Lack of Māori being voted onto local body councils called out as racism

Source: 1News

Racism is being blamed for a lack of Māori representatives being voted onto local body councils, despite an increasing number of candidates.

The recent election results have sparked legal action, with growing support from Māoridom to legislate Māori seats in local Government.

Long-time politician Dover Samuels, who missed out on a seat on the Northland Regional Council, said the loss meant an area with a large Māori population wouldn't have a Māori councillor.

"We have a continuous failure in getting and supporting our Māori candidates," he said, asking: "What is the reason why?"

Mr Samuels was a member of Parliament and won the Te Tai Tokerau seat in 1999 and again in 2002.

"The reason why we've got Māori and MPs there is because we've got a statutory seats they have statutory electorates set up specifically for Māori.

"If it's good enough for Central Government why is it not good enough for local government?" 

Former Labour MP and Auckland Mayoral candidate John Tamihere said Māori were under-represented because most voters were non-Māori in their 50s.

"It's a race-based issue so if you're very strong in your Māori world and in your advocacy, it's very tough to carry non-Māori votes - it's as simple as that," Mr Tamihere said.

"To keep it honest and above board I do think we have to bring in what the Aussies do and that's compulsory voting."

But lawyer Gerald Sharrock and the Tai Tokerau District Māori Council are putting together a case for the Waitangi Tribunal. They want Māori wards where Māori make up 20 per cent or more of the population.

"We're making an urgency application where we're saying the Crown was in breach of its obligations under Article Three in not providing equitable outcomes between pakeha citizens and Māori citizens," Mr Sharrock said.

Councils could introduce Māori wards independently but they would need a referendum supporting the move.

It has been successful in the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, but failed after a referendum showed a lack of support in New Plymouth.

For now, the Waitangi Tribunal can only make recommendations but it's hoped a recommendation in favour of Māori seats would be enough to move the Government.