LocalMatters       

NAG slams Govt plans on Maori wards

Posted at 8:00am Thursday 18 Feb, 2021

The Northern Action Group (NAG) has slammed Government plans to abolish a law that provides for referenda on the establishment of Maori wards in local government.

The abolition will take place in time for the 2022 local body elections. It will mean a decision made by Kaipara District Council and Northland Regional Council to establish Maori wards for that election cannot be overturned by local voters. In this month's NAG newsletter, NAG describes the proposal as a direct “big government” attack on localism and the right of communities to set appropriate governance for themselves. NAG says there is already a fair and balanced level of Maori representation in local government elected representatives.

“Local communities should be able to elect representatives based on the quality of the candidates and not be forced to choose from a restricted selection based on any special characteristics,” the newsletter says. “Partitioning local government electors into two different categories by racial, ethnic, cultural, or any other background characteristics goes against the democratic concept of everyone having equal and the same voting rights.”

The newsletter reports that it has been a long tradition that electors can vote on and veto fundamental changes to local voting systems.  However Northland Regional Council chair Penny Smart has welcomed the plan to remove an “outdated, unfair” law. She says news that the council can now proceed with its plans to introduce Māori seats in the next year's  election, without the threat of a costly and time-consuming poll, driven by opponents of the move, has been warmly received by the council collectively. Ms Smart says given more than a third of Northland's population is Māori, the proposed law change will enable the council to strengthen the existing Māori/council partnership.  

The Government announced its intention to scrap the referenda law on February 1.

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