A man running a campaign against Māori wards in Palmerston North has compared the fight for their establishment to Nazi Germany.
Don Esslemont collected around 4000 signatures for a petition he presented to Palmerston North City council, forcing a citizen's initiated referendum on the wards.
He told Maori Television’s Native Affairs, “If people advocate treating people differently because of their race, that is racist. And that is what the Nazis did”
Last October the Palmerston North City Council voted to have Māori wards in the next local body elections in 2019. Esslemont's petition will now see a referendum on the issue on Saturday 19th of May.
Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith is disappointed they will be going to the polls.
“We co-govern the Manawatu river, reserves. It was just natural to have that conversation around the council table. I know there were some fears that we were giving something away but really one or two seats at a table of sixteen, I would just call it being part of the conversation".
Esslemont is backed by Hobson's Pledge, a group led by former politician, Don Brash.
Kaikoura, Manawatu, Whakatane and Western Bay of Plenty councils will also hold referendums on Māori wards in May.