Local democracy to be restored

Simeon Brown announced:

The Coalition Government will restore the rights of communities to determine whether to introduce Māori wards, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown says.

“The Government will introduce a Bill in the coming months that will restore the ability for communities to petition their councils to hold binding polls on Māori ward decisions. This will include holding binding polls on wards that were established without the ability for local referendums to take place.

Residents, not politicians, should determine the constitutional structure of their local council. Introducing race based wards is a constitutional change, just as changing from FPP to STV is. Both types of changes should be ones for voters, not Councillors.

As signalled in our coalition agreements, affected councils will be required to hold a poll alongside the 2025 elections. The results of these polls will be binding on councils and will take effect for the local government term beginning October 2028.

“If councils do not wish to hold a poll, those councils will be given the opportunity to reverse their decision to establish Māori wards or to disestablish those wards prior to the 2025 local body elections.”

There are some Councils who voted for introducing Maori wards purely because they knew there was no ability for a referendum to sustain or veto their decision. If they know the community is against such a change, they can avoid the cost of a referendum by repealing their decision.

This will also allow voters to make informed choices in who they vote for in 2025, as all Council candidates will be on the record about whether or not they support race based wards.

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