We are a community of people that value fairness and inclusion. We want our cities and towns to be vibrant and flourishing democracies where everybody participates, and our children and grandchildren can see themselves reflected in the leaders we elect.
We believe the more people participate in local government, the more council decisions and actions will achieve positive outcomes for all of us - everyday people and the land we love - both now and for the future.
Sadly, we are being held back from this vision because Māori are under-represented in local government and they have been for a long time.
One way to rebalance this and increase Māori representation is to establish Māori wards.
These are a bit like the Māori seats in Parliament, but for local government. They establish areas where those who choose to go on the Māori electoral roll can vote for councillors to represent them.
In 2018, councillors in five areas - Kaikōura, Whakatāne, Western Bay of Plenty, Manawatū and Palmerston North - voted to establish Māori wards to increase Māori representation. Until Don Brash, Hobson’s Pledge and a handful of anonymous wealthy backers used fear and the politics of the past to force a public referendum using an outdated, discriminatory law.
We are all for increasing participatory decision making. But these referenda are unfair for two reasons.
➡️No other ward (e.g. rural) can be subject to a referendum and decided on this way; and
➡️ The rights of a minority group should never be decided by the majority.
On Saturday 19 May, all votes were counted and as of writing, all districts have voted against increasing Māori representation.
In Whakatāne, 56.39 percent voted against Māori representation. 43.37 percent in favour.
The total Māori population in Whakatāne? 43 percent.
These referenda shouldn't have ever happened.
It's long past time to change the discriminatory law that enabled them in the first place. With another referendum being floated by Hobson's Pledge and New Plymouth District Councillor Murray Chong to challenge a decision to establish a Māori ward in New Plymouth in July 2020, the time for action is now.
Together, we can create an inclusive community where we all have a voice, and everyone is involved in making good decisions together about our shared future.