Only a week after KCDC. Political machinations in the Hutt aren’t something we follow, but the principles of the issue are universal: we can’t have a situation where “all citizens are equal, but some are more equal than others”.

from Don Brash

On Tuesday, Hutt City Council will vote on whether to establish a Maori ward. The so-called submission process they pretended to engage in only resulted in 25 responses from the public. This from a population of approximately 100,000.

It is evident that Hutt City Council did not want its residents to know this matter was being discussed. They did almost nothing to advertise the opportunity to engage with the process, and Councillors were ordered not to speak with the appointed Panel tasked with consulting with the public. That is simply not good enough. In fact it is downright cynical.

Lower Hutt is another example of the contempt that New Zealand’s mayors and councillors have for the people they represent. Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Kapiti Coast District Council are just two other councils which have recently totally ignored the overwhelming opposition to Maori wards and voted them in.

Hutt City would rather not hear from those they represent at all.

Why are so many councils rushing to establish Maori wards now? There are two main reasons:

  1. Time is running out to make changes before the 2025 local elections. The cut off day for councils to resolve whether or not to have a Maori Ward in 2025 is 23 November 2023.
  2. A centre-right government will soon be formed and they recognise that some of the coalition members have promised to end Maori wards, or at very least restore the rights for citizens to demand a binding referendum on whether such wards should be established, a right cynically removed by the Labour Government. Councils know it is harder to unwind things that are already done.

Even worse is that Hutt City Council is attempting to misrepresent the degree to which democracy would be compromised if they establish a Maori ward. They have claimed there are around 12,000 people on the Maori roll. The true figure is about 6,000.

What does this mean?

Each of the wards in Hutt City has about 12,000 voters on the general roll. This means 12,000 people per councillor. A Maori ward would have twice the representation with only 6,000 people per councillor.

Of the twelve Hutt City councillors elected in 2022, four are Maori. In addition, there is an unelected Iwi Representative who already sits on a number of sub-committees and iwi generally already have special representation and voting rights on council sub-committees. The proposed new Maori ward would be additional to all of this.

I don’t need to rehash all the reasons why representation based on race is terrible for our country. The reasons are consistent whether we are looking at Auckland Council or Hutt City Council. You know by now the dire situation this puts local democracy in.