Last week Council decided, by majority, to establish a separate Maori ward. The decision was met with acclaim by some; concern by others, and will almost certainly result in a binding referendum. I voted against the establishment of a separate ward because I think we can achieve better representation, including Maori representation, with the support of all voters, not just those on the Maori roll.

The last time someone was elected to Council that identified as Maori was in 1992 in the Matapihi ward. The term prior, another Maori councillor was elected in the Mount Ward in 1989. What’s changed since then? Is New Zealand more prejudiced now than it was 30 years ago? I’d say no, but what’s changed is how councillors are elected and the number of councillors.

In 1992 there were 14 councillors and five wards. Today we have just ten councillors and three wards. The Local Government Commission said in 2004 when our population passed 100,000 that ten Councillors was the ‘minimum sized council’ for a city our size. Today we have 145,000 residents.

If we did nothing but increase the number of councillors to 12 then Josh Te Kani would be a councillor based on his votes at the 2019 election. If we increase the number of wards to six; each represented by two councillors, then our suburbs would have better representation too. The answer to better representation is right in front of us without the need for an expensive (estimated at over $200,000) and divisive referendum.

Straight from city council
A personal view,
by Councillor Steve Morris