Christchurch Convention Centre, Monday 23 August 2010
Public discussion about Maori representation in local government has been re-ignited by the government decision not to adopt the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance for dedicated Maori seats on the new Auckland Council.
The Human Rights Commission, in its annual review of race relations, identified Maori representation in local government and an effective voice for Maori in the decisions of the new Auckland Council as being among the top ten race relations priorities for 2010. Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said that unless positive steps were taken, Maori representation in local government would continue to languish well below the proportion of Maori in the population. He said the decision not to provide for Maori seats on the new Auckland Council was a missed opportunity.
The Royal Commission considered the precedent of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Environment Bay of Plenty), which has had direct Maori representation since 2004 on the same basis as the Maori seats in Parliament. The evidence of the council to the Royal Commission was that the system worked well.
Under the Local Electoral Act 2001 all councils have the option of establishing Maori constituencies or wards on the same basis as Environment Bay of Plenty, but none have taken it up. The Act does not provide for Maori themselves to determine whether they wish to be represented as Maori.
The Human Rights Commission issued a draft discussion paper on the subject in May, including the history and operation of of Maori constituencies in the Bay of Plenty, the Local Elctoral Act 2001,the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Auckland Governance, and the the decisions of the government.
The paper proposed for further discussion that:
- the incoming Auckland City Council resolve to establish Maori constituencies pursuant to Section 19Z of the Local Electoral Act 2001
- territorial local authorities in the Bay of Plenty region (the Tauranga City Council, the Rotorua District Council, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, the Whakatane District Council, the Kawerau District Council and the Opotiki District Council) resolve to establish Maori wards pursuant to Section 19Z of the Local Electoral Act 2001 subject to consultation with mana whenua and taura here in their electoral district
- other regional councils and territorial local authorities consider establishing Maori constituencies or wards by resolution pursuant to Section19Z of the Local Electoral Act 2001 subject to consultation with mana whenua and taura here in their electoral district
- the Local Electoral Act 2001 be amended to provide for Maori to initiate a binding poll of voters on the Maori Electoral Roll to determine the establishment of Maori constituencies or wards
- the best means of providing for a specific mana whenua voice in local government decision-making be further explored, including in the context of treaty settlement negotiations.
At this forum, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres will present a final paper on the subject, following feedback on the draft discussion paper. There will be a panel of other speakers to discuss the paper and its recommendations for the establishment Maori wards and constituencies in Auckland, the Bay of Plenty and elsewhere.