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This is a clever move by Nanaia Mahuta to try to essentially force Māori wards on councils, or at least make it very hard for councils to resist introducing Maori wards.
Mahuta has slipped a change into a piece of legislation that will make it mandatory for councils every six years to consider whether they should introduce Maori wards.
When they meet for their six-yearly Representation Review, the first step councils must take must be a decision about whether to establish Māori wards or constituencies.
That makes it very likely, doesn't it, that a lot of councils will opt to introduce Māori wards. Because if they consider the wards and then actively choose not to introduce them, what are they?
And no one wants to be called a racist so they’ll probably just end up taking the easy option and introducing the Māori wards.
Clever politics, Nanaia.
And what’s more, because she popped these changes into an omnibus piece of law with a whole bunch of other boring, technical changes for local elections most people seem to have totally missed it.
In fact, from what I can see, no one’s reported on it in the 26+ hours since she put out her press release.
What’s especially clever here is that Nanaia is forcing something on ratepayers that ratepayers don’t want, but really can’t stop.
Māori wards are historically deeply unpopular. In the nearly two decades since 2002, 24 councils tried to introduce Māori wards and only two ended up being successful.
For example, Taranaki: their attempt in 2015 ended up voted down by 83 percent of ratepayers.
But Nanaia’s now changed the environment so substantially that it feels like Māori wards are now more likely than not.
Remember last year? She took away the right of ratepayers to have referenda on Māori wards. Now, 35 councils will have Māori wards or constituencies at this year’s election
You can say a lot of disparaging things about Nanaia Mahuta but what you have concede is that when it comes to really applying herself to undermining democracy she can be very strategic and clever.
Well played Nanaia.