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A report by legal counsel Michael Morris recommended Waihopai Runaka and Te Runanga o Awarua to each have one representative with voting rights on the performance, policy and partnerships committee and infrastructural services committee.
Waihopai Runaka have mana whenua status for, broadly speaking, the Invercargill city area and Te Runanga o Awarua the Awarua area, including Bluff.
The document also suggests the offer of an advisory role to the Bluff Community Board for Te Runanga o Awarua — all the roles would come into effect in September.
The report by Mr Morris follows a decision from councillors in May to not create a Maori ward within the council.
It came after the enactment of the Local Electoral (Maori Wards and Maori Constituencies) Amendment Act 2021, which gave councils the chance to consider whether to create Maori wards for their districts in time for next year’s local government elections.
At the time, council decided to explore other options, however Mr Morris said the feedback from the community was broadly supportive of having a greater Maori voice on the council.
‘‘It is important to reflect that each runaka are distinct entities and having the two roles will allow for each runaka to advocate and vote on matters that are important to them.’’
Mr Morris said after the decision, council would need to work with mana whenua and engage with maata waka groups on the mechanics of these roles.
This approach would honour the council’s obligations to the Treaty of Waitangi by ensuring Maori are present in all decisions it makes, the report says.
Waihopai Runaka kaumatua Michael Skerret previously told the Otago Daily Times that Maori sitting on council was not about ‘‘only ticking a box’’
‘‘We need at least two positions, just for a start,’’ he said.
If councillors decided to follow Mr Morris’ recommendation, a further report would be prepared detailing the changes to the governance documents, and an update of engagement with maata waka.