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Maori wards not an option before 2019

Monday 11 May 2015

Maori wards not an option before 2019

The question of whether or not Rotorua Lakes Council should have Maori wards has resurfaced in recent days. One local group is now suggesting it as an alternative to the council’s current Te Arawa Partnership Model proposal which the council has been publicly consulting on over the last two months. The council is expected to make a decision on that proposal at a meeting on 26 May.

However Rotorua Lakes Council debated the issue of Maori wards in November last year and resolved not to introduce Maori wards for the 2016 and 2019 elections.

At that time, the council also publicised the opportunity for a minimum of five per cent of registered voters to demand a binding referendum on the matter, which could potentially have reversed that decision. However the date for a poll to take place in time for any change at the next local government elections in 2016, has now long since passed.

If the council was to reconsider the matter and decided to introduce a Maori ward for Rotorua, the earliest it could come into effect would now be for the 2019 council elections. That decision would need to be made by November 2017.

However, as the 2019 election is nearly five years away, the council would still need to identify a way to meet its legislative obligations to develop a mechanism for Maori participation in council-making processes for the intervening years.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she supported the council’s decision about Maori wards, made in November last year on a unanimous vote.

“Under legislation the status quo is now locked in until at least the 2019 elections.

“However, if this matter was revisited for 2019, the council would still need to develop a mechanism for the next five years in order to fulfil our commitment to a stronger new partnership with Te Arawa.”

A working party comprising three councillors and three community members is currently reviewing other council representation arrangements ahead of the 2016 elections and will make its recommendations to the council later in the year. The issues under consideration include how many councillors should be on the council, whether they should be elected in wards or ‘at large,’ and whether there should be community boards.

However the question of Maori wards is not part of that review as the matter was already discussed and resolved by the council last November, as required by the Local Government Act.


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