- Date published:
9:22 am, February 14th, 2021 - 27 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, local body elections, local government, Maori Issues, Maori seats, Nanaia Mahuta, supercity - Tags:
The Māori Affairs select committee is currently hearing submissions on the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill. The intent of the bill is to do away with the discriminatory feature of the Local Electoral Act 2001 which allows electors, with enough signatures, to demand a poll relating to the formation of Māori wards.
Hobson’s Choice have relished the opportunity to do so in the past and it seems every time a Council has attempted to make itself more representative petitions are circulated and polls are mandated.
The example from New Plymouth provides a classic example of what happened where “recovering racist” former Mayor Andrew Judd who experienced a road from Damascus type transformation championed the formation of Maori wards but lost the resulting poll.
A former mayor of New Plymouth – who was spat at in the street over his support of establishing a Māori ward in the city – feels vindicated now the government has stepped in to scrap citizen-initiated polls on the divisive issue.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced a bill will be brought to Parliament under urgency to ditch the “discriminatory” polls ahead of the 2022 local body elections.
Andrew Judd was New Plymouth Mayor in 2014 when the council voted to establish a Māori ward.
It was thrown out a year later in a citizens-initiated poll in which 83 percent of those who took part voted it down.
Judd, who describes himself as a recovering racist, didn’t stand for re-election in 2016, saying he didn’t want to be responsible for dividing the community any further.
Ever since he has campaigned to have the Māori wards poll provision removed from the Local Electoral Act.
The provision is frankly racist. Generally Council election arrangements are determined by Council with a complicated process involving hearings and the opportunity of an appeal to the Local Government Commission. There is no equivalent opportunity to run a petition and upset the result as there is for the creation of Māori wards.
This has not stopped National from going onto the attack. In a letter to supporters urging people to make submission Chris Luxon said this:
The purpose of this Bill is to remove all mechanisms for binding polls to be used in determining whether Māori wards (for councils) and Māori constituencies (for regional councils) should be established.
We oppose this Bill because we support local people in local communities making decisions about their local government, not central government running roughshod over Kiwis democratic rights. We’re not opposed to communities establishing Māori Wards, but the people affected by that decision should have a say in it.
And reports from the select committee suggest that Nick Smith has been totally over the top with his criticism and accused supporters of the bill of being trumpian.
This made me reflect on how National handled the setting up of Auckland Super City, that local government entity that represents one in three kiwis.
Because National not only created separate Maori representation for the city but also gave them votes. And set it out in the super city legislation so that electors could not change this.
In 2011 I wrote this:
Originally there was considerable support for separate Maori representation on the Council. This could have been achieved by setting up two Maori electorates within the city. Electors on the Maori Role could then vote for their preferred candidate. But the Government refused to have specially designated Maori council seats.
Part way through the process it came up with the idea, apparently against Rodney Hide’s advice, that there be a Maori Advisory Committee, the sort that would meet and talk and recommend and then, depending on the political makeup of the Council, have its recommendations either supported or ignored. It was to have the power to appoint observers to some Auckland Council committees.
But well after the passing of the Act something extraordinary became public, the appointees of the Maori Advisory Committee have a vote.
I thought initially that it must be a mistake, but after considering the Select Committee report it is clear that the Government intended the result.
The Select Committee report recommended the following proposed amendment to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009:
70 Board’ s specific functions
(1) The board must appoint a maximum of 2 persons to sit as members on each of the Auckland Council’ s committees that deal with the management and stewardship of natural and physical resources.
Note that the words “as members” were inserted. The rationale for this in the accompanying notes was that “[a]s introduced new section 70(1) is not sufficiently clear as to the role of board members on Auckland Council committees.” Obviously the addition of “as members” was intended to clarify their powers. The decision to give these unelected members a vote appears to have been a deliberate one by the Government.
Pita Sharples should take a bow for getting this through. I had misgivings at the time because members were appointed rather than elected by Maori roll electors but having worked with them for the past decade I am very happy to acknowledge their commitment and skills and the mana they bring to meetings and discussions.
Is the change being rushed? Government advice is that the law change has to be passed by March 2021 to be effective for the 2022 election.
Apart from the discriminatory nature of the current law there are also Treaty considerations to be taken into account. Maori still retain tino rangatiratanga over their taonga. Making sure they have representation at a Local Government level is an important adjunct to this.
The provision will only enrich our local representation. In my first local government campaign we enjoyed overwhelming success with over 90% of our candidates succeeding. But the ones that missed out were Maori and Pasifeka. Things are improving, but only slowly.
And Te Ao Maori has such a rich, vibrant quality that is central to our proper understanding of our country. Having it as part of discussions only improves decision making.
All that I can say is good on Nanaia Mahuta for doing this. The sooner it is achieved the better.