a testament to our trust in the judgment and commitment of our youth. It provides an opportunity for them to actively participate in shaping the policies and decisions that will impact their future.

By engaging younger citizens in the political discourse from an earlier age, we empower them to be active, informed, and responsible participants in our democratic society. Their fresh ideas and unique insights can breathe new life into our local governance and ensure that it remains relevant and responsive to the needs of all residents.

Enhancing local democracy: access and representation for all

The third set of recommendations in the report focuses on enhancing local democracy through a series of thoughtful and progressive measures. Adopting a four-year local electoral term provides stability and allows councils to focus on long-term strategic planning, reducing the influence of short-term political considerations.

Ranked voting, also known as Single Transferable Vote (STV), ensures that the will of the people is accurately reflected in election outcomes, promoting a fair and proportional representation system. Lowering the threshold for the establishment of Māori wards acknowledges the unique place of Māori in our society and encourages their active participation in local government.

Furthermore, enabling Te Tiriti-based appointments to councils is a step towards achieving greater diversity and expertise within our local governance bodies. It acknowledges that indigenous perspectives are essential in shaping policies that impact our communities.

Lowering the voting age for local elections to 16, as mentioned earlier, fits within this broader vision of enhancing democracy. It ensures that the voices of young people, who are often underrepresented, are heard at the local level, where decisions directly affect their lives.

In conclusion, the Future for Local Government report provides an insight of a vibrant future. Te Maruata have sought clarity from its constituents who have responded and offered up a roadmap towards a more inclusive, just, and vibrant local governance system.

By upholding the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, lowering the voting age, and enhancing local democracy, we can create a future where all voices are valued, and every member of our community has the opportunity to shape the destiny of Aotearoa. It's a future where our local governments truly reflect the rich tapestry of our society, and in doing so, make our nation stronger and more united than ever before.