The Government's failing Northland councils which have courageously voted for Māori wards.
That's according to national Māori wards campaigner Andrew Judd who will be speaking in Whangārei tonight
Northland's leading the way among a record nine councils nationally which have this year voted in favour of Māori wards.
Kaipara and Whangārei District councils along with Northland Regional Council (NRC) have all in the last month for the first time voted for Māori wards (district councils) or constituencies (regional council).
"The Government should be putting its money where its mouth is," Judd, former New Plymouth mayor, said.
"It should have already taken action to support these councils achieve Māori wards," Judd said.
The right of 5 per cent of electors to demand a poll over the councils' decisions is at the crux of what needs to be immediately addressed, Judd said.
"Polling fuels hatred and division," he said.
He was mayor when his council in 2015 voted for a Māori ward, but a binding citizen-initiated poll overturned this in an acrimonious debate with a vote of 83 per cent against. Judd became a pro-wards campaigner.
Five per cent of electors can demand a poll of councils' decisions in favour of the wards.
The Government has signalled it's looking at removing this option from the Local Electoral Act - but the changes won't be in place until the 2022 local government elections.
New Zealand's biggest polling demand campaign is gathering momentum in Northland. Former NRC councillor John Bain's spearheading the campaign across the three Northland councils that have voted for Māori wards.
NRC's calling on the Government to put a polling moratorium in place.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta would not be drawn on whether a moratorium would happen.
A spokesperson for Mahuta said a solution to the issue of the polling threat facing the nine councils which have this year decided in favour of Māori wards was being worked on. Officials were putting together a range of options for consideration.
A solution was expected in January.
Judd will speak at two public meetings in Whangārei – tonight
at Saint John's co-operating golden church in Kensington at 6pm and on Saturday, November 28, Saint Stephens Anglican church in Onerahi at 10.30am.
He said his public meetings were for all Northlanders, those for and against Māori wards. Judd said he was initially against the wards, but that had changed. Those at the meetings could hear about why the change had happened.
"I used to be against Māori wards but changed my mind during my time as mayor of New Plymouth." Judd said.
The Government has widely encouraged councils into Māori wards. Local Government New Zealand, the sector group representing the country's 78 councils, has also come out in their favour via a joint councils' formal joint official remit on the topic.
The nine councils which voted for Māori wards had to do so before November 23 for the decision to be in time for the 2022 local body elections .
NRC is the only regional council among 11 counterparts nationally to have voted for Māori constituencies. Seven district councils voted for Māori wards – Kaipara, Whangārei, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Ruapehu, South Taranaki and Taupō. Tauranga City Council completed the line-up.
Penny Smart, NRC chairwoman, said her council's decision in favour of Māori seats was in line with the push for these by the Government and other councils.
She said more than a third of Northland's population was Māori. The proposed Māori seats would strengthen the partnership between Māori and the council.
"[They] will also support and enable council to better reflect Māori values, issues, priorities and aspeirations as they relate to council roles and functions and help us better reflect the needs and aspirations of our entire community."
Smart said there seemed to be confusion over the role those elected to council via Māori constituences would have.
"Councillors are elected to represent all Northlanders. Once elected, councillors sign an oath to represent all Northlanders and this is reflected in council's vision 'Northland Together we Thrive – Ko Te Taitokerau, Ka whai hua tātou'.
"Māori elected to designated Māori seats will sign the same oath as other councillors: at the decision table they will represent and make decisions for the good of all Northlanders, not just tangata whenua," Smart said.
"Similarly, all councillors are elected by constituents to make democractic decisions using robust, well-considered information.
"This means as elected representatives we must all come to the decision table with no pre-determination, willing to listen, contribute to good debate and then support the outcome of the vote."