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Councils, iwi united in Māori Ward Bill opposition

Submissions on the Government’s proposal to reinstate the requirement to hold binding referendums on Māori Wards show some councils and iwi authorities in Wairarapa are united in their “strong” opposition to the bill, raising concerns it would be a “divisive”, “discriminatory”, and “backwards” step for local communities.

Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC], the Māori Standing Committee of South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC], Masterton District Council [MDC], and Ngati Kahungunu Incorporated [NKI] each made submissions on the Local Government [Electoral Legislation and Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies] Amendment Bill, which was introduced to the House by Local Government Minister Simeon Brown on May 20.

A petition from five per cent of electors will require the council to hold a binding poll, and “a simple majority will bind a council to the outcome… which will be binding on a council for the next two local government elections “, Brown explained at the bill’s first reading.

The Wairarapa submissions on the bill shared common themes, including concerns it breaches Treaty of Waitangi principles, “diminishes representation for Māori”, and will undermine and harm relationships between Māori and the wider community.

SWDC’s Māori Standing Committee, which represents six groups, called it a “racist and divisive” bill that would “trample on the constitutional foundation of our nation and the power that legitimised your Government and Parliament”.

“To ignore the views of elected officials of local government as well as Treaty partners disregards of the constitutional framework of Aotearoa, and will create further tension between these groups,” it said.

The Māori Standing Committee also described the bill as “unnecessary”, given existing mechanisms under the Electoral Act 1993 “to review the inclusion of Māori wards within a local electorate”.

NKI, of which Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa is a member, described Māori wards as a “crucial step towards addressing the significant underrepresentation of Māori in local government”, and a “long-overdue recognition of the Treaty’s principle of partnership”.

“Binding referendums would be a retrograde step” that could be “susceptible to misinformation, bias and voter suppression”, NKI said.

MDC said binding polls to determine the establishment of Māori wards “do not serve our minority groups” and cited advice from the Department of Internal Affairs issued in 2023, which described them as an “instrument of majority rule which can suppress minority interests”.

GRWC’s submission carried a similar message.

“The Bill creates an imbalance between the majority power and the minority rights by requiring a poll which allows for a simple majority [across all communities],” the council said.

MDC and GWRC also raised the issue of the potential additional costs of a mandatory poll, which both estimated to be $350,000 – “imposed at a time of increasing financial pressures for local authorities and their communities”, MDC said.

GWRC’s submission also factored in the costs of potentially needing to run “repeated by-elections for a Māori constituency”, which it estimated to be $95,000 “and require us to divert resources from other core council business, until a member is elected for the constituency”.

Submissions on the bill closed on May 29 and will be heard by the Justice Select Committee.


  1. Aotearoa New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where an agreement was signed beween two peoples to uphold the rights of each people. The agreement, the Treaty of Waitangi, was then virtually ignored for the next 130 years as the bully boy in the playground said, “Mine, all mine!” There is a damning phrase, ‘the tyranny of the majority’, that sums up this attitude. Minority partners in governance need affirmative action, or else they will be drowned. I say we should honour the treaty and welcome Maori representation on our councils. Or are we afraid of what might be revealed?

  2. I hope the bill goes through, the majority of New Zealanders are all for this bill, correcting the errors and mistakes from Labour’s petty division of us Kiwi’s, am truely sick and tired of hearing everything Maori, they are the rascists here dividing our beautiful country, when we are one people

  3. Those councils who are against having a referendum on getting rid of the unelected Maori wards need to remember we the ratepayers voted you lot in and get you kicked out in the next local election. Time to do a clean out!

  4. Council wards based on race were “divisive”, “discriminatory”, and “backwards” from the get-go. I welcome the opportunity to oppose race-based electoral anything. I truly6 hope the legislation passes.

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