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Current Electoral Law Discriminates Against Māori

Andrew Judd - Former Mayor of New Plymouth
Howie Tamati - Māori Party Candidate for Te Tai Hauāuru
16 August 2017

Current Electoral Law Discriminates Against Māori And Must Go

Former Mayor of New Plymouth, Andrew Judd, and Māori Party candidate for Te Tai Hauāuru, Howie Tamati, are joining forces to ask the Government to get rid of a law which discriminates against Māori.

“The inconsistent approach by the Crown, with the question of Māori representation on Councils is unfair.” says Former Mayor of New Plymouth Andrew Judd.

“As someone who was an Elected Mayor, I have experienced the reality of completing a representation review for a Council in its entirety. The Government needs to amend and remove this archaic process of allowing petitions, and polls directed at Māori. The process of polls and referendum by one Treaty partner over another is a poor reflection of who we are, in our time.”

“I am sending a submission to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee and putting forward a petition which asks the Government to ensure equal and fair Māori representation in local government.”

Māori Party candidate for Te Tai Hauāuru, Howie Tamati says the current law is unjust and unfair.

“The Local Electoral Act is flawed, discriminatory, and serves to directly alienate Māori rights. Ultimately, it prevents Māori from genuinely participating in local government decision-making processes.”

“The jurisdiction, protocols and process around establishing Māori wards on district councils should be the same as for that of other wards, such as geographical and rural wards.”

In 2015, the New Plymouth District Council agreed to establish a Māori Ward. However, the local President of Grey Power, initiated a binding citizen’s referendum that overturned the decision.

“Grey Power’s president was able to do this because the Local Electoral Act allows for a binding citizen’s referendum to be held on the establishment of Māori wards and Māori wards only.” says Mr Tamati.

“The series of events surrounding this issue exposed the different application of the law for the establishment of local body wards – one for Māori and one for everything else.”

The Local Electoral Act 2001 allows for a petition of 5 per cent of electors to require a binding poll on Māori wards.

The New Plymouth District Council hosted a public debate on the Māori ward proposal. This provided an opportunity for members of the public to listen to both sides of the debate which heard speakers for and against the Māori ward. The debate was timed so that members of the public could be informed before signing the petition.

The petition was completed with more than enough signatures to meet the 5 per cent threshold in February 2015, and a referendum was required.

The result of the poll was 83 per cent of voters opposed the ward, with 17 per cent supporting. Voter turnout was 45 per cent.

Mr Tamati says that result was disappointing and what followed was disgraceful.

“Andrew was subject to a fair amount of community backlash after the referendum on the Māori ward. The vitriol he encountered was shameful and totally unacceptable. It cost Andrew his mayoralty.”

Following the referendum, Mr Judd made a submission to the International Human Rights Committee in Switzerland on 11 February 2016 which was sitting to review New Zealand’s response to the sixth periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. His submission was in relation to Article 27, point 192, regarding representation on Councils for Māori and Pasifika.

“The response and findings from the United Nations clearly stated that

‘The state party should take all appropriate measures to enhance Māori and Pasifika representation in Government positions at all levels, in particular at the local Council level, including through the establishment of special electoral arrangements.’” Mr Judd says.

“So it is extremely disappointing to read, and absorb the recommendations from the International Human Rights Committee, and to have our National Representatives in Parliament ignore those recommendations.”

“We demand and expect other Nations to follow international agreements and obligations to indigenous people and yet disregard intentionally our own moral, and legal obligations as Treaty partners.”

Mr Tamati says that Māori representation is fundamentally a Treaty right. He encourages the Government to make this a priority in its decision-making on this issue.

“My argument is that Māori representation in local government is actually about Treaty Partner representation. This country was founded on the Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty acknowledges the special rights of each partner. Since 1840, Māori have fought for this country to honour the Treaty that established it and the rights documented within. The Government must first and foremost approach this issue in this way,” he says.

Both Mr Judd and Mr Tamati have requested to speak to their submissions at the Justice and Electoral Select Committee when the committee meets about the issue, after the General Election 2017.


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