23 May 2012

MP set for long campaign on Maori wards

6:31 am on 23 May 2012

Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene says he's prepared to play the "long game" in his fight for councils to create Maori wards.

The Labour Party representative for the Southern Maori electorate says he's disappointed but not surprised the people of Nelson on Saturday voted against setting up a Maori ward in the city.

He says it's a shame the decision hinged on a poll, which canvasses a small Maori population.

Further north, Wairoa District Council was also blocked from introducing Maori wards even though its electoral roll includes one of the nation's highest percentages of Maori.

Though 46% of the electoral population in the Wairoa district are Maori - one of the nation's highest percentages of Maori voters on council rolls - that poll closed on Saturday with 52% of 2500 voters opposed to Maori wards.

Mr Tirikatene says it took time to increase the number of Maori seats in Parliament and he acknowledges Maori representation on local authorities won't happen overnight.

His message to all New Zealanders is that Maori have a special place in Aotearoa as tangata whenua.

In many other areas Maori are finally able to catch up and create a cultural, economic and political revival.

Mr Tirikatene says people shouldn't be scared of a resurgence in council politics, or see it as a threat.

Law change wanted

Separately, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres is calling for a law change to make Maori seats on councils a right, rather than leaving it to the public to decide.

Mr de Bres says that he will be lobbying for a law change during a review of the New Zealand constitution.

He did a case study on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council example of Maori wards.