ActionStation and Te Rōpū Tautoko Māori will deliver two petitions in support of Māori wards today at midday. The petitions will be presented in a public event to Labour MP Tāmati Coffey.
The petitions have been signed by over 10,000 people and ask Parliament to make the process of establishing Māori wards and constituencies for district and regional councils the same as the process for establishing general wards and constituencies.
"We support the Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta in her aspiration to change the discriminatory law that allows referenda on Māori wards, and we urge her and the rest of Cabinet to consider it a matter of urgency," says Laura O’Connell Rapira, director of ActionStation.
10 councils have chosen to establish Māori wards including Tauranga, New Plymouth and Ruapehu District. It is possible that these will be blocked by referendum. Māori wards are the only wards in which five percent of voters can force a binding poll to overturn a council decision to implement them. There have been nine referenda on Māori wards since the Local Elections Act 2001, with only one council successfully setting one up.
"The legislation blocks Māori from participating in local democracy", says Toni Boynton of Te Rōpū Tautoko Māori. "You only need to look to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to see a real success story. The community has everything to gain by introducing Māori wards."
"No other wards, for example rural wards, can be challenged by public polls, and we know from evidence and experience that the rights of minority groups can be eroded when decided by the majority" says O’Connell-Rapira.
The petition delivery will be attended by Hon. Kiritapu Allan (Labour), Debbie Ngarewa-Packer (Māori Party), and Hon. Marama Davidson (Green Party). Meng Foon, Race Relations Commissioner will also speak at the event.