“Labour has been unapologetically undemocratic about local Māori representation. It has established iwi appointees on the otherwise democratically elected Environment Canterbury Regional Council. It attempted to force a disproportionate number of Māori wards on the Rotorua District Council, which was found to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights by Labour’s own Attorney-General. And it has attempted to force undemocratic Māori wards on communities that do not want them.

“ACT will repeal race-based Māori wards altogether.

“Māori wards have been accessible to councils with a general establishment provision since 2002. This provision had a binding referendum process where communities could oppose Māori wards’ establishment, rather than allowing councils to unilaterally force them on constituents.

“At least six councils attempted to implement Māori wards which were democratically vetoed by this provision. Labour repealed this democratic provision, stripping communities of their democratic ability to oppose race-based representation. Labour also mandated that councils, through an official process, consult on and consider implementing Māori wards.

“Labour removed New Zealanders’ democratic voting rights because it believed they couldn’t be relied on to vote the right way. Labour believed binding referendums, where communities could oppose Māori wards’ establishment, were an obstacle to more Māori representation.

“But that’s wrong. A Local Government New Zealand survey shows Māori make up 13.5 per cent of local representatives, which is very close to their share of the population as a whole. Māori are doing a good job of being elected to councils. There was no problem to solve.

“But Labour deliberately engineered the law in order that some people will get elected based on who their great-grandparents were – not on what they do, but who they are; not on the value and the dignity inherent in every individual person, but on membership of a collective. Those are not democratic values.

“The drive behind Labour’s push for co-governance is that collectives are more important than individuals. Which group you belong to is more important than the dignity inherent in every individual person. There should be different laws for different groups, and you should be treated differently based upon who your ancestors were. These values are anathema to a democratic society.

“We cannot afford to continue dividing ourselves along superficial lines. We must celebrate the common humanity that unites all people and stop seeking ways to divide us with group rights and collective identity.

“ACT will restore democracy to local government. All New Zealanders are alike in dignity and this should be reflected in our institutions. We will repeal undemocratic Māori wards and re-establish one person, one vote to local elections.”

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