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‘An expense we don’t need’

Masterton and South Wairarapa district councils will need to hold binding referendums on Māori wards, following central government direction.

Carterton District Council, which voted last year not to establish a Māori ward, will not be impacted.

On Thursday, local government Minister Simeon Brown announced 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 decision to establish a Māori ward in Masterton was made mid-2021 and enabled it to go ahead for the 2022 and 2025 elections.

Marama Tuuta was elected unopposed as the first representative in the ward.

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell said the government demanding a referendum is “an expense we don’t need for an issue that has already been debated and agreed at the council table”.

“I believe our decision to create a Māori ward was the right one for our district and has been a positive addition to Masterton District Council and the communities we represent,” he said.

“We have certainly had no indication from our community that it is not.”

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] voted last year to establish a Māori ward for the 2025 and 2028 elections.

Brown said 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.”

Brown has been approached for further comment to confirm the impact this will have on Wairarapa councils.

SWDC said it cannot make comment on what this means for the district until it receives official guidance from central government.

SWDC is currently in the middle of a representation review that must be done at least once every six years.

The first step of the review was deciding whether it would establish a Māori ward.

Councillors voted 7-3 last year to establish one.

The review must consider the number of elected members, the boundaries and names of each ward, how many wards there are, the number of members that will represent each ward, and community boards and the number of elected members on them.

Binding referendums are not required to establish any other ward.

Carterton District Council is also in the middle of its representation review.

Masterton’s last review was in 2021. -NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


  1. Councils are not judge and jury 🙄 when it comes to race issues 🙄. The community has to decide that otherwise it’s dictatorship not democracy. Racism will tear a country apart 😢 we are all one together ❤ NO THEM AND US.

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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