Council adopts Māori wards

Published on 06 May 2021

Kaikohe offices, Far North District Council

Far North District Councillors have voted to establish Māori wards for the 2022 and 2025 local body elections following an extraordinary Council meeting on Tuesday.

The Council understands that Northland is currently the only region in the country where a regional council and all the region’s territorial authorities have established Māori wards.

The motion to establish Māori wards was carried seven votes to three after passionate presentations from iwi and hapū and intense debate among Councillors. Elected Members also voted to immediately reconsider the Council’s current committee and community board structure, membership, and delegations to ensure Māori representation.

The vote was taken during an extraordinary meeting called to reconsider an October Council decision to poll voters on Māori wards during the next elections in 2022. Since then, the Government has introduced new legislation giving councils an opportunity to revisit decisions on Māori representation. The Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act, introduced by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, gives councils until 21 May to decide on establishing Māori wards for the next triennial elections in 2022, regardless of previous decisions or previous poll outcomes.

While the vote on establishing Māori wards in the Far North was not unanimous, Mayor John Carter commended all Councillors for the courageous and principled contributions they made when considering the issue.

“We have all examined the issue of Māori representation extensively, assisted very ably by Council staff, who have put in significant work to help us. I think the mood of the Council and within the community is that we should now make this change, so let’s get on with it.”

Since June 2020, the Council has conducted four workshops on Māori wards. It also sought informal feedback from the community in March as part of its Representation Review. In all, the Council received 499 responses on Māori representation. Of those, 408 responses (81.76 per cent) supported Māori wards, while the remaining 91 responses (18.24 per cent) did not.

Mayor Carter says Councillors will now consider the finer details of how to implement the resolution and how best to include iwi and hapū in that journey.

The Tuesday 4 May decision was watched by a packed public gallery that overflowed into a community hall next door to Council Chambers in Kaikohe where the meeting was livestreamed. The meeting was also watched live online by more than 90 viewers.