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Call for law change to allow Maori wards

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/04/2016

New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd and the Maori Party have joined forces to call for a law change to ensure district councils can have Maori wards.

Under current law, five per cent of voters can challenge the establishment of a Maori ward and none have been set up.

Mr Judd wanted one in New Plymouth but in a referendum last year 83 per cent voted against it.

Now he's drafted a petition to parliament calling for a law change, and the Maori Party will present it.

Petitions go to select committees, which decide whether to make recommendations to the government.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says Maori participation in local government is low.

"A law change is needed to ensure tangata whenua views are provided across the country," he said on Monday.

"Change is long overdue - the fact that five per cent of the voting public can challenge any decision related to Maori representation is disheartening and means Maori will almost always be defeated in this process."

NZ First leader Winston Peters says Maori don't need token representation.

"What the Maori Party advocate is separatism, second class citizenship, tokenism, pigeon-holing and privilege for a Maori elite," he said.

"Whether it be sport, culture, music or business, none of the Maori participants are asking for special privileges or a handout."

Mr Peters says there are numerous mayors and councillors around New Zealand who are from Maori, Pacific, Chinese and other ethnic backgrounds.

"They got there democratically, without tokenistic assistance."

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