Horizons Regional Council to establish Māori constituencies

At their Regional Council meeting today, Horizons’ Councillors approved the establishment of Māori constituencies in time for the 2022 local government elections.

Horizons Chair Rachel Keedwell acknowledged a petition delivered to Council and says it was an honour to host a large contingency of Māori at Regional House.

“Their presence added to this momentous occasion,” says Cr Keedwell.

“On 23 March, Council directed the chief executive to explore the desire from Māori for Māori constituencies to be established for the 2022 council election, with input from iwi and hapū within the time available.

“As a result, a survey was sent to approximately 18,500 individuals on the Māori electoral roll, along with supporting information. This group was identified as the most affected by the decision, as it would fundamentally change the basis of, and arrangements for, their representation on Council.

“The survey and supporting information was also made public to the wider community through Council’s digital channels.”

Between 13 April and 10 May 2021, Council received 1,649 responses to the survey about whether to establish Māori constituencies.

Of the 1,649 responses, 1,475 supported the establishment of Māori constituencies in the Horizons Region for the 2022 local election and 152 opposed.

1,369 (95.5 per cent) of those who identified as Māori supported establishing Māori constituencies. Of the 170 non-Māori respondents, 50.6 percent opposed.

“Today’s decision is a reflection of what Council has heard from those most directly affected,” says Cr Keedwell.
“Council will now need to formally consult with the region’s communities about their preferences for the overall makeup of council’s constituencies.

“The survey also provided an opportunity to undertake preliminary engagement with voters on the Māori roll about their preferences for Māori constituency arrangements.

“Of the 1,438 responders to this question, 53.9 per cent preferred a single Māori constituency covering the whole region represented by two Councillors, while 46.1 per cent preferred two Māori constituencies - each covering part of the region and each electing one Māori representative.”

Horizons Regional Council is currently made up of 12 councillors covering six constituencies; two for Horowhenua, two for Manawatū-Rangitikei, four for Palmerston North, one for Ruapehu, one for Tararua, and two for Whanganui.

A full representation review, including general and Māori constituency constituencies, will now be carried out. Proposed arrangements will need to be adopted by Council by 31 August, with community consultation and the review completed this year.

By establishing Māori constituencies, voters enrolled on the Māori electoral roll will vote in a Māori constituency, and voters on the general roll would continue to vote in their general constituency.

As no one can be enrolled on both rolls at the same time, no one gets to vote in more than one constituency.
Cr Keedwell says that Council are aware that establishing Māori constituencies is not and should not be the only way of ensuring representation.

“Today’s decision does not change the other mechanisms in which Māori, iwi and hapū can participate and work in partnership with Council.

“We acknowledge there is still much do be done and we look forward to being in the waka together.”