Marae-style rules on decision making could be introduced into Tauranga City Council committees with joint Maori representation.
The possible move follows conflict within the council's wastewater management review committee and repeated attempts by Maori organisations to access the committee's environmental enhancement fund.
The committee chairman, Councillor Murray Guy, told the Bay of Plenty Times the big picture was for the council and tangata whenua to develop meeting protocols that were not necessarily the traditional model.
"Once we agreed to our own unique set of Standing Orders, a lot of these issues would disappear," he said.
Asked if he was talking about the consensus approach used by Maori to arrive at decisions, Cr Guy said it was something the council could learn from.
The issue emerged yesterday when one Maori member sought an urgent review of issues that went to the heart of how the committee functioned and the $250,000 environmental fund.
The sting was taken out of the debate when Matire Duncan, representing Papamoa hapu Nga Potiki, was persuaded to drop her notice of motion prior to the start of the meeting. It was replaced by a brief open forum.
Heading her list of grievances was the "make-up of the committee as a partnership" and the need to introduce new measures to address "real or perceived conflicts". The committee comprised four Maori members and four councillors, with the council chairman having the casting vote.
Underscoring the conflict was that it took until yesterday for an application to the committee's environmental enhancement fund to succeed - six years after the fund was set up as a condition of the resource consent issued for the city's ocean sewage outfall.
Cr Guy told the committee he looked forward to overcoming concerns such as conflicts of interest.
The Bay of Plenty Times understands that because applications to the fund were nearly all from hapu or iwi organisations, Maori committee members had to declare an interest and were unable to participate in debate or voting. This led to concerns that decision-making on applications lacked a cultural perspective.
Ms Duncan said there was no reason why iwi should not have five voting members to break a deadlock. The fund's purpose was to mitigate effects, particularly on tangata whenua.
Another way of resolving the deadlock was to remove the council rule which allowed the casting vote and for any deadlocks to be worked through "in the nature of a partnership". She said a partnership was equal standing and decision-making powers between tangata whenua and the council.
Cr Guy said afterwards the issue extended to other council committees and subcommittees which had joint council/tangata whenua representation, and where Maori were forced to adapt to council meeting processes. He said there were legislative guidelines but nothing to stop the council changing standing orders for the joint council/tangata whenua committees.
Current meeting rules did not reflect a partnership approach.
If re-elected in October, he would be pushing for changes to Standing Orders but the new council would have the final say.