By Susan Botting
A leading New Zealand Māori wards advocate is calling on Northlanders not to sign Democracy Northland's poll demand against these special council areas.
"Signing will simply mean becoming part of something that's taking away the right of Māori to have a place at the table," Andrew Judd, a former New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) Mayor, said.
Former Northland Regional Council (NRC) deputy chairman John Bain's Democracy Northland's campaign aims to get more than 6500 signatures demanding a poll on NRC's decision in favour of Māori constituencies to the council before Christmas. Nationally, such polls consistently overturn council decisions.
Judd's call not to sign the demand comes ahead of a Northland visit where he'll be speaking against the polling and in favour of Māori wards.
Bain resigned and walked out of NRC's October 20 council Māori constituencies decision meeting before the 7-1 majority decision in their favour was made, saying he couldn't be part of what he called "broken democracy".
He said there was overwhelming support for the Democracy Northland poll demand. Poll forms for hard copy printing off would be available this week.
"He's talking a load of old tripe," Bain said in response to Judd's call.
Judd was at the helm when NPDC in 2015 voted for a Māori ward. But local voters demanded a poll that overturned the decision in an 83 per cent voting majority, in what proved to be New Zealand's most controversial and highly divisive community response on this matter.
He did not stand for re-election in 2016 as a result – and has talked to more than 1000 people across the country since, as part of campaigning to abolish the polling requirement around councils' Māori wards decisions from the Local Electoral Act.
Three of Northland's four councils have voted in favour of Māori wards (district councils) or constituencies (regional council) since October 20: NRC, Kaipara District Council (KDC) and Whangārei District Council (WDC).
The three councils are among seven councils nationally that have voted similarly so far this year.
But under the Local Electoral Act, 5 per cent of a council's electors can demand a poll on the Māori ward/constituency votes _ that's 6027 people from NRC's 120,548 electors, 790 people from KDC's 15,806 electors and 3080 people from WDC's 73,563 electors.
Eight of the last nine of these polls nationally have overturned councils' decisions.
Just three of New Zealand's 78 local authorities have Māori wards - Wairoa District Council and Bay of Plenty and Waikato Regional Councils – in spite of legally being able to for almost 20 years.
Māori electorates have been a feature of national politics for more than 150 years but that's not the case at the local level.
Judd is speaking in the region via Network Waitangi Whangārei.
Moea Armstrong, a network spokesman, said he would provide Māori wards education for anybody who wanted to learn more.
"Where Māori wards have been created there has been a reduction in litigation between hapu and councils which has been attributed to communication improvements," she said.
Judd said the meetings - on November 27 from 6pm at St Johns Co-operating Golden Church, Kamo Rd, and November 28 from 10.30am at the St Stephens Church, Church St, Onerahi - were for those for and against Māori wards.
"No matter what your view, come along, don't stay home and get angry."
Judd said the three Northland councils' decisions in favour of Māori wards/constituencies were important for New Zealand. Northland was leading the country by doing this - an exciting first.
"Northland's at the beginning of a tsunami that's coming," Judd said.
"It's at the front of change nationally and globally, between one generation and the next, toward a more aware and inclusive tomorrow."
FNDC was the only Northland council not to vote for Maōri wards, instead on October 29 voting for a council-initiated poll at the 2022 local government elections.
Judd said it was disappointing they too hadn't voted for the wards.
"It's a case of move over yesterday because tomorrow's walked through the door, and you haven't even noticed.
"Your children and grandchildren are watching. They are about to study New Zealand history in school. They'll ask you how you voted on that decision. You'll have to explain your vote and why," Judd said of the FNDC decision.