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Council Seeks Community Views On Māori Wards

Council is seeking further community feedback on whether it should introduce Māori Wards for Tairāwhiti in time for the 2022 local election.

Parliament developed the option of Māori Wards as a way to improve the role of Māori in local government processes.

Similar to the Māori Parliamentary seats, Māori Wards establish areas where only those on the Māori electoral roll vote for the candidates.

The introduction of Māori Wards is optional, but the Local Government Act 2002 requires Councils to establish and maintain processes to ensure Māori contribute to local government decision making.

“We started this process in August, and are now extending our consultation period to get a fuller picture of community views on this representation matter,” said James Baty, director of internal partnerships.

“More than 50% of the population in Tairāwhiti identifies as Māori, and that is not currently reflected in the composition of elected members.

“The Local Government Act 2002 recognises the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and to maintain and improve opportunities for Māori to contribute to local government decision-making processes, and this is reinforced by a Human Rights Commission recommendation that the Māori voice be heard and represented in local government.

“Now we want to hear further community views on whether to introduce Māori Wards.”

Council would like community feedback from as many people possible until 13 November, which is the cut-off date. Council will hold public hearings on 19 November if required, where members of the public will have the option to present their views in person.

Council will then hold an extraordinary meeting on 23 November to consider Māori Wards.

“We’re launching a dedicated page on the Council website with more information on Māori wards, along with a video and Q&As,” Mr Baty said.

Planning is under way for a series of public hui as part of the consultation.

“We’ll also have printed information with questionnaires available for the public to return to us so we can gauge your opinions and pass those on to Councillors to help with their decision making.

“This is a hugely important decision for local democracy and I encourage all of our community to take the time to get educated on this matter and provide meaningful feedback to ensure all voices are heard on this crucial matter.”

The website will be live early next week, but in the meantime members of the public can submit their views to feedback@gdc.govt.nz.

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