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Maori wards improve our democracy, say advocates

Advocates from people-powered organisation, ActionStation condemn the recent announcement by National Party’s Simeon Brown that the Coalition Government will re-introduce referendums for Māori wards at local councils.

From 2018, ActionStation joined with a number of local communities to call for fairer legislation that supports Māori wards and increased Māori representation in local government.

It led to the Labour Government introducing legislation to make the establishment of Māori wards easier ahead of the 2022 local elections.

Kassie Hartendorp, Director for ActionStation, says that the initial change in legislation was to improve fairness for Māori at a local level and to better align the treatment of Māori wards with general wards which do not go to referendum.

“We need Māori representation to be a truly democratic country. Māori make up over 17% of the population and our voice matters. And yet, we are still not fully represented in our local decision-making structures. The decision to change legislation was about addressing a historical inequality that still exists to this day.”

She says that the original call for Māori wards came about because groups such as Hobson’s Pledge were deliberately stoking racism in local communities, and the law enabled them to do this. Since legislation changed, Māori wards have flourished all around the country.

“We make better decisions as communities when we include Māori at the decision-making table. We have a chance to work together and do what is best for everyone, not a small racist minority.”

Hartendorp says that the Coalition Government is deliberately opening up the gates of division and racism by allowing local referendums to occur.

“They know that racist groups will use this as an opportunity to stir up anti-Māori sentiment which will ultimately serve their shared political agenda of driving up real division and appeasing their supporter base.”

“This is not about what’s good for local communities, it’s a cynical move by the Coalition Government to secure their own political power at the expense of Māori. This will have serious repercussions for our communities, and for our social cohesion as a country.”

 

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