21 May 2021 was the deadline for councils to establish Māori wards in time for the next local body elections in 2022. Ahead of this date, at least 35 of the 78 councils in New Zealand including Wellington City Council moved to implement Māori wards.

What are Māori Wards?

In local government elections, Māori Wards establish areas where only those on the Māori electoral roll vote for candidates in that Ward. Māori Wards sit alongside General Wards and cover the entire district.

Electors on the Māori electoral roll vote only for candidates standing for Māori Wards, while electors on the General roll vote only for candidates standing for General Wards.

Candidates standing for Māori Wards do not have to be of Māori descent, but they cannot stand for General Wards and Māori Wards at the same time. Elected members from both General and Māori Wards represent the entire community.

How are Māori wards established?

Councils can decide whether or not they want to establish Māori Wards. Many councils have already implemented Māori Wards for the 2022 local government elections. Some councils have elected to go through a longer consultation process and make a decision in time for the 2025 elections.

Changes to the Local Electoral Act in February 2021 mean that Māori wards can no longer be established other than by Councils resolving to have them. This also means that the decision to have Māori wards can no longer be vetoed by the public.