Like many organisations and individuals, we’ve presented to select committees in recent weeks to express our deep concern at the proposed legislation. Here we share a reflection on the select commitment experience in relation to Māori Wards along with the key points from our oral submission.  

The website says “Parliament’s decisions affect all New Zealanders. Have your say and influence the laws passed by Parliament. You can get involved by making a submission.” 

Submission (noun)
1)the act of accepting that somebody has defeated you and that you must obey them – synonym: surrender 

2) the act of giving a document, proposal, etc. to somebody in authority so that they can study or consider it; the document, etc. that you give 

We follow the second meaning. We state that their bill is unjust. It’s not wanted by the New Zealanders most affected – Māori and the majority of local government leaders. It will harm us all. 

The MP invokes the first meaning. He says “We have the mandate.”  

“People gave the mandate for localism and fairness. This racist bill is the antithesis of that,” we reply. “Ditch it.” 

They say we have been very clear. There are no questions.  

We have submitted.  

We won’t submit.


Groundwork submission – key points

When tauiwi learn about Te Tiriti they see the promise that it holds of a cohesive and flourishing Aotearoa for us all. Tauiwi also understand what a generous and inclusive agreement it is for us, and how honouring Te Tiriti can allow this country to live the values most New Zealanders care about – values of fairness, care and belonging.  

Te Tiriti is an agreement to a relationship of mutual benefit. The innumerable breaches of Te Tiriti by the Crown directly harm Māori and undermine that relationship. We’re devastated by this bill – it’s an attack on Māori and on the core values that most New Zealanders care about. We fully oppose the bill and support submissions in opposition and the recent findings of the Waitangi Tribunal. There are three areas of impact we wish to highlight: 

Impacts on MāoriThe injustice in relation to Māori wards was removed by the previous government, this bill proposes to reinstate this injustice. In Te Tiriti terms Māori wards are a small but important step towards representation – they are not a full reflection of Te Tiriti commitment to te tino rangatiratanga.

The message this action of the government gives to Māori, yet again, is ‘your right to have a voice in relation to all that matters to you is dispensable, we trade it off so we can have power.’ This bill can’t be seen in isolation from all the other actions of taking from and controlling Māori over generations since 1840. These are the actions of an abusive partner.  

Impacts on communities – The best decisions are made by those most affected by them. In our local communities, we have long histories of working together effectively to address issues and help each other out. We know what works best for us. We have built strong connections to get things done. This coalition campaigned on localism and this bill is the antithesis of that. It is not wanted by those directly affected – by Māori, or by local government.

Polls are divisive and cause enduring harm. In workshops, whatever people’s politics, they agree that it’s hard to make a decision or have a position on something we don’t understand or know little about. We don’t have an informed population that understands New Zealand’s history, the commitments of Te Tiriti in the context of He Whakaputanga, and the actions and impacts of colonisation. Conversations can be and will be divisive – wounds and divisions can cut deep. Local government leaders know this is one reason why they don’t support the Bill. People in local communities will live with the impacts of this hurt. The also live with the impacts of short-term thinking and less effective decision-making.

Impacts on democracy The legislation is being enacted in haste, and can have harmful impacts for generations. In 2021, Judith Collins as Opposition leader critiqued Labour for a rushed legislative process to make the treatment of Māori wards fair. Now the Coalition is doing exactly what it critiqued Labour for.  

While the legislation is being justified by saying that the Coalition campaigned on this and has a mandate, there are bigger issues that you campaigned on that matter more to most New Zealanders that you do have a mandate to act on. Those are commitments to fairness and localism. Those are the values New Zealanders want, not the racism of this bill. There is no amending this bill, it needs to be ditched, and instead, the government needs to put its energy into giving effect to the Tiriti commitment of hapū rangatiratanga for the good of us all.

For more information, read this valuable report recently released by ActionStation.