Taranaki Regional Council is to seek the community’s views on creating a Māori constituency for the 2022 local authority elections.
At today’s full Council meeting councillors voted to consult on the issue, with their preferred option being to introduce a Māori constituency in time for next year’s elections.
Submissions will open on March 1, with a decision to be made following a hearing on April 6.
In August 2020 the Council decided not to introduce a Māori constituency for the 2022 local elections, resolving to instead undertake public consultation ahead of the 2025 elections.
Council chairman David MacLeod says recent significant Government policy changes around Māori constituencies had been the catalyst for the Council to revisit that decision.
The Government’s Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Constituencies) Amendment Bill is expected to be enacted by the end of this month.
It addresses some of the concerns councillors previously held, in particular removing the provision for a binding ratepayer poll to challenge a council’s decision to introduce a Māori constituency. This had the potential to expose the Council to a heavy financial cost.
It also extends the deadline for councils to introduce Māori wards or constituencies to May 21, 2021, giving them a fresh opportunity to make changes to Māori representation before 2022.
Mr MacLeod says it’s crucial Māori perspectives are fairly represented and understood at the Council decision-making table, alongside those of the wider community.
The creation of a Māori constituency could be a meaningful step towards this, providing a clear democratic mandate for a Māori constituency councillor to represent and advocate for Māori views.
If the Council decides to create a Maori constituency following consultation, a representation review would be held to decide the number of constituencies, their boundaries and the number of councillors in each.
The three iwi representatives on each of the Council’s two key standing committees are mandated by Treaty settlement legislation and would be unaffected.
Mr MacLeod says no final decision has yet been made and the Council will consider all feedback with open minds.
“We know there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue - and we want to hear them. This is your opportunity to have your voice heard, so I encourage people to make a submission.”
Make a submission
More details and submission forms will be available at www.trc.govt.nz(external link) from Monday or call 0800 736 222 to request a paper version.
1 March 2021: Submissions open.
19 March 2021: Submissions close.
6 April 2021: Submitters heard by the Council, decision made.
21 May 2021: Deadline to make a decision in time for the 2022 elections.