Resounding no to a Maori ward for New Plymouth district

A Maori ward seat has been given a resounding no from the people of the New Plymouth district. 

The council's controversial decision to have a Maori ward was overturned in a landslide vote on Friday after a district-wide, binding referendum. 

Eighty three per cent of voters in the binding referendum voted against the creation of the ward, with only 17 per cent of people in favour of the idea. 

From the 45 per cent voter turnout and the 25,338 returned votes, 21,053 people were against the creation of the ward, with only 4285 in favour of it.

New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, who championed the proposal, said he was disappointed with the result. 

"But I accept it with peace and humbleness," he said.

When told of the result Judd left his mayoral office and went for a drive by himself.

He said he ended up walking through the bush at Lucy's Gully so he could "have some space to internalise the result".

"Although this option was defeated, I am not defeated," he said.

Judd, who still plans to stand for re-election in 2016, said he would now lodge a complaint against the Crown about the legislation he believed victimised Maori and was stuck in the 1840s. 

He said his complaint was not a kneejerk reaction to the result of the referendum and he would have laid the complaint with the United Nations regardless of the outcome. 

He said the fact the council's decision to have a Maori ward could be overturned by a referendum was unfair because no other ward decision could be forced to a binding poll.

"This is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation. It is the modern day version of something from 1840, a Crown law to control Maori." 

Judd said he was already in consultation with the United Nations and was formulating the official complaint against the New Zealand Government as an individual and not as his capacity as New Plymouth's mayor. 

"They are in my view in breach of indigenous rights. Regardless of your view on a Maori ward this is an unfair act of Government.

"Why is it you have a piece of legislation that only does a binding referendum for a ward that is Maori? How did this get under the radar of everybody?

"I find it abhorrent."

He was taking his complaint to the United Nations because he had already asked the Minister of Local Government Paula Bennett and Prime Minister John Key to address the issue.

"The Prime Minister's response was very much nonchalant. Yeah tough question, sorry, don't know where we are going to go with that.

"Well, that's not good enough."

He said he would be taking his complaint to the vice chair of the United Nations permanent forum on indigenous issues, Valmaine Toki, who is from New Zealand. 

He had already made a written submission to the Ministry of Justice Human Rights team about Maori representation in local government. 

He said he had read questions being asked of the Crown by the United Nations, and one of those questions asked about the Local Government Act and the participation of Maori on council. 

"The way the Government has answered it is misleading," Judd said.

In its answers the Crown tells the United Nations a Maori ward can be established in one of three ways - by council resolution, council resolution to conduct a binding referendum, or by demand of five per cent of electors for a binding poll. 

"That's not untrue, but what that doesn't say is that I can't do that by a council resolution, because if I do, then there's a binding poll to prevent it.

"It's legislated, by the Crown, to control the outcome."

Judd said the council would now have to reconsider how best to engage with Maori as it was still required to do so by law. 

 - Stuff


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