Open letter to the Minister of Local Government

Hon. Simeon Brown
Minister of Local Government
Parliament Buildings

cc. Tangi Utikere, MP for Palmerston North; Suze Redmayne, MP for Rangitīkei; Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, MP for Te Tai Hauāuru; Mayor Grant Smith and Palmerston North City Councillors; Mayor Helen Worboys and Manawatū District Councillors; Chair Rachel Keedwell and Horizons Regional Councillors

30 April 2024

Tēnā koe Minister Brown,

Open letter in support of Māori wards and constituencies

The undersigned Palmerston North and Manawatū community organisations and community workers unequivocally support the retention of Māori Wards in Palmerston North City and Manawatū District, and Māori Constituencies in Horizons Regional Council.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the very foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand’s constitution, and honouring Te Tiriti means that it is imperative that Māori have secure and meaningful seats at the tables in which important decisions are made.

The government’s requirement that councils hold referendums on the Māori wards and constituencies negates the fact that local communities have already had our say when we elected the councils who established the wards in the first place. Furthermore, making Māori wards and constituencies subject to veto by referendum, but not including the same provisions for other types of wards such as rural wards, is undemocratic and creates different rules for different communities.

While we are supportive of constructive, forward-focused dialogue, we are concerned that these referendums can serve as a platform for misinformation and division in our communities.

We have seen over this triennium the value that Māori ward councillors bring to councils, strengthening the relationships between councils and iwi/hapū and contributing to good decision-making which benefits everyone in our communities.

At a time when there are so many pressures and challenges facing local authorities, the government is requiring councils to spend energy and resources rehashing issues which have been well-canvassed in our communities already.  

We therefore ask that the government does not proceed with the proposed changes to the Local Electoral Act, and retains the current provisions for the establishment of Māori wards and constituencies in local government.

Nā mātou,

Te Pū Harakeke—Community Collective Manawatū Incorporated

Tanenuiarangi Manawatu Incorporated

Social Issues Network Council of Social Services Manawatu Inc. (SINCOSS)

Awhina Whakatau Trust

Abuse & Rape Crisis Support (ARCS) Manawatū

ACROSS Te Kotahitanga o te Wairua

Best Care Whakapai Hauora Charitable Trust

Citizens Advice Bureau Palmerston North

MaLGRA (Manawatu Lesbian and Gay Rights Association)

Manawatū Multicultural Council

Manawatū People's Radio

Manawatu Tenants’ Union

MentorEd Charitable Trust

Niuvaka Trust

Parentline Manawatu Inc.

Strive Rehabilitation Manawatū

Te Hā o Hine-ahu-one Palmerston North Women's Health Collective Inc

Te Manawa Family Services

Te Tihi Whānau Ora Alliance Charitable Trust

Te Wakahuia Manawatu Trust

Tini Whetu Ki Te Rangi Kaumatua Group

Unions Manawatu

Whatunga Tuao Volunteer Central

Youth One Stop Shop Inc

and 52 local community workers