More competition for Māori seats than general in council elections

By Will Trafford

More Māori candidates have put their name forward for Māori seats at this year’s local body elections than those contesting the general seats.

The lead-up to nominations closing last Friday saw concerns some seats in regions like Whanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitīkei would go unfilled due to a shortage of candidates but Local Government NZ chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene says that turned around in the final days.

“If we look at past local government elections, we’ve seen a steady average of about two candidates running for each available position Freeman-Greene said.

“These Māori ward numbers show more competition for seats, with closer to 2.5 candidates for every available position.”

More than 140 candidates have put themselves forward for Māori wards. The implementation in October will see more than 60 Māori councillors elected in Māori seats across the motu.

‘We know historically we’ve had low representation of Māori on our councils,” Freeman-Greene said.

“Councils make important decisions that affect all our communities, so it's critical Māori are represented and have a say in those decisions.

“It’s fantastic to see so many people putting their hands up”.

Bonita Bigham, the chair of Te Maruata which is LGNZ’s collective of Māori elected or appointed to local government by Iwi says in the past, many Māori thought  local government wasn’t a place for them because they couldn’t see themselves represented.

“It’s abundantly clear the introduction of Māori wards has empowered more Māori to stand,” she said.

All 62 positions saw nominations as the ballots shut Friday, with 10 councillors being elected unopposed, which Bigham says, from a te ao Māori perspective, is not a bad thing.

"I’d suggest in most if not all instances it reflects the careful and purposeful consideration and effort that iwi and hapū have made when putting forward a preferred candidate," Bigham said.

Voting for local body elections closes at midday on Saturday, October 8.

Find out more about voting here.

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