Has she received any advice, including the cost to ratepayers, on the 5 polls taking place on the establishment of Maori wards; if so, what was that advice?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Local Government): No, I haven't received any specific advice about the cost of the five polls currently under way regarding Māori wards.
Marama Davidson: Given the cost pressures on local government, is she concerned that the current polls seeking to overturn councils' decisions on Māori wards are reportedly costing local councils up $140,000?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Costs of stand-alone polls vary from council to council. I am aware anecdotally that within each local government area, the cost of holding such polls is a concern to them.
Marama Davidson: Does the Minister agree with Local Government New Zealand, who in their open letter to her said that "The discriminatory nature of these polls is not acceptable." and that they "damage[s] race relations in our districts."?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I am aware of that statement and they go on to add "Either the poll provision should apply to all wards or they should apply to none. The discriminatory nature of these polls is not acceptable." More so, that view is held by the five districts currently holding the polls, which is why they're campaigning very hard to ensure that people participate before 19 May.
Marama Davidson: Does she agree that local elected members are perfectly able to make decisions on the establishment of Māori wards just as they do with general wards and that the current situation is a double standard for Māori representation?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: That is certainly a strong view that is held by the sector representative group, Local Government New Zealand, and a range of councils who have advocated to local MPs, as well as myself as local government Minister.
Marama Davidson: Is she concerned about the effect of these discriminatory polls that set up extra hurdles for Māori participation, given the UN has noted that Aotearoa has "persistently low levels of Māori representation in local government"?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I'm concerned that the poll drives the wrong conversation at a local level where time has moved on and actually the sentiment of local people has moved on because Māori are participating positively and contributing to well-being outcomes, and they want to, which is why they seek Māori representation.
Marama Davidson: Is she doing any work to change the law around Māori wards, given that the Labour Party voted for my member's bill in the 51st Parliament, which would have removed this discriminatory provision; and, if not, why not?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: It is correct to say that the Labour Party had a very clear position on this. As we work these issues forward for the coalition and confidence and supply Government, it's important that I provide all the information available so that we can ensure that the issue of Māori representation and contributing to positive outcomes in the region is not overshadowed by negative sentiment which seeks to divide views at a local level. This issue must be owned at a local level and I'm sure we will get to the right outcome in time.