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Regional Council to consider Maori representation

News from Local Democracy Reporting
The Greater Wellington Regional Council is to discuss introducing a Māori seat at its top table for its 2022 election. The board of the authority, which manages environmental protection across Wairarapa, Hutt Valley, Kapiti Coast, Porirua, and the capital, will consider representation of a Maori constituency in its September meeting.

The news comes one week after the South Wairarapa District Council voted to maintain the status quo on its electoral structures. Changes put to the councillors included the option of a Maori ward.

The Regional Council last considered the matter in 2017 and, as an outcome, the status quo was retained.

For the September meeting, the council’s Ara Tahi Māori advisory body will provide councillors with a recommendation to consider on the constituency. Ara Tahi includes two representatives from each of the six iwi in the region, including Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Rangitane o Wairarapa. Adrienne Staples, Wairarapa’s regional council member and its Deputy Chair and Chair Daran Ponter are the council’s representatives.

Staples said the council committed to working closely with the iwi through Ara Tahi after its 2017 discussion. “We are working with iwi for a model that suits their needs, rather than us telling them what the council wants. We’re working on a strengthened model for Ara Tahi, based on iwi needs. We are committed to working with iwi in a partnership model.”

Across New Zealand, three authorities – Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council, and Wairoa District Council – have specific tangata whenua representation on their boards.

In New Plymouth, where a debate has been held for several years on representation, the district council voted this week to introduce a Maori ward for its 2022 elections. This came after a campaign by local iwi and Andrew Judd, the Taranaki town’s Wairarapa-born former Mayor. Judd stood down in 2016 after a plebiscite reversed an earlier vote to install the ward.

Local government legislation allows regional councils to consider establishing a Maori constituency, through a resolution. The region’s councillors will debate the matter at their September 24 meeting.

If they choose to proceed with the recommendation, a public notice will be published by October 1. If at least five per cent of the electorate requests a poll – as happened in New Plymouth in 2015 – the council must hold a vote to confirm, ahead of the scheduled elections.

If a local authority wants to consider the matter, legislation says a decision must be made by November 23 this year.

A poll may be held at any time, but for the outcome of the poll to take effect at the next triennial election, it must be completed by May 21, 2021.

Timeline for change
What would happen if GWRC chooses to recommend a Maori constituency?

2020:
September 24: Council consideration of establishing a Maori constituency. Council can resolve to: establish or hold a poll, or maintain the status quo [not make a decision].
October 1: the last day a public notice can be published, if Council has decided to establish a Māori constituency [must be no later than seven days from the meeting].
November 23: The latest day, according to legislation, a local authority can make changes to the electoral structure for the 2022 elections.

2021:
February 21: Latest date council can resolve to hold a poll for effect at the 2022 elections.
May 21: Latest date a local authority can hold a poll of electors on establishing a Māori constituency for effect at the 2022 elections.

2022:
July/August: Nominations open; campaigning begins.
September: Postal vote begins
October 8: Next scheduled election day. Interim results announced.