Segregated voting looms for 20 councils

Since February 1, when referenda on Maori wards were outlawed by the Labour Government, 20 councils are considering or resolving to establish segregated voting via Maori wards or constituencies for next year’s local body elections.

They are the Hamilton, Invercargill, Palmerston North, Tauranga, and Wellington City councils, the Horowhenua, Kaikoura, Kaipara, New Plymouth, Ruapehu, Gisborne, Whangarei, Taupo, South Taranaki, Waipa, and Whakatane district councils, and the Hawke’s Bay, Horizons (Palmerston North), Northland and Taranaki regional councils.

These councils want to follow Environment Bay of Plenty, the Waikato Regional Council and the Wairoa District council in separate voting although 55 of New Zealand’s 78 local authorities have no plans to go down this path.

Nine of those councils simply ignored the signatures of their ratepayers who petitioned for the right to vote on the matter, which was permitted under the Local Electoral Act 2001 until February 1.

Bearing in mind that signatures collected n New Plymouth are not included, those received compared with those required were:

                                              Received          Required             

Northern Regional Council       8703                  6027                    

Whangarei District Council      5133                  3080                    

Kaipara District Council           1376                  790                      

Tauranga City Council              6000                 4742

Taupo District Council              1756                  1241

South Taranaki District Council 903                    847

Ruapehu District Council          551                    385     

Gisborne District Council          792                    1625

New Plymouth District Council  Not available        2874

TOTAL                                  25,214               21,611

Mistrusting their constituents, a number of these councils had asked central government to remove the right to petition for referenda.

Hamilton councillors initially voted against Maori wards but after bullying from the local iwi, Waikato Tainui, according to deputy mayor Geoff Taylor, the council will re-vote the issue on Thursday.

Councils try to justify racially segregated voting on local councils as giving effect to Section 4 of the Local Government Act 2002, guaranteeing a seat “for Maori” at the top table, reflecting the Treaty of Waitangi, and increasing Maori participation in local government.

However, the Local Government Act 2002 does not require Maori wards, Maori representation on local government overall is already proportional to population percentage, and there is absolutely nothing in the Treaty about voting arrangements.

No council proposing Maori wards has ever given voting turnout figures for the three councils with Maori wards because if they did, they would have to show that turnout continues to lag.

For instance, overall turnout in the most recent election at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which has had Maori constituencies since 2001, was 43.2 percent, but turnout for Maori roll voters was 35 percent.

The Kohi Maori constituency, where the Maori population is 18,500, returned only 4037 votes; the Mauao constituency, population 19,850, returned 2716 votes; and the Okurei constituency, population 18,300, had only one candidate so there was no vote.

Be aware, the establishment of Maori wards and constituencies in local government is a key goal of the Maori sovereignty movement.

It features on page 46 of He Puapua, which is the guiding document to implement in New Zealand the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples signed New Zealand up to in 2010.

What can you do? Those who live in Hamilton can attend the council meeting on Thursday to protest noisily. Please email Geoff Lewis: [email protected] or phone him at 027 3255 654 to find out the time to meet.

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has called for submissions. Submissions may be made by going to and pressing the “Make a submission button. The deadline for submissions is 4pm on Thursday, April 22. 

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