top of page

Subscribe Form

Thanks for submitting!



The Coalition Agreements which the National Party reached with the ACT and New Zealand First parties oblige the new Government to “restore the right to local referendum on the establishment or ongoing use of Maori wards, including requiring a referendum on any wards established without referendum at the next local body elections”. The wording is identical in both agreements.

And a Bill to meet that commitment is currently before the Justice Select Committee of Parliament. As the Minister of Local Government, Simeon Brown, explained in a press statement in April, this Bill “will restore the ability for communities to petition their councils to hold binding polls on Maori ward decisions…. [reversing] the previous government’s divisive changes that denied local communities the ability to determine whether to establish Maori wards.”

This appears to meet the National Party’s commitment to both the smaller parties.

But as drafted, the Bill is a long way from being perfect.

For starters, it produces some very clumsy outcomes. Where councils have announced an intention to create Maori wards without a referendum of ratepayers in the years since the Labour Government made that possible in 2021, they must have a referendum on whether those Maori wards should continue at the time of the 2025 local body elections. But that doesn’t stop the creation of Maori wards as from those 2025 elections, so in those cases we will have Maori wards for the three years from 2025 to 2028 even if the referendum held at the 2025 elections rejects such wards. And on the basis of history, it is virtually certain that those referenda will reject Maori wards: every referendum on the issue of Maori wards so far has rejected such racially-based wards with the single exception of that in Wairoa.

Given that the creation of additional (Maori) wards will quite likely require some change in the number of “normal” wards to maintain a broadly similar number of ratepayers per ward, this would involve considerable additional expense and disruption for what is likely to be short-lived Maori wards. Much better to require referenda at the time of the 2025 local body elections and the creation of Maori wards from 2028 only if those referenda indicate a community desire for them.

The new law as currently drafted would still require communities to gain the signatures of 5% of ratepayers to oblige any councils which may decide to create Maori wards in future. This is clearly achievable in small districts and cities but would be a monstrous practical problem in large cities like Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. The law ought to require any councils which decide they want racially-based representation to conduct a referendum before proceeding with such representation.

And then there is the particular problem of Tauranga, which is just emerging from a period of years under the control of four Government-appointed Commissioners, and will hold elections in July of this year. Even though more than 5% of Tauranga ratepayers petitioned for a referendum on Maori wards before Commissioners were appointed, no referendum was held and the elections for Tauranga’s council to be held in July this year, as the term of the Commissioners comes to an end, has no provision for a referendum which the Commissioners, in their wisdom, have decided to foist on the city. So unless the Bill before Parliament is changed urgently, Tauranga will elect somebody to a Maori ward next month. Since the next local body election in Tauranga will be in 2028, it means that as the law is currently drafted that Maori ward will exist until 2031. This is nuts, given the high likelihood that the great majority of Tauranga residents do not want such wards at all.

More fundamental than the issues which the current Bill deals with is the question of why, in the 21st century, New Zealanders tolerate race-based political representation at all, whether in local body elections or in central government.

There is clearly nothing in the Treaty of Waitangi, in either language, which requires such race-based representation.

Maori electorates were introduced in 1867 not because the Treaty required them but because it was acknowledged that the property qualification required of all those entitled to vote meant that almost no Maori could vote, given that most Maori property at that time was communally owned. When all men got the vote, regardless of property ownership, and when all adults got the vote in 1893, those Maori electorates should certainly have been scrapped. But they continued.

In 1986, the Fourth Labour Government established a Royal Commission on the Electoral System, probably because they recognised that the First Past the Post electoral system often resulted in a Government being formed even though it attracted only a minority of the overall votes. It was that Commission of course which recommended that New Zealand adopt the MMP system of voting. And they explicitly said that, if we did adopt MMP, there would be no need to retain separate Maori electorates to ensure that a Maori voice was heard.

Almost 30 years since New Zealand did adopt MMP we’ve still got separate Maori electorates, and of course separate Maori wards in a number of districts. There is simply no logic in retaining either Maori electorates or Maori wards.

I don’t have up-to-date data on the proportion of local body councillors who identify as Maori, but the most recent data I have seen had the number of Maori councillors almost equivalent to the proportion of Maori in the population. Recently, we’ve seen several Maori mayors elected.

And of course in Parliament the proportion of Members who are Maori very considerably exceeds the proportion of Maori in the general population – 33 Maori MPs, out of 121, or some 27%. Only seven of those 33 are dependent on a Maori electorate to be in Parliament. In the Cabinet of 20, there are seven Maori, or 35%, including the Deputy Prime Minister (Winston Peters) and the next Deputy Prime Minister (David Seymour). None of those seven Maori Cabinet Ministers got to Parliament by being elected in a Maori electorate.

The latest census reveals that there are now almost as many Asians as Maori in New Zealand, and there is, fortunately, absolutely no suggestion that there should be separate electorates for Asian New Zealanders.

All the different racial groups in New Zealand will presumably wish to retain some aspects of their own culture, while contributing to a uniquely New Zealand culture. But there can be no basis for an harmonious future, none whatsoever, for as long as we create constitutional distinctions between citizens based on who some of their ancestors were. Those who argue for the continuation of separate political representation based on race are the ones who are racist.

Don Brash

3 June 2024

3,915 views297 comments

297 commentaires

I think that one way to get councils ‘on side’ is to observe that as we now have more representatives for the population then any increases in wages must come out of the existing total remuneration bucket. If councils want more reps then the councillors can pay.


The statement by Dr. Brash serves as a reminder of the ongoing debate surrounding the TOW and the need for a referendum to finding a path forward

There is much to sort out with regards the TOW interpretation that is termed a foundational document; yet Luxon seems unwilling by not supporting DS’s referendum policy.

There are concerns about the ongoing relevance in NZ’s modern, multicultural society where now the suggestion is for co-governance via a tribal race and system so as to accommodate their interests. It’s near impossible to force a tribal governance system into a democratic one. It’s a step backwards for modern day NZ.

The "co-governance" idea is a concept that has emerged as a potential solution for…

En réponse à

" Maori has one view of course,"

On what do you base that phenomenal generalisation ?


06 juin

Replying to WWalter

Sir you are sadly amiss in your remarks. Your argument maybe that propounded by modern apologists and activists, but it is certainly incorrect. The Treaty agreement gives Maori only exclusive chieftainship over their own exclusive Lands, not that of land or enterprize jointly used by them and shared with other citizens and other non citizens.

Referring to Boris' argument that misrepresentation has seen maori exercise control (often by thugs Veto or thugs occupation) over land and enterprises not exclusively owned by them (irrespective of any claims of past connection). The Treaty does not provide for that only the misused rulings of Tribunal has extended those interpretations.

Referencing the Maori seats. There was no Parliament in NZ at…

07 juin
En réponse à

In a nutshell. Precise and absolutely correct.


Calls to extinguish the right of Maori to an electoral role and a minimal influence in local body affairs seems to conflict with the Crown ordained assurance of equality with their English counterparts? The notion that non-Maori political dominance has better served their societal, health and economic position over the last 180 years is not evidenced in statistical data. Where is the rationale that revoking this last vestige of Rangatiratanga will improve their lot?


Despite Don’s arguments, Māori wards and electorates are NOT based on race. They are based on the fact that Māori were treaty signatories and in the treaty Māori were guaranteed 'te tino rangatiratanga' or the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages, and all their property and treasures. Māori and the Crown’s representative were the only parties to sign the treaty which is why these seats existed in the first place - to give Māori some authority over their resources as promised.

En réponse à

Most countries names are “mythical creations”, but your conclusion has no premise.

bottom of page