2 Feb 2021

Andrew Judd 'absolutely' vindicated by Māori wards decision

8:01 am on 2 February 2021

A former mayor of New Plymouth - who was spat at in the street over his support of establishing a Māori ward in the city - feels vindicated now the government has stepped in to scrap citizen-initiated polls on the divisive issue.

Andrew Judd at the council Māori wards meeting in Whangārei.

Andrew Judd at a council Māori wards meeting in Whangārei. Photo: Susan Botting / LDR

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced a bill will be brought to Parliament under urgency to ditch the "discriminatory" polls ahead of the 2022 local body elections.

Andrew Judd was New Plymouth Mayor in 2014 when the council voted to establish a Māori ward.

It was thrown out a year later in a citizens-initiated poll in which 83 percent of those who took part voted it down.

Judd, who describes himself as a recovering racist, didn't stand for re-election in 2016, saying he didn't want to be responsible for dividing the community any further.

Ever since he has campaigned to have the Māori wards poll provision removed from the Local Electoral Act.

He was overjoyed at yesterday's announcement.

"I'm a bit numbed by it all to be honest. It's so surreal, so it's a mix of emotions - excitement, anticipation, joy, relief.

"For me as a human being really I knew at the time that we had a challenge around unpacking all this, so vindication to a degree? Absolutely."

Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta and former New Plymouth councillor Howie Tamati

Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta and former New Plymouth councillor Howie Tamati Photo: RNZ/ Robin Martin

New Plymouth has again voted to establish a Māori ward.

And Judd can understand those petitioning for a poll to overturn that decision will be unhappy.

"Look I know some people are going to perhaps be feeling a bit aggrieved or short changed on the process, but I say just step back and digest the information from the minister... and the words about being inclusive.

"Let's keep up a dialogue because that's what coming together means. You can have different views - it's about how we handle differing views.

"And behind all that of course is our obligation to each another as Treaty partners. That's at the foreground of all this about Māori representation."

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Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Prior to entering Parliament, Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer was kaiarataki of Te Runanga o Ngāti Ruanui in South Taranaki, where the council also wants a Māori ward.

She was not so conciliatory towards its opponents.

"The reality is that you're never going to be able to change some of those entrenched racists and actually they're not our problem.

"This is about legacy building and doing what's right for the future, right for today and right for the future mokopuna.

"And that is exactly what the minister has said. We have an opportunity to put light where dark is and that's what we've got to focus on. The majority of those who actually want to live in a country that is proud of its strengths, proud of its tangatawhenua."

Liana Poutu is the chair of Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa which represents the largest iwi in New Plymouth.

Although pleased, she was under no Illusion about what the decision meant in a practical sense.

"Māori wards will be based on those that are enrolled on the Māori electoral roll, which I think for our New Plymouth district would give us one seat.

"And so you know one seat at the council table is one thing, but I don't think it is the be all and end all in terms of Māori representation. But it's absolutely a step in the right direction."

Poutu said the power remained with councils.

"I think we've got to remember too that the councils have to make the decision to establish a Māori ward. That hasn't been taken away from the councils.

"What's been taken away is the ability to overturn a council decision, so I don't think there are too many council decisions that I'm aware of that can be overturned by a poll of the community. So I think it is just bringing it in line with that."

New Plymouth councillor Murray Chong has been the driving force behind a petition to force a binding poll on the establishment of a Māori ward in the city.

He was not happy.

"I think it's a sad day for all New Zealanders. The one binding referendum that people actually got an opportunity to have a say has now been taken away from us.

"I've always stood for binding referenda because that's the way people can have a say and unfortunately, yeah, this is another nail of the average New Zealander having the right to speak up."

The Government also has the support of the Green Party on the issue.

It's hoping to get the law change - which would be retrospective - made by 21 February.

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