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Taupō District Council Submission Opposes Māori Wards Amendment Bill

“Kua tawhiti kē tō haerenga mai, kia kore e haere tonu. He nui rawa ō mahi kia kore e mahi tōnu. We have come too far not to go further. We have done too much not to do more”.

The sentiments of the late Sir Hemi Henare were echoed by Taupō District councillors today as a submission to the Local Government (Electoral Legislation and Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill Select Committee was approved, highlighting council’s opposition to the bill.

The proposed bill would reinstate the right to a local referendum on the establishment or ongoing use of Māori wards and Māori constituencies. If the bill is passed, Taupō District Council would be required to hold a binding poll at the 2025 local election to decide if the district’s two Te Papamārearea Māori ward seats would continue or be abolished.

Taupō District Mayor David Trewavas said the bill was anti-democratic and, if passed, would undo the advances council has made to support aspirations of Māori across the Taupō rohe.

“We introduced a Māori ward at the 2022 local election to increase and enhance Māori representation and participation in our local government decision-making processes. Iwi/Māori throughout the district expressed that while achieving genuine partnership is the ultimate goal, creating Māori wards was seen as a necessary advancement towards that.

“We have made monumental strides in our work to achieve a genuine partnership with iwi/Māori and our two Māori ward councillors at the table provide invaluable contributions to help us integrate iwi and hapū aspirations into council’s strategic and operational work.”

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Mr Trewavas said not having a Māori ward would see Māori disproportionally represented at the council table, which would be “a huge leap backwards”.

“Without a seat at the table, much of this partnership work would be more difficult, as Māori may feel they are having to work against the system rather than in partnership with leaders who understand them and their views.”

A draft submission was presented to elected members as a late item for debate at yesterday’s council meeting, after the first reading of the bill in Parliament on Thursday 23 May; with submissions closing one week later on Wednesday 29 May.

The council submission focuses on ensuring proportionate representation for Māori, and Mr Trewavas said while some individuals in the community will disagree with the idea of Māori wards, he believed the community as a whole would support proportionate representation at the council table.

The bill will be reintroduced into the House on 21 June for its second reading.

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