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Maori participation in Local Government

10 October 2005

Waitakere City Council to investigate best ways for Maori participation in Local Government

Waitakere City Council looks set to reject establishing a Maori Ward for the 2007 elections but it has committed itself to establishing a robust process for investigating better Mäori participation in the democratic process.

That was the outcome of today's meeting of the Council's Financial and Operational Performance Committee, which was asked to consider a range of recommendations associated with Maori representation.

Because most councillors were present at the meeting, the recommendation almost certainly reflects the way the full Council will vote when it discusses the issue.

Whether or not to establish a Maori Ward is one of a number of issues that the Council must deal with as part of a comprehensive review of the city's electoral system. Other issues include whether or not to keep any wards, and if so how many and whether to stay with the First Past The Post voting system or to go to the Single Transferable Vote system (STV) used for electing health boards.

The Council rejected STV at its last meeting.

"There was a range of opinion at today's meeting. Some Councillors may be opposed outright to the principle of Maori Wards but I think the majority might want to see more Maori participating in the democratic process. They just don't necessarily believe that we have enough information at this time, to make that decision," says Councillor Janet Clews, the committee chair.

"The possibility of losing Te Taumata Runanga, for example, is a very serious one. It is a standing committee representing a wide range of Maori opinion and it conducts its business in public. If we had to choose between that and a single Maori Ward representative who had to privately canvass Maori opinion, raises the question of which would serve Maori best?"

"I don't have the answer to that. I think we'd also be interested in hearing Maori opinion now that the Maori Party has achieved independent success in the national elections. In short, we feel that this is far too important a topic to rush at and with a couple of exceptions the Councillors were more comfortable with taking more time and getting it right," says Councillor Clews.

'Nevertheless, and I want to stress this, this was not a fob off. It was quite clear that the Councillors are determined to have a pretty thorough investigation, starting in the near future so that we have a clear understanding the next time the issue is raised," she says.


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