Western Bay of Plenty electors have issued a firm ‘no’ to their council after the overwhelming majority voted against the notion of establishing Maori wards for the Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
The final vote was 78 per cent against racial segregation and 22 per cent for, from a turnout of 40 per cent.
Councillor Mike Lally, who was among the minority of councillors to vote against the proposal to establish the racially-segregated wards in November 2017, says he believed the referendum would go the way it did, but did not expect such strong support for the ‘no’ camp.
“People were very unhappy with the way the council had dealt with the issue,” he says. “I think they were happy to have the opportunity to have a say.”
He says he found out a great deal about what the public thought through collecting signatures
“We discovered the councillors who voted in favour were hopelessly out of touch with what people thought. I heard a lot of criticism about councillors who voted for Maori wards.
“A number of Maori came to sign the petition and wanted nothing to do with Maori wards, which seemed to reinforce our argument that we were doing it right.”
Prior to the close of the poll on Saturday, councillors also voted in favour of supporting Horowhenua District Council’s remit to Local Government New Zealand’s AGM to review the Local Electoral Act in relation to Maori representation.
The remit supports LGNZ president Dave Cull’s request to the government to remove the ability for the public to force a poll on the issue of Maori wards, should their elected representatives decide to introduce them.
Mike says the council has made ‘a serious error in judgement’ in voting to support the remit on Thursday, before the poll result was finalised.
“They should have left it until Saturday night when we clearly knew whether people were for or against Maori wards.”
Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Garry Webber – who has been a vocal supporter of Maori wards – would not be drawn into further discussion on the issue when contacted by SunLive.
“We are following the due process that is set down in the electoral act.”
He also did not wish to provide comment on the support by himself and other elected members for Horowhenua District Council’s remit; nor did he wish to comment on whether he or the council had a particular vision for further ward rearrangements as part of the six-yearly representation review currently underway.
For facts and figures on Maori wards/constituencies, see this previous evidence-based article published by SunLive.