Systemic racism is at the heart of New Zealand's current council Māori wards debate according to a leading campaigner for their establishment who spoke in Whangārei last week.
"Māori wards are but a start, and look how that breaks us apart," Andrew Judd, former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd said.
"If we can't deal with that, look what that's teaching the next generation.
"How would you feel if you were only brought out for a pōwhiri?"
Judd spoke to about 35 people at St John's co-operating golden church in Kensington, the first of two sessions, followed by another in Onerahi.
The Kaipara and Whangārei district councils, and the Northland Regional Council, have all voted for the first time for Māori wards (district councils) or constituencies (regional council), but the latter is being challenged in a region-wide campaign to get 11,000 electors' signatures to demand councils hold polls. In the past polls have consistently overturned council votes in favour of Maōri seats.
"To be having a petition, what's happened to us? How would you feel if your community was doorknocking to take away your voice?" Judd said.
Judd was at the helm when the New Plymouth District Council voted in 2015 for a Māori ward. But local voters demanded a poll that overturned the decision in an 83 per cent voting majority via what proved to be New Zealand's most controversial community response on the subject. He did not stand for re-election in 2016 as a result, and has talked to more than 1000 people across the country since, campaigning to abolish the polling requirement around councils' Māori wards decisions from the Local Electoral Act.
Judd said last week that the issue was about who New Zealand was as a nation, and having Māori at the table. The Local Government Act required councils' to allow for Māori participation.
Whangarei District councillor Nick Connop, who voted for Māori wards in his council's recent majority vote in their favour, said it was important to make a start on establishing the wards.
"I would happily give up my seat for a Māori ward," he said.
WDC is considering two or three Māori wards. If established, they would come into effect at the 2022 local body elections.
Mike Kake, a member of the Northland Regional Council's Tai Tokerau Māori Advisory Committee, said he was in favour of Māori wards, and was watching with interest to see how the government dealt with addressing the right for polling to countermand councils' decisions in favour of them. He said any referendum or polling should be for those on the Māori electoral roll to decide, not the general population.
Northland is leading the way nationally with the establishment of Māori wards, the KDC, WDC and NRC making up the only regional group among New Zealand's record nine councils that have this year voted to establish them for the 2022 and 2025 local body elections. The others are the Gisborne, New Plymouth, Ruapehu, South Taranaki and Taupō district councils, and the Tauranga City Council.