Far North electors to vote on Māori wards in 2022

Published on 02 November 2020

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Far North District Councillors have opted to ask electors at the 2022 local elections whether or not the Council should establish Māori wards.

They reached the decision following an impassioned debate on recommendations to increase Māori representation, including to create Māori wards ahead of the 2022 and 2025 elections.

The Local Electoral Act 2001 directs all councils to undertake representation reviews, including on Māori representation, at least every six years. Far North District Council last undertook its review in 2015.

The Mayor and nine councillors considered four options at their 29 October meeting. They were:

  1. Establish Māori wards for the 2022 and 2025 elections

  2. Resolve to hold a poll of electors on whether or not to establish Māori wards, with the result applicable to the 2022 and 2025 local body elections

  3. Resolve to hold a poll of electors during the 2022 local body elections

  4. Maintain status quo on the understanding that a poll on the issue may be initiated by the public*.

Five councillors (Clendon, Smith, Stratford, Tepania, Vujcich) were in favour of Councillor Stratford’s motion to establish Māori wards ahead of the 2022 and 2025 local body elections, saying the Council had delayed improving Māori representation for long enough and needed to provide leadership on the issue. However, four councillors (Court, Collard, Foy, Radich) and the Mayor were opposed.

Speaking to the motion, Mayor Carter read out a statement from Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa Chairperson, Haami Piripi, which said the adoption of Māori wards would be a vital step in the ongoing economic, political and cultural growth of the district.

Mayor Carter supported Mr Piripi’s statement but was worried that if the Council immediately agreed to adopt Māori wards, a publicly-initiated and ratepayer-funded poll would inevitably reject the move, delaying any further action on the issue for six more years. “I would like for us to go to our communities and to have a discussion. Let people hear what Haami Piripi has got to say, because what he says is right on the button.”

Mayor Carter added that many people do not understand why Māori wards are being proposed or the reasons why they are needed. “They do not need to be frightened of this, but they do need to hear it […] Have trust and faith in them, I do.”  

The motion to adopt option 1 was tied five votes to five, and the motion was lost.

Councillors then voted on a motion moved by Mayor Carter and seconded by Councillor Collard to poll electors on establishing Māori wards during the 2022 local body elections. This motion was carried six votes to four. Those voting against the option (Radich, Smith, Stratford, Tepania) were not convinced a poll of electors would provide a different outcome to the one held in 2015 and this would only delay Māori wards even further. However, those in favour of the option (Mayor Carter, Court, Clendon, Collard, Foy) said it gave the Council two years in which to fully inform Far North residents about the need for Māori wards and how these would affect representation.

A poll on the adoption of Māori wards in the Far North District will be included in voting papers during the next local authority elections due to be held in October 2022.

*It takes just 5 per cent of voters (or 2156 Far North electors based on total enrolments during the 2019 local body election) to initiate a poll on the issue. In 2015, the Council undertook a poll on establishing Māori wards. Forty-five per cent of voters took part with 67 per cent rejecting the option