The Bicultural Committee of Auckland diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission supports requirements in a bill before Parliament to require territorial authorities that don’t have Maori wards or constituencies to consider Maori representation every six years.
But the bicultural committee believes the bill does not go far enough to ensure appropriate representation of Maori on local councils.
The bicultural committee made these points in a submission on the Local Government Electoral Legislation Bill, which is currently before Parliament’s Governance and Administration select committee.
In the first reading debate in June, the Associate Minister of Local Government, Kieran McAnulty, speaking on behalf of the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, said that councils already consider how their communities are represented every six years, in a process called a representation review.
The bill requires territorial authorities and regional councils to make a determination about specific Māori representation, before reviewing other representation arrangements, if their district or region did not have any Māori wards or Māori constituencies at the previous two triennial elections. If their district or region had one or more Māori wards or Māori constituencies at the previous two triennial elections, territorial authorities and regional councils are allowed – but not required – to make a determination about specific Māori representation, before reviewing other representation arrangements.
Before making a determination about specific Māori representation, territorial authorities and regional councils must engage with Māori and other communities of interest in their district or region, and have regard to the views of those communities.
Historically, Maori have been under-represented in local government.
In 2021, the Government removed the binding poll provisions under law that had been a barrier to improved representation of Maori at a local government level. The public could previously vote down proposed Maori wards in a given area. Councils alone now make that decision.
The JPC bicultural committee said in its submission that the compulsory consideration of Maori representation every six years for those local authorities that do not presently have Māori wards or constituencies “is a step in the right direction”.
“The removal of binding polls on the matter of pursuing Māori representation is hugely positive,” the submission added.
The submission also stated that “the enactment of the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act 2021 gave local authorities the opportunity to establish an unprecedented number of new Māori wards and constituencies in time for this year’s elections”. This was described as “positive”. (Mr McAnulty noted in June that there would be 35 councils with dedicated Māori electoral representation at the next local elections.)
But the bicultural committee’s submission also stated that “there now exists a disparity between Māori in areas where there is Māori representation on the local body and Māori in areas where there is not”.
“The bill does not go far enough to ensure that Māori have guaranteed electoral representation on the council’s governing body; to ensure that Māori viewpoints are recognised and represented in council decision-making; to ensure that the Council is informed and appropriately responds to Māori issues; to ensure that the Māori–Crown relationship is better recognised at a local level; to ensure that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is honoured, especially with regard to the rights of Māori to exercise rangatiratanga (chieftainship) over “o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa” (their lands, their homes and over all their treasures). Ref: Article 2 of the Māori text of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
In June, Mr McAnulty stated that this aspect of the bill “isn’t a requirement that every council have Māori wards — it’s not a model that will work for every community — but it is important to ask the question of what value specific Māori representation can add to local governance . . . “.
The contact person for the bicultural committee’s submission was listed as Manuel Beazley, who is Vicar for Maori in Auckland diocese.
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