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‘Undermining democracy’

Flyer opposing Maori wards dishonest: Wharehinga

HOT-PINK FLYERS calling for Gisborne residents to trigger a vote on Maori wards have been “framed dishonestly”, deputy mayor Josh Wharehinga says.

Flyers sponsored by lobby group Hobson's Pledge have been dropped in letterboxes around Gisborne and claim to give citizens the opportunity to “support the democratic process”.

But Mr Wharehinga said that was “rubbish” and the push by Hobson's Pledge undermined Gisborne's local democratic process.

“The return mail address isn't even a local one,” he said.

“It's distinctly undemocratic because we've been through a democratic process where an overwhelming majority of our community gave us feedback that they support the establishment of Maori wards.

“The decision was made by the democratically-elected councillors of the Gisborne district unanimously.

“So it's actually framed dishonestly.

“Even if you disagree with Maori wards, you can't deny that we followed the democratic process.”

Mr Wharehinga posted a video on social media saying, “Do the right thing, don't sign it.”

He also believed the flyers could mislead community members into thinking this was an opportunity for them to show their support for Maori wards.

“If you don't know better, you could read that and go ‘yeah I want to have a democratic say, I want to say yes'.”

But that was not the “intent” of this flyer, Mr Wharehinga said.

Hobson's Pledge is known for an “anti-separatism” campaign launched in 2016, and led by former National Party leader Don Brash, against alleged “Maori favouritism”.

Mr Wharehinga called the group “outside influences trying to mess with our democracy”.

On November 23, Gisborne District councillors voted unanimously in favour of establishing Maori wards for the 2022 and 2025 elections.

While 53 percent of Tairawhiti's population identify as Maori, compared to 17 percent nationally, this is not reflected in the composition of the council. Four of the 14 elected representatives are Maori.

Following a representation arrangements review, if 13 councillors and the mayor were to remain, five councillors would be elected from one or more Maori wards and eight would be elected from general wards.

Clive Bibby, who has signed the petition but was not involved in circulating flyers, said there was “no secret” about what they wanted to achieve.

“We want to get this decision by the council overturned and we are using our democratic rights, which may not last for that long if the Government has its way, to follow the process,” he said.

Mr Bibby was concerned about the lack of information around the structure of an electoral system which included Maori wards, and wanted questions answered about the future of rural wards and the number of Maori wards.

If 1625 signatures are collected by February 21, councillors' vote in favour of Maori wards would be overturned triggering a binding poll.

The binding poll provision has been called “discriminatory” by East Coast MP Kiri Allan, while Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta has vowed to change the legislation to remove the polling requirement.

Three of New Zealand's 78 local authorities have Maori wards — Wairoa District Council and Bay of Plenty and Waikato regional councils — despite legally being able to do so since 2002.

Eight of New Zealand's last nine citizen-initiated polls have overturned these council decisions.

Flyer calling for residents to sign a petition against Maori wards.
UNDERMINING: Gisborne's deputy mayor Josh Wharehinga says flyers circulating in the community about Maori wards are undermining the democratic process. Picture by Paul Rickard

  1. Kerry Haraki says:

    These polls only apply to Maori wards. How racist is that? In Taika’s words: “raf”.

    1. Ken Ovenden says:

      To Kerry Haraki, Maori wards are for one race only and yet we are all New Zealanders. How racist is that.

      1. Colleen Spiro, Tauranga says:

        Maori wards are for Maori only and yet you bitch and moan about the other 9 10 or 11 you have for Pakeha . . . hypocrite

        1. Ken Ovenden says:

          Hi Colleen,
          I note your adress as Tauranga yet you find it okay to poke your nose into another district’s politics – now, that really is bitching and moaning ,so just who is the hypocrite? The current wards in Gizzy are for people of “any race” to stand and be elected to council, as shown by the current mix of councillors. My stand is for unity as one people, not apartheid/race-based systems.

  2. P Millar says:

    It is somewhat ironic that the deputy mayor talks about  undermining the “Gisborne democratic process” and “framed dishonestly”.
    The council decision to block my emails to councillors was overturned recently by the Ombudsman. Blocking emails to councillors was previously described this way by the Victoria University senior lecturer in law: “I’m constitutionally outraged – it’s not overstating it, it’s a real concern . . . it undermines democracy”. Was I “framed dishonestly”? All the while the GDC director of internal partnerships remains stoically tight-lipped about answering the questions I posed in this forum back in October. That would expose all.
    What of the Endeavour saga? Was that process not overwhelmingly in favour of reinstallation?? What of the “Gisborne democratic process” there?? Or, is this inside influences messing with our democracy?
    So just what is Gisborne’s local democratic process??

  3. Polly Thatcher says:

    Well Clive Bibby, I am also concerned about the lack of information regarding land ownership here in Uawa by the Pākeha farmers. The history that I have informs me that the original landowners here were predominantly Māori. So my message to you is that your comments portray covert racism.
    I too want questions answered regarding my concerns as to the future of rural wards and the number of Pākeha wards, due to the fact that in 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed between two cultures, Māori and Tauiwi (Pākeha). I invite you to read the Māori Article that was signed by my Tūpuna.

  4. J Stringfellow says:

    Mmm, Josh, let me just change two words in your short paragraph – “We’ve been through a democratic process where an overwhelming majority of our community gave us feedback that they support the establishment of Endeavour models.”
    So please don’t start spouting about “doing the right thing” or start accusing other groups of people as “messing with our democracy”. You and the rest of the council need to look in the mirror first and face the decisions you made against the majority of this community.

  5. Kevin Thompson says:

    I would like to thank Josh for providing the figures to make nonsense of his claims. If Maori make up 53 percent of Gisborne’s population then undoubtedly they have the opportunity to elect sufficient Maori representatives without being given separate and race-based representation. He also claims that the council followed a democratic process but it does not automatically follow that their decision represents the wishes of the majority of their constituents, as has been proven by many communities where the decision has been overturned. He also rubbishes the Hobson’s Pledge movement for promoting “Anti-Separatism” which is an element of our movement toward unity. Further, he points out that the flyers have an out-of-town return address – so what? He uses the word “democratic” eight times in the article but then goes on to persuade people to bypass the democratic process we are entitled to, and just trust the councillors. I am afraid not Josh, I don’t trust you or your fellow conspirators to do anything but support your own hidden agendas. If Josh has nothing to worry about then he should welcome a “democratic” vote.

  6. Clare Robinson says:

    As Kerry Haraki says, the right to object only applies to Maori wards. Not changing electoral boundaries or the number of designated rural seats . . . and yes, obviously racist. A local petition is being organised supporting the GDC intention to form Maori wards and will be available to sign at the Farmers’ Market this Saturday.