We believe the proposed intervention by the Minister of Local Government, Nania Mahuta, to remove petition rights under Parliamentary urgency is undemocratic and racist.
We are disappointed central government has intervened in a local democratic process. The many thousands of people who signed these petitions to force their councils to hold a binding referendum on the establishment of Maori wards will also be outraged.
Democracy Northland was founded on the principle that in a representative democracy every voice should be heard and every vote is equal. For the Minister to trample on the rights of the thousands of people who have already signed the petitions is disgraceful and a dark day in New Zealand.
The number of people signing the petitions has exceeded our expectations, for all three councils. We have been overwhelmed by the support. For the Whangarei District Council we have received 149% of the required number of signatures, 150% in Kaipara and 130% for the Northland Regional Council. These are very significant numbers, some 13114 signatures in total, and we expect to receive many more ahead of the 21 February close off date.
We know from the many Northlanders that we have spoken to over the last two months that most people do not want Maori wards on local councils – and for the very same reason they do not want the Maori seats in Parliament. They want New Zealand to be a team of five million – united by the things we have in common not divided by our differences.
Democracy Northland will continue with the petition as the law has not yet changed. Even with a law change we still have a petition which we will be delivering to the councils. They ignore it at their peril.
Having taken away our right as voters to have a binding referendum on the issue of Maori wards we are left with the only other option which is to campaign against the councillors who supported these wards. We will be doing so at the next local body election.
We thank the community for their incredible support. Democracy Northland is not going away. The extraordinary act by Minister Mahuta has energised our supporters and made us even more aware that we need to take a stand if we are to protect the democratic rights that generations of New Zealanders have fought for.
We of course are concerned about the wider implications. One of the first acts of the Ardern Labour Government will be to use urgency to ram through retrospective legislation to remove an important democratic right without any public consultation at all. To repeal a constitutional check on our local politicians without any thought to the ramifications is unconscionable. Ironically this protection was introduced by Helen Clark’s Labour government. Such political arrogance so early in the Parliamentary term does not auger well for next three years.
John Bain, Robin Grieve, Craig Jepson, Ash Nayyar
2 February 2021