1800 sign for referendum

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VERIFIED: Petition organisers Colin Holmes and David Dowd.

Petition calling for referendum on Maori wards given to Whakatane council

WITH more than 1800 signatures, a petition requesting a referendum on whether Maori wards should be established in the Whakatane district was making its way to Auckland last night so the information could be verified.

David Dowd and Colin Holmes presented the petition to Whakatane District Council yesterday at 2pm.

The men are part of a group of residents who launched the petition on a website, following a decision by the council last year to pass a resolution to establish one or more Maori words in time for the next local government elections.

Section 19ZB of the Local Electoral Act 2001 provides that if more than 5 percent of the electors enrolled as eligible to vote at the previous local body election sign a petition demanding a binding poll on the issue, then it must be held.

To invoke a referendum on the issue of Maori wards, the petition had to receive at least 1161 valid signatures. It has been forecast a referendum could cost $40,000.

Mr Dowd said more than 1800 people had signed the petition, but it would need the information to be verified by an electoral officer in Auckland.

“It’s been done, and we are going to move on to the next phase of the process. We need to have the work put in verified by the electoral officer, who does his thing in Auckland.

Mr Dowd said there could be a variation of up to 21 percent because of the large number of people who had moved into the district or those who had relocated within the area since the latest electoral roll was produced.

However, he was confident they would hit the target of at least 1161 valid signatures.

“We are one of five local government areas going through this process and we know that three of the five are going to reach their target before the date.”

Mr Dowd said a similar petition in the western Bay of Plenty hit more than double the required amount with one in Manawatu destined to attract enough signatures too.

But he said while they were confident they would secure enough signatures to demand a referendum, he encouraged all those who wanted to send their forms in to do so because the names of all those who supported the petition would be recorded.

The next step in the process, if the petition is verified, is the public notification of the referendum on March 28. Voting papers will be sent on April 27. Poll day is likely to be May 19, with voting to close at midday, and a result to be announced by May 21.

Mr Dowd said he would prefer if the referendum was held at the same time as the next election in 2019.

“The objective of leaving it till later is to save a bunch of dollars, something like $40,000.”

karla.akuhata@whakatanebeacon.co.nz

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