Whakatane Mayor pushes for Māori seats

By Taroi Black

Whakatāne mayor, Tony Bonne says it's unfair that Māori seats are determined by a general vote in local government. Submissions have already been sent out to local iwi in regards to establishing three new seats on the Whakatāne District Council.

Former Whakatāne District Councillor Pouroto Ngāropo says having three new Māori seats on the council table will create change for Whakatāne.

Pouroto Ngāropo says, “Now it’s up to our people to make a decision. If we want our language and have Māori representation at the forefront of the Whakatāne District Council than this is it.”

The Council's Policy Committee has asked for feedback from Iwi, Hapū and the community. This could involve the establishment of Māori Wards.

Whakatāne District Council Mayor, Tony Bonne says, “Well the biggest benefit will be having the Māori perspective put to our council decisions and I think that's the most important one.”

The Local Government Act provides for a potential, binding poll of electors if 5% of electors demanded that a poll is held. This process was followed four years ago and Māori seats were determined by a general vote.

“Our Māori seats weren't successful in the end, most of the feedback came from Pākēhā not wanting to help establish Māori seats. That is why we have yet to see a change”, Mr Ngaropo said.

Whakatāne District Council Mayor, Tony Bonne also believes the system is unfair.

“The legislation is made by central government and we cannot change that. I think that will be a fairer way but I think the fairest way in my opinion and I've taken it up with the previous government and we don't know who the government is going to be now Māori seats should be part of legislation”, Mr Bonne said.

Feedback from local iwi, hapū and the community is due by the end of the month.