Otago Daily Times

Maori ward Bill ‘insulting’ — Bridges


WELLINGTON: National MP Simon Bridges has railed against the Government’s move to protect Maori wards, describing it as insulting as a Maori man.

Labour has begun rushing through, under urgency, the Local Electoral (Maori Wards and Maori Constituen­cies) Amendment Bill, which will do away with a public veto on Maori wards.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the debate had been decades in the making and change was well overdue.

‘‘I’m proud that we’re taking these steps to push through a change that is long awaited,’’ Ms Mahuta said yesterday.

In 2002, the thenLabour government — of which Ms Mahuta was a part — changed the law to allow councils to set up Maori wards.

But the legislatio­n included a provision allowing a minority of voters — 5% — to force a public referendum and ultimately veto a council’s decision.

Since then, 24 councils have tried to introduce Maori wards but only three had been successful.

During the first reading on Tuesday night, National MPs criticised the legislatio­n as antidemocr­atic, rushed through by a Labour Party which never campaigned on the matter and with only two days for the public to give feedback.

Mr Bridges told the House it was personally insulting to suggest he — and other Maori — needed special and separate treatment.

Maori Party coleader Debbie NgarewaPac­ker said the time had come to do away with a racist provision.

‘‘This is a huge win for Maori and for those who have stood up against racism and fought for mana whenua representa­tion in local government.’’

Public submission­s on the Bill are open until 5pm today.

The Maori Affairs select committee will consider the legislatio­n and public submission­s, before reporting back on Monday. — RNZ

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