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Māori Standing Committee Recommends Māori Wards For 2022 Local Elections

Hastings District Council’s Heretaunga Takoto Noa Māori standing committee has today recommended that Council introduces Māori wards.

The recommendation comes after changes to the Local Electoral Act 2001, which give councils a transition period ending on May 21, 2021 to consider or reconsider this matter for the 2022 local government elections.

Heretaunga Takoto Noa Māori standing committee chair Robin Hape said the committee was looking to improve the voice of Māori in Council decision making.

“Introducing Māori wards simply gives Māori the opportunity to choose a representative who has the interests of all Māori in the district, and acknowledging the current Māori leadership at the Council table, the opportunity allows for specific Māori representation,” Mr Hape said.

“While councillors are concerned for the well-being of the whole district, Māori are unfortunately over represented at the wrong end of statistics, so additional Māori solutions will assist Council decision making and help us move further towards equity in outcomes,” he said.

Hastings District Council electoral officer Jackie Evans said that due to the committee’s recommendation, an emergency meeting tomorrow [April 22] was required to seek a decision from Council to commence the public feedback process. This meeting will also be used to call an extraordinary Council meeting on May 18 to decide whether to establish Māori wards by the transition period deadline.

Mrs Evans said that, should the decision be to introduce Māori wards, Council would then have to undertake a representation review to decide the overall number of Councillors, number of wards and ward boundaries including Māori wards. “This representation review is subject to formal community consultation process with the initial proposals publicly notified by September 8, 2021, followed by formal consultation and the hearing of submissions in late October.”

Wards are a way of dividing the district for elections to enable communities of interest to elect representatives. Hastings district is currently divided into five wards including: Flaxmere, Hastings/Havelock North, Heretaunga, Mōhaka and Kahurānaki.

Introducing Māori wards would mean electors on the Māori roll would vote for candidates standing in the Māori wards instead of those standing in the general ward, however all electors may vote for the Mayor. The number of candidates standing in the Māori wards would be proportionate to the Māori electorate population. On the current arrangement of 14 Councillors in the Hastings district, three would be elected from Māori wards.

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