15 May 2015

New Plymouth voters reject Maori ward

6:59 pm on 15 May 2015

New Plymouth voters have overwhelmingly rejected the introduction of a Maori ward in the district.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd (left) accepts a petition from Hugh Johnson which is likely to spark a referendum on the establishment of a designated seat for Maori on council.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd (left) accepting a petition Hugh Johnson earlier this year which called for a poll on the Maori ward initiative. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

In a citizens-initiated referendum on the issue, 83 percent of those who voted were against the proposal.

A total of 56,250 people were eligible to vote with 45 percent doing so.

Mayor Andrew Judd, who championed a Maori ward, said he was personally disappointed with the result and the poor turnout.

Mr Judd said he was going to take a complaint against the Government's Maori wards legislation to the United Nations.

He said the fact that a council's decision to have a Maori ward could be overturned by a citizens-initiated referendum was unfair.

Mr Judd said he had been speaking with a representative of the United Nations over the last few weeks about a challenge to the Crown.

"Please explain to the world, because we are an international citizen, how this Government can allow a piece of legislation that allows the majority to have a vote to the indigenous around representation, yet no other decision we make does that."

Mr Judd said if the Government was serious about Maori representation on territorial authorities it should step up and legislate for it.

He said the council must now reconsider how to engage with Maori and enable their participation in decision-making, as it was required to do by law.

Hugh Johnson, who sponsored the petition forcing a referendum, said he was satisfied with the result which was more clear-cut than he expected.

"I think it's very good, we beat Northland, Northland was only 66 percent.

"So the voters are feeling like I do [in thinking] that people should only be elected to council on their own merit."

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