Case Number: 3522

Council Meeting: 21 June 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact

Ruling Categories: Te Reo and reporting on Te Ao Maori

Stuff published a story on April 20, 2024, headlined ‘Critical and unfair’: Councils speak out about Māori ward plans. The article reported the results of a survey of local authorities about the Government’s proposal to reinstate binding referendums for the creation of Māori wards. It found that 32 of 49 councils it contacted were in favour of the current legislation and reported council frustrations with Government interference in local body business.

Jose Aquino complained the story was one-sided, misleading, and supported the bias and prejudices of the reporter and Stuff. It failed to say that in nine previous referendums ratepayers voted ‘no’ to Māori wards. In his view, Māori were well represented in relation to their population, overrepresented in Parliament and their votes carried more weight. He said if councils were concerned at the cost of the referendums the obvious solution was to not have Māori wards.

Stuff responded that while the story did not delve into the history of Māori ward referendums, it linked to an explainer, published the previous day, which noted 24 councils had tried to create Māori wards under the earlier legislation and only two attempts succeeded.

The article reported councils and mayors voicing frustration with Government interference in local body business.

Stuff said that Mr Aquino’s disagreement and dislike for the views expressed in the article did not make it misleading, one-sided or biased, nor was there evidence to support a claim of bias or prejudice.

The NZ Media Council considered this story to be a straightforward one. It reported the views of councils with supporting comments from a number of mayors including at the outset the only one who favoured the reforms.

The issue of Māori wards has been long running. Many of the arguments for and against have been widely reported and there was no need to repeat them all in this article.

Mr Aquino was entitled to his opinion that Māori were over-represented in Parliament but that was another issue as were the other points he made. There was no evidence that the reporting was inaccurate, unfair or unbalanced. Nor was there evidence to support a claim of bias or prejudice.

Decision: There were no grounds to proceed.


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