Originally published by Māori Television
After a nail-bitingly close Whangārei District Council meeting this morning, councillors voted to establish a Māori ward.
That came after a strong debate, with the affirmative camp finally gaining the upper hand in an 8-5 split, with one councillor absent.
On February 1, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced a bill overturning the binding poll rule, collapsing the power of the petitions that were underway to try to force a ratepayer poll on the issue.
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The Whangārei District Council had received a petition, which would have triggered a poll but it is unlikely to be held, thanks to Mahuta's changes to what she described as "fundamentally unfair" petition rules.
Since 2002, 24 councils have attempted to establish Māori wards using the process under the Local Electoral Act 2001 and only two have been successful so far. Nine councils have decided to establish Māori wards for the 2022 local elections, joining three councils that established these at earlier elections.
The new legislation also extended the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards to May 21, 2021, providing them with a fresh opportunity to make decisions on Māori representation at the 2022 local body elections.