Iwi pushes for separate Maori seats

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Riki WineeraPorirua may create separate Maori seats for its council after Ngati Toa made a push for them to be established.

The iwi decided at a hui this month to ask for specific representation on the next Porirua City Council, Te Runanga o Toa Rangatira chairman Riki Wineera said in a letter to Mayor Nick Leggett.

“Past discussions have not been supportive of a Maori seat, however, the outcome of the hui found in favour of the establishment of Maori ward seats in Porirua City,” Mr Wineera wrote.

The council will decide at an extraordinary meeting tonight to either:

  • Divide the city into one or more Maori wards.
  • Hold a poll on whether Maori wards should be created.
  • Reject the idea of Maori wards.

If the council decides to create or reject Maori wards, the public can demand a poll to reverse the decision.

Five per cent of electors or 1776 signatures would need to be collected by February 28 to hold a poll, which would cost the council between $85,000 and $90,000.

Mr Leggett wrote to Mr Wineera for guidance on the iwi’s level of support for establishing specific Maori representation.

The hui was held on November 7.

Mr Leggett said the most likely outcome is for the council to go out and ask the Porirua public for its opinions through a formal consultation process.

“Ngati Toa have said they are open to the idea. I think the mood is we go out and ask they city what it wants to happen.”

Mr Leggett rejected the idea that a Maori seat or seats on the council was in any way a racist proposition.

“I support the concept that tangata whenua are guaranteed representation where they would otherwise find it hard to achieve.

“But having said that, in Porirua about 20 per cent of our population is Maori. We’ve got three out of 14 on our council who are Maori. That’s around about where the population of the city sits.”

Maori wards give separate representation to Maori, and work in the same way as Maori seats in Parliament.

They are based on Maori electoral population rather than geographic communities and only electors on the Maori electoral roll can vote in an election for a Maori ward.

Under current electoral population statistics for Porirua, two councillors would be elected by voters on the Maori roll and 11 would be elected by voters on the general roll.

Nelson City Council agreed this month to create a Maori ward in time for the next local body elections in 2013 and means one of the 12 councillors will be elected by Maori voters.

It is the third local authority in New Zealand and the first in the South island to set up a Maori ward.

A petition has been launched in an attempt to force the council to hold a poll on establishing a Maori ward, though there is no legal obligation to consult publicly on the matter.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has four Maori ward seats and the Waikato Regional Council has just decided to instigate two Maori ward seats in time for the next election.

Councils are required to review their governance structure every six years to ensure fair and effective representation for individuals and communities.

Councils have to give notice of their decision on Maori wards by the end of the month.

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