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Government’s Maori Wards Bill Opposed By Nelson City Council

Nelson City Council Deputy Mayor Rohan O’Neill-Stevens and Chief Executive Nigel Philpott have co-signed a submission to the Local Government (Electoral Legislation and Māori Wards and Constituencies) Amendment Bill asking the Government to reconsider its position regarding Māori Wards. 

O’Neill-Stevens says there are a range of views about how local government's electoral arrangements should be determined, but legislation should be consistently applied, and there is no question of the need to ensure Māori participation within local government.

“I’m concerned the Bill recreates the distinctions between Māori wards or constituencies and others, which do not require polls.

“We are calling on the Government to treat Māori wards and other wards consistently, recognising the key principle of localism in local government.” 

The submission also cites concern at the short timeframe provided for submissions on the Bill, which has not allowed Councils across New Zealand the time to formally consider their position.

Consequently, Council has asked the Justice Select Committee to consider the submission as preliminary. Once Council has had the opportunity to discuss the Bill at a workshop scheduled this week, and to formally confirm its position at a meeting scheduled for 6 June 2024, it may provide a supplementary submission. 

O’Neill-Stevens says Mayor Nick Smith has delegated the role of leading the Nelson City Council submission on this bill because of his appointment as Chair of a national working group on local government electoral reform. 

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“This role as Chair will involve working with a range of Mayors and Councillors who hold different views across the country on the issues covered by the bill such as the process for establishing wards and postal voting. He would prefer not to take a position on these issues ahead of this electoral reform work.”

As a result, Nelson City Council was not initially one of the 52 signatories of a letter sent by Local Government New Zealand opposing the bill sent to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Minister of Local Government Simeon Brown. 

“Our submission aligns with the content of that letter and following the delegation of this work to me, I have added my signature to it,” says O’Neill-Stevens.

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