Wellington Scoop

Jill Day moves to establish Māori ward in Wellington

Report from RNZ
A Wellington City Councillor has filed a motion to establish a Māori ward for the city at the next election.

It comes just a day after the Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta announced reforms to how wards are established.

The current law allows the decision of an elected council to be overturned by a local poll.

The motion was brought forward by Jill Day, the first Māori woman elected to the Wellington City Council.

“I’m thrilled that the mayor and majority of city councillors support the establishment of a Māori ward for the next council elections,” she said.

“We have already agreed that mana whenua will join us at our committee meetings and work is progressing with them to ensure this happens.

“This will continue alongside the establishment of a Māori ward in Wellington.”

The vote will take place on 2 March.


  1. TrevorH, 2. February 2021, 21:25

    How ironic that 40 years ago people were protesting in the streets of Wellington against apartheid. Now we are apparently required to welcome it.

  2. Concerned Wellingtonian, 3. February 2021, 7:07

    I look forward to Jill Day being our Maori Ward representative so that somebody else can get elected to represent us in our local constituency.

  3. aom, 3. February 2021, 9:13

    TrevorH, how do you manage to equate Wards and apartheid?

  4. Merkin, 3. February 2021, 9:44

    Genuine question. If we are to have paid roles in all council committees for mana whenua, why do we also need a Maori ward and vice versa?

  5. Alf the Aspirational Apterxy, 3. February 2021, 16:27

    The Minister’s intention to remove the possibility of referenda on establishing these wards by passing legislation under urgency effectively represents a gerrymander of local government given the traditional links between Maori and Labour. A bad day for democracy and potentially race relations.

  6. D'Esterre, 3. February 2021, 23:15

    ““We have already agreed that mana whenua will join us at our committee meetings and work is progressing with them to ensure this happens.” This is undemocratic. Are there no Councillors with the courage to call this out? Whether or not such people are paid and have voting rights, they’re unelected.

    TrevorH: Yes, I remember those protests vividly. My recollection of anti-apartheid activism in my generation goes back to the 1960s and earlier overseas. It’s tragic that, all these years later, younger people could know so little of apartheid that they cannot see it when it’s staring them in the face.

    aom: if you can’t see the connection between Maori wards and apartheid, I suggest that you go do some reading. The concept of apartheid isn’t exhausted by what whites did to blacks in South Africa.

  7. Northland, 4. February 2021, 0:04

    I think if you accept Te Tiriti as the founding document of this nation, then Maori wards are a logical conclusion as they represent, in some limited way, the power sharing that is inherent in Te Tiriti.

  8. aom, 4. February 2021, 7:26

    The local body electoral system has never been conducive to proportional Maori representation. Wellington elected its first Maori Councillor in 2000 in Ray Ahipene-Mercer who stood as an environmentalist, then only four years ago, elected its first Wahine Maori. Neither were elected on their strong identity with local iwi and no doubt, many in the Takapu/Northern Ward didn’t even register that Jill Day was other than a ‘nice pakeha girl’.

    While working in Tauranga nearly 4 decades ago, the disenfranchisement of Maori hit me like a load of bricks dropped from a great height. The city even now has a Maori population of over 20% despite the ‘great wealth migration’ from elsewhere in the past couple of decades. Unlike other places in NZ, its Marae sit on premium sites, and have always been very active centres of culture and politics. A kuia who had a weekly slot on local radio reporting Maori news in te reo, prior to local elections in the 80s, pondered the question of how a Maori candidate could be successfully elected to Council. Of course, the only solution would have been for all Maori to be schooled to only vote for Maori and not put any ticks beside non-Maori. In other words, gerrymander the system! Sadly, a large proportion didn’t vote at all – why bother? Even then, enlightened locals were discussing the concept of Maori Wards as a democratic solution.

    Here we are all these years later and finally, the democratic process was getting there. The Tauranga Mayor and Councillors, despite being basically dysfunctional, decided that there should be a Maori Ward – 10 % representation for over 20% of the population. What was the outcome? Go and ask that racist outfit known as Hobson’s Choice. Tauranga is just another scalp in their strategy to ensure that councils mainly represent the stale white male brigade – Maori excluded.

    Sadly some of the comments on this, one of Wellington’s most enlightened websites, reinforce Taika Waititi’s characterisation of some New Zealanders as “racist as f…”

  9. Claire, 4. February 2021, 9:22

    Is Apartheid being confused with a desire to have even representation and diversity across any council. Too many of one type can create blocs of voting such as we have in Wellington with regards to Shelly Bay.This applies to men, women, age, race. Diversity of all the above is ideal.

  10. Bernard, 4. February 2021, 13:22

    A Maori Ward representative is fine, providing the person gains office through democratically held elections by all those voters, regardless of their ethnicity, who are Wellington city residents and who live in the geographical area that the ward represents.

  11. TrevorH, 4. February 2021, 16:03

    @Claire: I agree, diversity of thought based on a wide range of skills and experience can be a very good thing for a governing body.

  12. Kara, 4. February 2021, 18:24

    Apartheid was used in South Africa to expressly prevent those who were not white from having basic human rights.

    Establishing a local body ward for those of us who vote on the Maori roll is not a form of apartheid. It simply means we will have someone on council who truly represents us.

  13. aom, 4. February 2021, 18:50

    Clair, it is difficult to understand your point. Is your concern that there is a disproportionate number of women on the Council, a number of whom supported the Shelley Bay sale? There are eleven women encompassing a range of ages and experience. There are three men (four if you want to include the Mayor) so the range of skills is consequently much reduced. Since you have made reference to apartheid, is it suggested that two with Maori heritage is disproportionate to the general population?

  14. Claire, 4. February 2021, 20:14

    AOM: in this case a group with similar political ideas has voted as a bloc ie shelly bay.
    So all I am saying is different skills and political beliefs and backgrounds male female and race can make different and maybe better decisions.

  15. aom, 4. February 2021, 22:29

    Bernard, do you not understand what a Maori Ward is? If you do, one can only assume your comment is facetious. If not, you should have found out before submitting a comment on the subject.

  16. D'Esterre, 5. February 2021, 0:10

    Maori aren’t disenfranchised anywhere in NZ, Tauranga included. I’m guessing that you mean “disengaged”. That may be so, but it scarcely makes sense to propose a separatist system in an attempt to fix it. What difference would that make to the habit of not voting?

    When we lived in Manukau City many years ago, we had Maori (and also Pacific, as I recall) Councillors. We saw them as representing us. The fact that we’re pakeha is irrelevant.

    This is a representative democracy: it’s the nature of democracy that it’s open to all comers. Attempting to provide special arrangements for the representation of particular groups – even the original inhabitants – fatally undermines the system.

  17. Casey, 5. February 2021, 10:32

    Separate development is a route NZ would be wise not to follow. Like it or not we are all in this together and over the generations have built, together, the best country in the world to live in, so let’s not destroy it by racial division.

  18. aom, 5. February 2021, 10:37

    D’Esterre. Since you have lived in one of the country’s most multi-cultural societies and claim academic qualification, one would have expected a better understanding of the dynamics of social inclusion and the fatally undermined concept of what is demonstrably an unrepresentative democracy.

    In my earlier comment, the word ‘disenfranchised’ was purposely chosen. This wasn’t and isn’t a chicken and egg situation, disengagement is the natural result of disenfranchisement. It shouldn’t be that hard to understand.

    Since you believe we live in a representative democracy, you can have no issue with the inclusion of Maori Ward representation on Councils. The current Government was very clear with regard to its intentions, so the proposed changes are supported with an electoral mandate.

  19. Ray Chung, 5. February 2021, 22:35

    It seems to me that introducing Maori wards into Wellington is perpetuating a racially divisive “us and them” attitude. It’s saying that Maori aren’t able to succeed in national or local politics unless they have their own wards. To me, this is insulting to all those Maori who have been successful in being elected. What happened to the “We are all one people?” This move is going to encourage racial disharmony.

  20. Claire, 6. February 2021, 9:04

    For decades women were kept out of the board rooms by sexism and processes to do just that. It is the same for Maori.
    Racist processes have kept them from full participation.So now as with women an emphasis on participation is legally required.

  21. Kara, 6. February 2021, 19:35

    In the same way that I can vote in Te Tai Tonga due to my whakapapa, I welcome Cr Day’s motion to introduce an equivalent for council elections. I do not view this as separatism but as having a councillor who represents me.

  22. D'Esterre, 6. February 2021, 22:35

    aom: We’ve lived in various parts of NZ; everywhere has been a mix of ethnicities and cultures. Manukau City isn’t exceptional in that regard. The concept of ethnicity isn’t exhausted by skin colour. It would be a serious mistake to conclude that, because citizens have the same skin colour, a community is monocultural.

    The fact that people don’t vote doesn’t alter the fact that our democratic system is a representative model.

    I remember the 2014 election, and the angst over the so-called “missing million” voters. They could not have been exclusively Maori. Consider also the low voting turnout at local elections: it isn’t plausible to claim that all of those non-voters are Maori, as some people evidently want to do.

    I repeat: Maori aren’t disenfranchised in this country. And non-voters – who are presumably disengaged – aren’t exclusively Maori.

    I’ve had a look at the stats: Maori local government elected representatives are about proportional to the size of the Maori population. Go to the LGNZ website and find the 2019 election factsheet: you’ll find the graph there, on p9. So it appears that NZers are electing Maori to Councils, without Maori wards.

  23. Alf the Aspirational Apterxy, 7. February 2021, 12:59

    @ Kara: Does that mean the rest of us should only vote for people of the same ethnicity as ourselves if we want to be properly represented?

  24. D'Esterre, 7. February 2021, 16:19

    Alf: “Does that mean the rest of us should only vote for people of the same ethnicity as ourselves if we want to be properly represented?”

    Yes indeed, that’s exactly what it means, whether or not Kara wishes to accept it.

  25. Claire, 7. February 2021, 17:48

    This is not what it means. I am very surprised by what I am reading here.
    Maori have found it hard to participate in local elections. A petition to vote them out is racist. There is a stacked process in a lot of facets of Nz life. Women had that also.
    So all that is suggested is that there are Maori candidates. Whether we vote for them is not the point. Is there racism in some of these comments?

  26. Meredith, 7. February 2021, 19:31

    Maori Wards; The proposal by the Government to change legislation to ensure Maori wards can be established, by removing a highly discriminatory part of legislation, is an important move forward in our democracy and partnership agreement through te Tiriti o Waitangi.

    Far from it being undemocratic, it will right a serious discriminatory wrong – that of the ability of a mere 5 % of the population to demand a poll to overturn a Council decision made to establish such wards.

    Councillor Jill Day is to be congratulated for pursuing this in Wellington.

  27. Northland, 7. February 2021, 21:50

    I agree with the change to the current law and decisions by Councils to introduce Maori wards. My view is based on acceptance of Te Tiriti as a fundamental founding document for this country. Governance of the country needs to proceed as a partnership.

    However, I can see that others have equally passionate views that all races should be treated equally. I don’t see the expression of those views (or mine) as being racist.

  28. Alf the Aspirational Apterxy, 8. February 2021, 16:06

    @Claire: Maori make up 13.5% of elected local government officials around the country. The trend has been increasing since 2000, without special wards.

  29. Ray Chung, 8. February 2021, 18:41

    Kara, it seems to me that we don’t need to have someone of the same ethnicity as ourselves to represent us in council. I have total confidence in some councillors currently in council to represent my views and none of them are of my ethnicity but I like to think that we all share the same values. I have to admit that I feel uncomfortable with some people’s views that they need to have Maori councillors to be represented.

  30. Claire, 8. February 2021, 20:00

    Ray. Parliament now has members close to representing how NZ looks. Young people can see themselves in Parliament. That’s true democracy. Alf tells me that Maori representation is 13% in local bodies. That is good. So maybe we should also wonder why Chinese and other ethnic groups are not as well represented.

  31. Kara Lipski, 8. February 2021, 20:42

    My whakapapa (through my mother) is Ngati Maniapoto. Pirongia is our maunga and Waipa is our awa. On my father’s side we whakapapa back to a pimple on the map called Lanowce. So I move between 2 (or more) cultures. My whakapapa in Aotearoa is stronger so I appreciate representation from those who understand tikanga.

  32. John Rankin, 9. February 2021, 11:26

    @RayChung: according to the Electoral Commission, some 7.8% of those enrolled to vote have chosen the Maori electoral option, which is about 52% of the Maori population. Since we consider 5% of the vote to be sufficient for representation in Parliament, the numbers surely justify establishing local body Maori wards.

    It really is a personal and private decision which electoral option somebody chooses. That their choice makes some people “uncomfortable” is neither here nor there. @KaraLipski has kindly explained her reasons and clearly many others agree. I welcome any move that could encourage more people to vote in our local body elections and bringing more diverse experiences and perspectives to local councils is in my view a strength.

  33. D'Esterre, 9. February 2021, 15:47

    Ray Chung: “I have total confidence in some councillors currently in council to represent my views and none of them are of my ethnicity but I like to think that we all share the same values.” Precisely. The things that count are values. These aren’t the preserve of particular ethnicities.

    Claire: “…maybe we should also wonder why Chinese and other ethnic groups are not as well represented.”

    And here we go down the rabbit hole of identity politics. Are you prepared for candidates tussling over whether they have the requisite DNA to represent this group or that? As a society, we need that like we need toothache, in my view. And who would represent those of us with mixed ancestry? Do we not count?