'Huge increase' in Māori mayors

By Kelvin McDonald
Tory Whanau, Wellington's new mayor.  Photo credit / Newshub

There has been a "huge increase" in Māori mayors and more than 60 new Māori ward councillors, despite low voter turnout in local elections which closed on Saturday, says Local Government NZ (LGNZ).

Only about four in ten people voted in these elections, which represents a "massive gap to bridge" compared with central government elections.

Even so, there is reason for Māori to celebrate, according to LGNZ's Te Maruata (Māori Committee) chair Bonita Bigham.

“More than 30 councils across the country are implementing Māori wards for the first time this year, and that’s a big reason to celebrate.

“That’s 66 new Māori ward councillors who will be joining the ranks of elected members and making sure that Māori have a strong voice in decisions that councils are making."

Bigham says a leap in the number of Māori mayors is also to be celebrated, with Tory Whanau in Wellington and Tania Tapsell in Rotorua among the country's newly elected Māori mayoralty.

“I’m also thrilled to see that there has also been a huge increase in Māori mayors elected around the motu, at least five that we know of compared with just one in the last election."