Extra Māori seat gained for Far North District Council

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Greater Māori representation should be on the cards for local councils, as more council seats elected by voters on the Māori roll are approved.

The Local Government Commission has accepted proposals for 52 dedicated Māori seats across 27 district and regional councils, as part of its six-yearly review of the representation of populations.

The Far North District Council will see 10 councillors instead of nine, with 40% of them to be chosen by Māori Roll voters. Speaking on Te Ao Tapatahi today, councillor Kelly Stratford (Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Te Rangi) says she agrees that it was high enough representation before the changes.

“But whilst they proportionately reflect the number of Māori in our district at present, we didn’t want to leave that to chance.”

The extra seat, Stratford says, may mean the council can make better decisions “for our more densely Māori population in the Far North, around the environment” and “infrastructure”.

“We’ve made the news a number of times for bad decisions and hopefully going forward in the new triennial term we will make the news for more good things when dealing with Māori.”

In regards to having specific Māori seats in council making a difference, Stratford says it’s an opportunity “to stand up and be counted and to make sure the right people are there with the right skills to voice on your behalf”.

Stratford definitively says that more levels of representation within local politics, however, are not considered a replacement for engagement with mana whenua, iwi and hapū.

“There needs to be more building up of te ao Māori, understanding matauranga and tikanga – all of that needs to happen in all councils across all silos.

“In our council, in particular, we’ve done a lot of work. There’s still always a lot to do, engagement with hapū and iwi is always challenging but it’s not impossible."