Regional council votes yes to Māori seats

21 Oct 2020, 8:40 AM

Northland Regional Councillors are keen to see Māori guaranteed a voice around the council table from the next local body elections in 2022 through the establishment of dedicated Māori constituencies and seats on council.

Councillors agreed to formally introduce Māori representation at their monthly meeting in Whangarei Tuesday, 20 October.

Council Chair Penny Smart says while support for the move was not unanimous – seven of the eight councillors present ultimately voting ‘yes’ and one ‘no’ – a majority were of the view that it was “both appropriate and necessary”.

“Saying ‘yes’ to dedicated Māori representation at the ultimate decision-making table is in my opinion a great step forward for Te Taitokerau.”

The ‘yes’ vote is greeted with a waiata from the public gallery.The ‘yes’ vote is greeted with a waiata from the public gallery.Chair Smart says Northland has a significant Māori population and guaranteed Māori seats on council are seen as an important expression of council’s commitment to tāngata whenua.

“It will ensure council is reflective of the communities it serves and also reflect the desire to improve the future growth and development of Te Taitokerau as encapsulated in council’s vision statement ‘Ko tatou o Te Taitokerau – Ka whai hua tātou” | Northland, together we thrive’.

The council’s intended move would bring it into line with the approach being taken by central government and an increasing number of councils around New Zealand.

Chair Smart says setting up Māori constituencies would also require a review of the council’s overall representation arrangements, which covers the number of councillors overall, existing constituency names and boundaries.

She says following the last local body elections, the incoming council had indicated that it wanted to re-visit the issue of Māori representation/constituencies.

The council had subsequently held six workshops earlier this year and invited guest speakers to better understand the full range of views in relation to the establishment of Māori representation, both within a local government and Northland context. In addition, council had also sought advice from Te Taitokerau Maori and Council Working Party.

The majority of feedback received during the investigation process had supported the establishment of Māori seats as a significant and positive step forward for council and Māori that will ultimately improve the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being of all Northland and for all Northlanders.

“This change will strengthen the existing Māori / council partnership and support and enable council to better reflect Māori values, issues, priorities and aspirations as they relate to council roles and functions.”

Chair Smart says legally the council must advertise its intention to create the new Māori constituencies by the end of next month and advise the right of five percent of electors to demand a poll on the issue.

If a poll was not sought, the council would then develop an Initial Representation Proposal setting out the proposed new constituencies, names and boundaries by 31 August 2021. This would be followed by a period of formal consultation, including the opportunity for public submissions.

A final determination would then be made by the Local Government Commission by early April in 2022 which would then apply to both the October 2022 and 2025 Northland Regional Council elections.

Councillors cast their votes in favour of establishing dedicated Maori constituencies at the meeting held Tuesday, 20 October.

Councillors cast their votes in favour of establishing dedicated Maori constituencies at the meeting held Tuesday, 20 October.