Mahuta says government will consider legislating Māori Council seats

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

The Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta says the government will consider legislating Māori seats on councils in the future. This follows the latest resolution by the Whakatāne District Council to establish one or more Māori Wards.

Whakatāne District Councils decision to support Māori Wards may one day become law for all councils.

“At the moment we are looking Council with Māori seats such Waikato's Regional Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Te Wairoa and now Whakatāne,” said Mahuta. “From this, we are able to ascertain the benefits.”

Yesterday the District Council's elected members voted six to five in favour of the introduction of one or more Māori wards, which was well received by residents.

And thrilling for Te Tohu o Te Ora o Ngāti Awa elder, Joseph Pryor.

“We have people living in this area from Ngāti Rangithi, Murupara of Ngāti Manawa, from the Valley of Ruātoki, " said Pryor. "And then there's us. So it's how we select spokespeople for us on the Council."

The next step is electors will be given the opportunity to petition a binding referendum on whether the proposal should go ahead. Pryor says if this happens, Māori need to support it and vote.

“We all need to vote so we that we can cement our position on the Council,” said Pryor.

“Following our assessment of the model Council who already have Māori constituencies, we can then consider whether to legislate this or strongly advise other Councils to follow suit,” said Mahuta.

The Council will issue a public notice of the right of electors to demand a poll on the matter by the 30th of this month.