LocalMatters       

Maori ward in Kaipara improves “democratic wellbeing”

Posted at 12:37pm Monday 16 Nov, 2020

Kaipara District Council last month voted to establish a new Maori ward ahead of the 2022 local government elections.

Before the vote was taken, Te Uri o Hau Settlement Trust chair Antony Thompson asked councillors to consider the economic contribution Maori industry brought to Kaipara.

He said there was a need for Maori voices to be heard at the Council's decision-making table.

Statistics NZ estimates the Māori voting population in Kaipara to be 3630, out of a total voting population of 20,760.

Mayor Jason Smith said a new Maori ward would improve “democratic wellbeing” and ensure all ratepayers would be best served. No councillors voted against the proposal, but councillors Peter Wethey and Jonathan Larsen, representing the Kaiwaka-Mangawhai ward, abstained.

Cr Larsen declined to comment on why he had abstained, or outline his views on Maori wards, saying he did not have a mandate from ratepayers to form a position on the issue, as the proposal had not been consulted on.

When the result of the vote was announced, residents' group Mangawhai Matters posted a comment online suggesting an extra ward would dilute representation of Mangawhai, leading to speculation the group would launch a petition opposing the move. A ratepayer petition with just 790 signatures would legally require the KDC to hold a binding poll on the Maori ward decision.

However, the post was removed within a day, and Mangawhai Matters chair Doug Lloyd said the group had no intention of launching a petition.

He said a Maori ward was long overdue, but it highlighted the issue of representation.

An additional ward with an additional councillor would inevitably mean the votes of Mangawhai's two existing councillors would carry less weight.

Mr Lloyd said Mangawhai was already underrepresented in terms of its population per councillor due to decisions made based on outdated data.

A representation review in 2018 by the Local Government Commission (LGC) used a population estimate from Statistics NZ from 2017, rather than using the 2018 census. Moreover, Mangawhai's non-permanent holiday home-owning ratepayers were not included in the review.

Even using the 2017 estimate, which was based on the 2013 census, the review noted that Dargaville was overrepresented by 9.9 per cent while Mangawhai was underrepresented by 9.4 per cent.

The LGC accepted the KDC's proposal in 2018 to allocate just two councillors to the Kaiwaka Mangawhai ward on the condition that another review would be undertaken in 2021 instead 2025.

The representation review next year is expected to consider how to implement a Maori ward, the ward boundaries and how to allocate councillors to wards.

The decision to establish a Maori ward in the Kaipara District proceeded more smoothly than in the rest of Northland. Northland councillor John Bain resigned from his position after the Northland Regional Council voted to establish Maori constituencies.

In the Whangarei District, the decision narrowly passed by eight votes to six.

Meanwhile, the Far North District Council has decided to put the matter to a public vote to the dismay of local iwi.

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