4 Dec 2020

Māori wards petition delivered to Parliament: 'Not a case of if, but when'

11:22 am on 4 December 2020

A petition has been delivered to MPs urging them to get rid of legislation that enables referenda on Māori wards.

Toni Boynton from Te Rōpū Tautoko Māori handing the petition to Labour MP Tamati Coffey.

Toni Boynton from Te Rōpū Tautoko Māori handing the petition to Labour MP Tamati Coffey. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

ActionStation collected more than 10,000 signatures calling for Parliament to make the process of establishing Māori wards for district and regional councils the same as the process for establishing general wards.

Council decisions in favour of Māori wards can be overturned under the Local Electoral Act if 5 percent of voters demand a poll.

ActionStation director Laura O'Connell Rapira was among those at Parliament delivering the petition. She said the government needed to act, as the rule had already resulted in Māori wards being overturned.

"Over the last 20 years, 10 councils have tried to establish Māori wards, nine of those councils have been challenged and all nine of them the vote unfortunately went in favour of blocking Māori representation," she said.

"So we would like that law to be changed because it has been holding us back from progress for a really long time and it's necessary and overdue to change it."

The presentation was opened and closed with karakia and was attended by Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, New Zealand Māori Council president Matthew Tukaki and representatives from the Green Party, Labour Party and Māori Party.

Labour MP Tamati Coffey received the petition and told the gathered crowd that their voices had been heard and local government minister Nanaia Mahuta was looking for to make a change.

"I'm proud to stand here today and accept this petition and to take it into this building and work with our ministers to actually make change happen and make change happen fast," he said. "This is not a case of if, this is a case of when."

His pledge was good news to O'Connell Rapira, who said the law change was a matter of urgency.

"Ten councils this year have voted to establish Māori wards and those Māori wards are at risk of being overturned if we do not change this law," she said.

"The writing's already there, the public support is there, what we need now is the ministers to take action."

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