Rawiri Waititi slams National's 'archaic' pledge to overturn Māori ward legislation

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi has called out National's pledge to overturn the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill, which passed its final reading this week. 

"It's archaic. Their line of thinking is archaic. Some of the speeches I heard [opposing the Bill] would be a speech I would have heard in the 1960s. The country has moved on," he told Newshub Nation. 

He made the comments on the programme's 'Pitch' segment, where MPs are given five minutes to sell voters on their ideas.  

"There is a new Aotearoa on the rise and it doesn't look like that and it doesn't sound like that. Doesn't look like National and it doesn't look like National," he said. 

The Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill was passed under urgency earlier this week, supported by the Green Party and Māori Party while opposed by National and ACT. The new law means petitions backed by at least 5 percent of local voters can no longer overturn a councils' decision to introduce Māori wards. 

The reform was considered under urgency to ensure it was in place for next year's local elections.

Māori wards establish areas where those on the Māori electoral roll vote for candidates standing in that area - similar to the seven Māori electorates which Māori can choose to enrol in for the general election, but for local office. 

If Māori wards are established, people on the Māori electoral roll will vote for candidates in Māori wards, while those on the general electoral roll will vote for candidates in the general wards.

National Leader Judith Collins labelled the process "shoddy" and pledged to overturn the wards should National return to power in 2023 

"Electoral law reform should not be rushed through Parliament under urgency like this. Jacinda Ardern and Labour did not campaign on this issue at the last election and have not adequately consulted with New Zealanders."

ACT Leader David Seymour went even further, comparing the law to racially divided South Africa before the 1990s.

"Labour's Māori wards legislation is better described as the Apartheid Bill. The basic assumption underpinning it is that our country has two categories of people with different legal rights." 

Three councils already have Māori wards in place and another nine councils have already decided to have them in place for election 2022.

The deadline for councils to consider Māori wards has now been extended to May 21, 2021.