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