Coalition Government To Require Referendums On Māori Wards

Published: Thu 4 Apr 2024 11:59 AM
The Coalition Government will restore the rights of communities to determine whether to introduce Māori wards, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown says.
“The Government will introduce a Bill in the coming months that will restore the ability for communities to petition their councils to hold binding polls on Māori ward decisions. This will include holding binding polls on wards that were established without the ability for local referendums to take place.
“The Coalition Government will reverse the previous government’s divisive changes that denied local communities the ability to determine whether to establish Māori wards. Local community members deserve to have a say in their governance arrangements.”
Restoring the right to local referendums on the establishment and ongoing use of Māori wards is a commitment under both the ACT and NZ First coalition agreements with National.
“The Coalition Government’s view is that any decision to establish or disestablish a Māori ward is one that should remain with communities. This does not affect councils’ responsibilities to consult with mana whenua on issues that affect them.”
The Coalition Government has announced its intentions today to give councils greater certainty as they prepare for local body elections in 2025.
“As signalled in our coalition agreements, affected councils will be required to hold a poll alongside the 2025 elections. The results of these polls will be binding on councils and will take effect for the local government term beginning October 2028.
“If councils do not wish to hold a poll, those councils will be given the opportunity to reverse their decision to establish Māori wards or to disestablish those wards prior to the 2025 local body elections.
Note:If any councils choose to reverse their recent Māori wards decision this year they will need to go through a process to put new representation arrangements in place in time for the 2025 local elections. The Bill will be passed by the end of July 2024 to ensure councils are able to complete these processes before election preparations start in April 2025.Of those councils with Māori wards currently, Wairoa District Council, Waikato Regional Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council are not affected as their Māori wards/constituencies were established prior to the removal of the poll requirements in 2021, or through separate legislation. Ōpōtiki District Council held a poll at the 2022 local elections, which was in favour of Māori wards, and will not be required to hold another poll.Tauranga City Council is holding its local body elections on 20 July 2024 and will not be required to take any action before this. Instead, Tauranga City Council will have the opportunity to either reverse its decision on Māori wards, or hold a poll in the 2024-2028 term, with the results of the poll to take effect from the 2028 elections.

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