Submission: Local Government (Electoral Legislation and Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill

About the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties

  1. The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties (‘the Council’) is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation which advocates to promote human rights and maintain civil liberties.


  1. The Local Government (Electoral Legislation and Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill reverses decisions made by local councils to establish Māori wards for local body elections.  It further creates a time consuming and expensive distraction for those councils to restore those wards, and creates a barrier to adoption of Māori wards by other councils.
  2. The Council opposes this bill as it runs contrary to our constitution and our international obligations.

International Obligations

  1. The Council agrees with section 3.1 of the Department Disclosure Statement:

By ratifying international covenants and conventions on human rights, New Zealand committed to take steps to give effect to the rights contained in those instruments and to the principle of non-regression (to avoid conduct that may weaken existing human rights protections).

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

New Zealand has ratified this Covenant. Article 25 recognises and protects the right of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs and Article 26 enshrines a right of equality before the law. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has previously raised concerns about the representation of Māori in local government and asked New Zealand to take steps to address this. The Māori wards provisions in this Bill could be considered regression in this area.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

New Zealand has ratified this Convention. In New Zealand’s 2021 report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination the report provided the amendments to Māori ward provisions as an example of New Zealand progressing article 5 of this convention. This Bill could be considered regression.

  1. The Council does not reject this bill merely because it is inconsistent with our international obligations. Rather, the Council believes that the stated purpose of the bill is trivial in comparison to the inconsistencies it creates with our commitments.  

Te Tiriti

  1. The Waitangi Tribunal has issued a report on this bill under urgency.  The Council agrees with the Tribunal’s conclusions:

In its report, the Tribunal finds that the Crown has breached the Treaty principle of partnership by prioritising coalition agreement commitments and completely failing to consult with its Treaty partner or any other stakeholders. The Crown has failed to adequately inform itself of its Treaty obligations and has failed to conduct adequate Treaty analysis during the policy development process, in breach of its duties to act reasonably and in good faith. It has inadequately defined the policy problem as restoring the right of the public to make decisions about Māori wards and constituencies, when no other type of ward or constituency requires a poll, in breach of the principle of equity.

In addition, the Tribunal finds that the Crown has failed to actively protect Māori rights and interests by ignoring the desires and actions of Māori for dedicated local representation, and it finds breaches of the principles of mutual benefit and options. Combined, these Treaty breaches operate to cause significant prejudice to Māori.

  1. Again, the Council considers that the intended purpose of the bill is insufficient to justify either breaching Te Tiriti or ignoring a ruling of the Waitangi Tribunal.


  1. The Council has expertise in Parliamentary process and a long history of critiquing the activity of Parliament.
  2. In 2020 the Council criticised the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill and the Covid-19 Response (Fast Track Consenting) Bill for their unreasonably short periods for public submissions.
  3. Recommendations 16 and 17 of the Council’s 2023 submission to the standing orders committee address the duration of submissions to select committee:

Recommendation 16

 The Standing Orders should require a minimum period of 40 days for providing written submissions to a select committee on a bill. 

Recommendation 17 

If legislation is passed under urgency, without the minimum 40 day period for making a submission to a select committee on the bill, a sunset clause must be inserted into the bill prior to its third reading requiring that the legislation expire no later than 100 days after commencement. Immediately upon royal assent a 40 day period for making submissions on the legislation to the select committee that will consider a re-introduced bill. Third reading of the re introduced bill will take place between 70 and 99 days after the urgently enacted law has commenced. 

  1. Unlike the Covid legislation, there is no case for urgency being made for this bill, nor any case to make. The short consultation period for this bill brings parliament into disrepute.
  2. The Council thanks members of the Committee for their time and consideration of our submission.