Labour stripped democracy from local government by removing the ability to call for a local referendum on Māori wards, and the Government is restoring voters’ voices in line with its coalition commitment to ACT.

Labour attempted to force undemocratic Māori wards on communities that do not want them. They removed New Zealanders’ democratic voting rights because they believed voters couldn’t be relied on to vote the right way.

The decision of whether councils should establish Māori wards ought to lie with the communities themselves, not Wellington.

The Government’s decision means that councils that have established Māori wards since 2020 without a poll can disestablish them. If they don’t do this, citizens will be able to vote on them at the next local body election in 2025.

As laid out in ACT’s coalition agreement with National, at least five per cent of voters will be able to require a local poll on the establishment of a Māori ward on an ongoing basis.

The consequence of Labour’s push for co-governance is that which group you belong to is more important than the dignity inherent in every individual person. That 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.

This Government is determined to stop dividing New Zealanders 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.

All New Zealanders are alike in dignity and this should be reflected in our institutions.

As in many areas, ACT has been a strong voice in favour of going further and faster to immediately restore democracy to our local communities.

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