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Perhaps the most picturesque polling booth in New Zealand, the Te Runanga o Otakou building on...
Photo: ODT files.
The best ways of partnering with Maori and whether councillors should be elected from separate areas will be part of a Dunedin City Council review next year.

The review of the ways voters are represented will be carried out by an independent panel.

As well as consideration of whether there should be a specific ward for Maori representation and whether the council should stick with electing each councillor from votes throughout the city, and community boards will be debated.

The council’s most recent review was in 2015 — when electing councillors from separate areas was replaced by city-wide voting — and the next review has to happen in 2021.

It will affect what the 2022 and 2025 elections will look like.

The independent panel’s recommendations will be debated by councillors next year and a final proposal can be appealed by members of the public to the Local Government Commission.

Debate about Maori wards has sometimes resulted in acrimony.

Cr Marie Laufiso said she admired the stance of former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, whose one term was notable for backing Maori wards in 2014 and the public backlash that followed.

The decision of Mr Judd’s council to establish a separate Maori ward was overturned after a petition resulted in a referendum that delivered an emphatic verdict against the council.

Maori representation is treated differently under the law than other representation matters but Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has said changing this is a priority.

Ms Mahuta said this ‘‘anomaly’’ had held back widespread Maori representation.

The timetable for changing the law is not yet known but it could mean that, if the Dunedin council favoured a separate Maori ward, a referendum could not be used to overturn that.

In the South, Ngai Tahu has been cautious about advocating Maori wards.

Maori have sometimes preferred other ways of partnering with local government, such as involvement in committees.

Dunedin City Council’s Maori Participation Working Party was established in 2005 as an informal advisory group to foster Maori participation.

Former Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull said the law applying to Maori wards was discriminatory.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said changing it was overdue.

Both suggested, however, that this did not necessarily mean a separate Maori ward was the best way forward for Dunedin.

Otakou senior leader Edward Ellison said referendums in other parts of New Zealand had not been constructive.

Cr Sophie Barker said city-wide voting had appeared to contribute to increased diversity around the council table.

The council needed to have a strategy for how it would work in partnership with Maori, she said.

Cr Doug Hall said he did not favour a separate Maori ward.

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

 

Comments

A big no from me in raced based, unelected "appointments" to a ratepayers trough.
"Edward Ellison said referendums in other parts of New Zealand had not been constructive." Ie. Not constructive because it's not the outcome you wanted?
Democracy has spoken. Live with it, like I have to live with a Labour govt for another 3 years, I don't like it, but the people have spoken

Remove STV, it's more important for local democracy

No more racist policies please. The Maori partnership we hear of daily is not really a partnership, is it? How many marriages would last if that partnership was as one-sided as the NZ/Maori partnership? Not many, if any.

 

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