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Challenging low Māori representation in local government

MEDIA RELEASE

28 November 2014

Challenging low Māori representation in local government

Māori Party Co-leader Marama Fox has questioned the Minister of Local Government about what initiatives are underway to increase tangata whenua (indigenous) representation on local and district councils.

“The questions were prompted by the courageous challenge set down by the New Plymouth District Council Mayor Andrew Judd for the government to consider changing the law to allow for 50-50 representation between Māori and non-Māori on local authorities to reflect the Treaty of Waitangi partnership.

“We commend his vision as we believe think it is woeful that only around 5.7% of representatives on local government identify as Māori,” says Mrs Fox.

During the Parliamentary debate yesterday, Local Government Minister, Paula Bennett said, “I do not currently have any plans to make changes to the current settings.” However, officials are working on advice about Māori participation in local government which she will consider next year.

Māori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says the current legal provisions for creating Māori representation in local government are inadequate and difficult to secure.

“If you take the New Plymouth case, to get one dedicated Māori ward out of 14 you need to use the local voters on the Māori electorate roll and the position can be over-turned by a referendum that’s triggered by five percent of the population. It’s also a seat that’s up for re-consideration every six years,” says Mr Flavell.



The Māori Party has consistently argued for stronger mechanisms to achieve Māori representation as the absolute minimum in terms of meeting Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

In June 2010, Mr Flavell presented the Local Electoral (Māori Representation) Amendment bill which would require all territorial authorities and regional councils to establish Māori wards and constituencies to provide for Māori representation.

"Parliament wasn't ready for our bill then, but quite clearly local government is prepared to be more visionary, as this decision in New Plymouth reveals,” says Mr Flavell.

Mr Judd’s call for 50-50 representation in local government came on the back of the recent Waitangi Tribunal report that recognised Māori and the Crown signed the agreement as equals.

“The Treaty was never about division. It was about establishing a foundation for unity and mutual respect. We urge more decision-making bodies around Aotearoa to value the unique voice that tangata whenua bring to the table. Equal representation in local government is a benchmark that should be strived for,” says Mrs Fox.

Link – Local Electoral (Māori Representation) Amendment bill

ENDS


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