The Salvation Army is encouraging people in Whakatane to vote to keep a vital part of New Zealand democracy going.
The Army is hoping people will vote to keep Maori wards in the upcoming poll in Whakatane.
Salvation Army social policy and parliamentary unit director lieut-colonel Ian Hutson says there is a lack of Maori representation within local government that needs to change.
“Maori wards are an important way to address this imbalance. In Whakatane, Maori make up 40 per cent of the population.
“Maori wards allow Maori a voice. For our councils to truly reflect their communities Maori need a voice at the council table.”
Ian says the polls are an opportunity to address this issue urgently. The results are binding, meaning if the proposed wards are overturned Councils cannot try to introduce a Maori Ward for several years.
“The reality is Maori representation needs to occur now. The Salvation Army commends the movements to keep the Maori Wards and encourages the constituents to use their voice to vote to ensure they remain.
“Maori wards are a reflection of The Treaty of Waitangi,” he says. “Partnership is a vital part of Te Tiriti. Clause two of the treaty specifies Maori have tino rangitiratanga; sovereignty and determination.
“Ensuring Maori are represented in Local Government is part of fulfilling this aspect of the treaty and respecting the partnership we have with tangata whenua,” Ian says.
“Maori are also treated differently when it comes to the creation of Maori wards. Other wards are created at the discretion of the council without a public vote. Maori wards should not be treated differently,” Ian says.
“Maori Wards should not be able to be changed through petition. This is a fundamental flaw within the legislation and needs to change.
“We challenge the Government and the Governance and Administration Select Committee to change the Local Electorate Act to ensure Maori Wards cannot be repealed through poll.”