The Government wants to overturn the “uneven playing field” for Māori wards on local councils, in an effort to increase Māori representation.
Councils can vote to establish Māori wards, however the decision can be overturned by a public poll triggered by a petition with a minimum of five per cent of constituents.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta described the current system as having “a different set of rules for establishing Māori and general wards”.
“The process of establishing a ward should be the same for both Māori and general wards,” Mahuta said.
“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.”
Multiple councils have had attempts to establish Māori wards overturned. Since 2002, there had been 24 attempts – with only two councils able to create the wards in that time.
“Increasing Māori representation is essential to ensuring equity in representation and to provide a Māori voice in local decision making,” Mahuta said.
“It will also lead to greater Māori participation in the resource management process.”
She said Government needed to ensure fair representation on councils as part of its commitment to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
“Like in Parliamentary elections, specific Māori seats can assist with this.”
The proposed law change would see the option of binding polls on Māori wards scrapped, with the first stage enabling councils to consider creating Māori wards before the 2022 local council elections. The second stage would develop a permanent way for councils to consider Māori wards.
National leader Judith Collins said her party had not discussed the issue as a caucus after being asked today about National’s view on the issue.