Local Government – Key Legislation has new commentary (new Westlaw New Zealand)
The effect of the amendments is to align the treatment of Māori wards and constituencies with the treatment of general wards and constituencies, remove all mechanisms for binding polls to be held on the establishment of Māori wards and constituencies, and provide local authorities with an opportunity to make decisions on Māori wards and constituencies in time for the 2022 local elections.
All stages of the amending legislation were rushed through parliament in order to give local bodies time to prepare ahead of the 2022 elections.
A Māori ward is a form of electoral representation that allows voters who have chosen to be on the Māori roll to elect a representative (or representatives) to their local council.
In 2002, the then-Labour government changed the law to allow councils to set up Māori wards, but it included a provision allowing local polls to veto a council's decision to establish the wards. If five per cent of ratepayers supported having the poll, 50 percent had to vote in favour of setting up the Māori ward. The policy did not apply to general wards.
Since then, 24 councils have tried to introduce the Māori wards, but only three have been successful.
The recent law change means local polls can no longer overturn a council's decision to introduce Māori wards. It also means the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards has been extended to 21 May 2021, giving them more time to decide if they want to introduce them.
At the time of writing, 10 councils have decided to establish Māori wards in time for the elections, joining the three councils who have already done so.
See Local Government Key Legislation – What's New for more details.