Four districts reject Māori wards

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty
  • North Island: West Coast
  • South Island

Labour MP Tāmati Coffey is disappointed Māori will not be represented on the Western Bay of Plenty, Manawatū, Palmerston North or Whakatāne City Councils after polls released over the weekend revealed an overwhelming majority rejecting their establishment in binding referendums.

The position remains the same for Māori residents across the four district councils- they will have no iwi representation in local government.

Labour’s Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey says, "The whole thing is really disappointing from where I sit.  For so long, Māori have wanted to participate in local government and this is a way where Māori have stepped forward and said we would like to have these Māori wards created so we can sit up at the table and it's been voted down".

According to results, 78.2% of residents in Western Bay of Plenty opposed the Māori wards, 77.0% of Manawatū residents voted against, 68.8% of Palmerston North residents opposed and a close 56.4% of Whakatane residents voted against.

Kaikoura District Council is the final region to have their polls read.

"Already we've seen this fail around the country” says Mr Coffey. “Whakatāne's just on a list of failed campaigns for Māori representation at council level so I have very little faith that if Whakatāne with a 43% Māori population can't get it over the line, I don't have a lot of faith for the other places”.

Mr Coffey says Labour's Māori Caucus alongside Green's Co-Leader Marama Davidson will be looking at a law change to remove the provisions for a referendum.

"We've already been engaged by local councillors, local mayors,” says Coffey.

“They've said to us that they support a law change, Local Government New Zealand have said the same".

However, the first obstacle for Labour and the Greens is seeking the support of NZ First.

"The referendum idea, I know that that's a part of what they do- they like the idea of referendums.  We have to let them know that referendums don't always work, especially when it comes to representing the interests of the minorities like Māori," says Coffey.

The government will continue discussions with councils over the coming months.