LGNZ response on Maori wards

LGNZ has responded to my post on Maori wards. Their response is below:

  1. LGNZ has no view on whether councils should create Maori wards.  Our position is that that matter should be a decision for each council to make in consultation with its community including iwi;
  2. LGNZ does think that the rule applying to the creation of wards, community boards etc should be aligned and placed on a level playing field.  Only the creation of Maori wards is subject to a referendum possibility.  Interestingly, it is not widely understood that the existing poll provisions can also be used to override a council’s decision not to establish Maori wards or constituencies.  That is, the provision could just as easily be held to establish wards against the wishes of a council as it can to dis-establish them (see s.19ZB of the Local Electoral Act 2001);
  3. There are two ways to get alignment.  First Maori wards could be treated similarly to other wards etc.  This would entail a council decision with the checks and balances of Local Government Commission oversight.  As councils are elected to make decisions this would be the preference of most.   LGC oversight is buttressed by the democratic accountability of elected members every three years at the triennial elections.  The other approach would be to extend the referendum option to the creation of all types of wards and community boards.  This also would achieve the alignment objective but is likely to see a lot more referenda (which some may prefer as it is more of a direct democracy model e.g. Switzerland, than a representative democracy model).  Obviously the costs of this option would be higher but both options achieve the desired alignment of process.  The point we are making is that the rules surrounding Maori wards are anomalous relative to the rules for creating all other representative arrangements;
  4. On consultation – LGNZ included this matter in our Election Manifesto issued last July and was the focus of extensive discussion at our July Conference.  It was sent to all political parties and each was asked to address the matters it contained when they gave their respective speeches to our conference (which they did to varying degrees ranging from not at all to systematic consideration). The preparation and sign-off of that manifesto was subject to extensive discussion within our governance processes and went through consideration by our Governance and Strategy Advisory Group and was formally adopted by the National Council of LGNZ before it was issued.  After approval by National Council, the manifesto was sent to all mayors, chairs and chief executives on 27 June 2017 well before the LGNZ Conference in the latter part of July (where it was released formally). Additionally, LGNZ made a submission to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee which covered, inter alia, the petition of Andrew Judd calling for the change to the rules concerning the establishment of Maori Wards.  That submission was approved by LGNZ governance in July 2017 (reflecting the Manifesto policy) and was referred to in a Policy Brief sent to the LGNZ membership on 20 July 2017 (I can send you a copy if you would like).  I accept that if a person had not paid attention to that work and communications activity at the time then they could well be under the impression that the policy is new.  However as a matter of fact they would be wrong.  The issue has come to the fore again because several councils now are facing referenda following decisions to introduce a Maori ward;

I disagree with the view that Maori wards should be purely a decision for Councils and the Local Government Commission, as with other wards.

The decision to establish a Maori ward is a hugely significant decision. It is saying we want to divide our Council and voters by ethnicity. This is very different to merely deciding if you have 12 or 14 wards and where the boundaries are.

Hence I think such a significant decision should rest with the voters.

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