Māori wards top priority for Green Party

By Talisa Kupenga

Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson wants to remove what she calls a double standard that allows for referendums on the establishment of Māori wards.

Five district councils will hold referendums in May which Davidson says will likely overturn these councils' decisions to establish Māori wards.

The Greens want a fair playing field for establishing Māori wards.

Davidson says, “Currently the law provides an extra step to go against establishing Māori wards and it doesn't do that for establishing general wards and that extra step is discriminatory".

National Leader Simon Bridges says the current system is reasonable.

"There will be areas in New Zealand where Māori wards clearly are appropriate where there is significant Māori populations and others where the public there won't want them and I'd support that".

Davidson says, "When you have councils wanting to do the right thing and uphold Te Tiriti and vote in favour of Māori wards the fact that they can be negated is not good enough".

Davidson is working alongside the Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to gain traction.

"Marama has laid out her key objectives for the Māori Wards.  I have said I will collate the information I have received and put it before Cabinet to consider."

Next month Palmerston North, Kaikoura, Manawatū, Western Bay of Plenty and Whakatane will have public polls to determine whether they agree with their council's decision for a Māori ward.

Davidson says, "I want to remove that step, save people time and money and just let the councils vote".

If a law change allowed for the establishment of a Māori ward on Auckland City Council it is unclear what would happen to the Independent Maori Statutory Board.