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Proposed mandatory consideration of specific Māori representation

Proposed mandatory consideration of specific Māori representation

Proposed mandatory consideration of specific Māori representation

Tuesday 11 October, 2022

On 2 August 2022, the House heard the first reading of the Local Government Electoral Legislation Bill, an omnibus bill that looks to make several changes to the way that Local Government is organised and elected.

The changes proposed in the Bill can be summarised as follows:

  • The compulsory consideration of specific Māori representation.
  • The ability to increase the number of Auckland Councillors.
  • The process following a draw in a local election.

Determining Māori wards and constituencies

While the second two changes are certainly worthy of closer examination, the first point was the most contentious during the first reading of the Bill which does not have bipartisan support.

So, what would the proposed changes to the Local Electoral Act 2002 (“the Act”) actually require with regard to the consideration of specific Māori representation?

Currently, a Council must undertake a representation review every 6 years. As part of this review, it must consider how many councillors it will have, as well as whether any or all of them will be elected by the district ‘at large’ or by geographical wards and constituencies. The latter may or may not relate to communities of interest, such as a rural ward. The Council must also consider the names and ward boundaries for any wards or constituencies. The representation arrangements are then determined by resolution and may be subject to appeal and objection provisions.

The decision to establish a Māori ward or constituency is made under separate provisions of the Act and does not tie into the representation review process directly. The provisions for Māori wards and constituencies were substantially amended in 2021 and, as a result, 35 councils will have Māori wards or constituencies for the 2022 election. Any decision to establish Māori wards triggers the need for a representation review.

The proposed amendment to the Act will see two new sections introduced requiring Councils to determine by resolution whether specific Māori representation should be included in their representation arrangements before undertaking the six yearly reviews. Before making this determination, Councils must engage with Māori and other communities of interest on the question of specific Māori representation. The determination must be made by the 20th of December of the year which is two years before the next election. If this Bill passes, Councils that are due to complete their next representation review before the 2025 Triennial Local Government Elections will need to start engaging with Māori and other communities of interest promptly.

The determination regarding Māori wards and constituencies must then be reflected in the representation review, and it is in this context that the number of Māori wards or constituencies, their boundaries, and the number of councillors that will represent them will be addressed. This decision on the number of such councillors is subject to the formula set out in Schedule 1A of the Act. This amendment will essentially see Māori wards and constituencies treated similarly to any other electoral division reflecting a community of interest. The determination in regard to the form of Māori ward will be amenable to appeal or review in the same way as other decisions made in the course of the representation review.

Changes to timing of electoral roll options

There is something of a chicken and egg argument about the relationship between specific Māori representation and the choice of electoral roll for voters identifying as Māori. In the context of these changes, it is interesting to note that the next Māori electoral option is due in 2024. This would be between any Council’s determination regarding specific Māori representation, and before the subsequent representation review which would determine the boundaries of those wards and constituencies and number of elected members that would represent them.

However, earlier this year Justice Minister Kris Faafoi announced that the Māori Electoral Option will be changed to allow Māori voters to switch electoral rolls at any time. The Electoral (Māori Electoral Option) Legislation Bill was introduced to the House on 21 June this year and has been referred to the Justice Committee for report back on 3 November this year. That Bill is expected to come into force in March 2023 in time for the 2023 General Election and the 2025 Triennial Local Government Elections.


If you would like to discuss what these and other changes might mean for you, please reach out to one of our Local Government Experts below.

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