Government supports councils to increase Māori representation

The Government is supporting councils working to increase representation for Māori in local government by putting in place the same rules to establish Māori wards as general wards for the 2022 local elections.

The current law allows the decision of an elected council to introduce a Māori ward to be overturned by a local poll. Just 5 per cent of support is needed for a poll to be demanded.

The Government will introduce legislation to put in place transitional measures that uphold council decisions to establish Māori wards or constituencies, Local Government Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta today announced.

“Local Government has asked the Government to change the law to allow local council decisions to establish local wards to stand. The current system has a different set of rules for establishing Māori and general wards and that uneven playing field needs to change,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

“The process of establishing a ward should be the same for both Māori and general wards. These are decisions for democratically elected councils, who are accountable to the public every three years.

“Polls have proven to be an almost insurmountable barrier to councils trying to improve the democratic representation of Māori interests. This process is fundamentally unfair to Māori.

“Increasing Māori representation is essential to ensuring equity in representation and to provide a Māori voice in local decision making. It will also lead to greater Māori participation in the resource management process,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

“We know the importance of diversity around the council table and, as part of the Government’s commitment to working to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we need to do our part to enable councils to achieve fair representation. Like in Parliamentary elections, specific Māori seats can assist with this.

“Māori and non-Māori across New Zealand have been calling for these changes for some time, including the recent presentation of two petitions with more than 11,000 signatures to Parliament,” Nanaia Mahuta said

Legislative reform to Māori wards processes will be progressed in two stages over the next three years.

The first stage will make immediate changes to establish transitional measures for the 2022 local elections. The second stage will develop a permanent mechanism for local authorities to consider the establishment of Māori wards and constituencies.

A Government Bill will be available to review shortly at https://legislation.govt.nz/.

Note to editors:

  • Since 2002, 24 councils have attempted to establish Māori wards using the process under the Local Electoral Act 2001 and only two have been successful so far.
  • Nine councils have decided to establish Māori wards for the 2022 local elections, joining three councils who established these at earlier elections. The Government will support these councils’ decisions to improve Māori representation.
  • The new legislation will also extend the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards to 21 May 2021, providing them with a fresh opportunity to make decisions on Māori representation at the 2022 local elections.