Opposition to signalled changes for Māori seats on council

Northland Regional Council has formally agreed it will oppose signalled changes from Government that would restore the ability for communities to hold binding referendums on whether to introduce Māori wards.  

The changes would affect all councils that have introduced Māori seats — including all four councils in Te Taitokerau — since the previous government amended the Local Electoral Act to remove the requirement for binding referendums.    

On 24 April, NRC formally agreed to oppose the changes to the Local Electoral Act signalled by government, and will work in partnership with TTMAC to make a submission when the Bill is introduced.  

Council opposes the signalled changes on a number of grounds, including: 

  • Māori constituencies are not a race-based selection, but rather a Te Tiriti/Treaty and legislative outcome both appropriate and necessary to deliver equity.  
  • Māori seats exist at a national level; this same approach to representation should apply to local government.  
  • Binding polls unfairly give the majority the right to make decisions on a matter affecting the rights of a Māori minority.  
  • The binding poll requirements ignore the 2010 Waitangi Tribunal finding that the Crown must ensure that its Te Tiriti/ Treaty obligations are upheld, even when it delegates functions to local government.  
  • Reversion to a polling system will likely result in reduced Māori roles in decision-making functions in councils.  
  • Decisions on representation and relationships should be made via a deliberative, balanced and considered dialogue – not through a binary choice offered by a poll. 

Council’s two ‘Te Raki Māori’ council seats were established for the 2022 elections, following a comprehensive representation review process and council decision in 2020. 

With no Māori councillors having been elected for several terms despite more than a third of Northlanders being Māori, council wanted to guarantee Māori a place at the decision-making table and to better reflect the needs and aspirations of our entire community. 

NRC and TTMAC (Te Taitokerau Māori and Council working party) will work in partnership to draft a submission immediately after the Bill is made available for submissions. 

People around the table at a council meeting. Photo credit: Susan Botting.

Photo credit: Susan Botting, Local Democracy Reporter Northland, Northern Advocate.