Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd has taken his fight for Māori to be better represented at council level to Parliament.

Judd told a parliamentary committee today that allowing binding referendums on whether councils can establish Māori wards was cruel and divisive.

"There are two laws in New Zealand, one for the general population and one for Māori."

"From experience, and we're seeing it now through five other councils across the country, make the process the same.

Advertisement

"To highlight out the Māori seat is divisive, it's cruel. I know that from experience. I'm not talking from an ideological point of view. I'm talking from someone who lived this with my community," he said.

"The Crown delegates certain responsibilities to the councils to include Māori. How? The majority won't let it happen.

"I implore you, please, to consider a simple change in the law to make that process the same for any seat that a council votes to establish," Judd asked MPs.

In 2016 then Māori co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell presented a petition to Parliament on behalf of Judd seeking to change the Local Electoral Act to level the playing field for Māori wards.

Under existing legislation, councils can choose to establish Māori wards. However, if 5 per cent of voters sign a petition opposed to such a move, the decision then goes to a binding referendum. That provision does not apply to the establishment of other wards, such as rural wards.

Five councils are at present holding such referendums. Manawatū yesterday released its result which showed voters were overwhelmingly opposed to the creation of Māori wards, as proposed by the local council.

Palmerston North, Western Bay of Plenty, Kaikōura and Whakatāne are due to release results of their referendums within a week.

Judd was elected as Mayor of New Plymouth in 2013 and lasted just one term after he stirred controversy by backing the establishment of Māori wards there.

Advertisement

His petition to Parliament to change the law to prevent the establishment of Māori wards by councils from being opposed by the voting public has the support of Local Government New Zealand.

It wrote an open letter to the Government in March seeking to remove the sections of the Act that allow referendums on whether or not a city, district or region can establish Māori wards and constituencies.

LGNZ president Dave Cull wrote that these poll provisions did not apply to other wards and were inconsistent with the Treaty of Waitangi.

"Either the poll provisions should apply to all wards or they should apply to none," he said.

"The changes to the LEA were intended to increase Māori representation in local authorities but the intent has failed, in large part due to the nature of the poll provisions."

Judd also has the backing of the Green Party.

Co-leader Marama Davidson's Member's Bill that would have removed the provisions from the Act got voted down.

"The time has come to remove this discriminatory and racist provision that prevents the establishment of Māori wards right around the country," she said recently.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in Parliament earlier this month that she was concerned the referendums drove the wrong conversation.

"It's important that I provide all the information available so that we can ensure that the issue of Māori representation and contributing to positive outcomes in the region is not overshadowed by negative sentiment which seeks to divide views at a local level."

Hobson's Pledge, a group that lobbies for "one law for all" has urged people to vote against establishing Māori wards in the referendums, saying "separating us into 'Māori' and the 'rest of us' is divisive and will damage our communities".