Maori favour more specific seats in Auckland plan

By Yvonne Tahana

Maori groups have endorsed the royal commission's recommendation for specific seats in Auckland but many believe there should be more.

But one Auckland City councillor is calling for caution over any appointed Maori representatives.

The commission called for the creation of an Auckland Council, scrapping eight councils that cover the region from Rodney to Papakura. Underneath the super city would be six local councils, which would all have Maori names decided on after consultation.

The new Auckland Council would have 23 seats, three of which would be set aside for Maori.

Two councillors would be elected by voters on the Maori electoral roll and a Mana Whenua Forum - made up from iwi representatives - would advise the Auckland Council on issues of importance through a councillor they appointed.

At the 2006 census 137,133 Maori lived in the region.

Manukau Urban Maori Authority chief executive Willy Jackson said some people wouldn't agree with the special seats. While he was pleased with the recommendations his support was qualified.

"The numbers sound a bit low to me to tell you the truth. I mean how many Maori are we talking about in this region.

"It's good that we've got some recognition in this area. But it's probably three more than we would have got through the democratic process. Experience and history tells us that getting our people on councils is harder than getting them into Parliament. But it's better than having no recognition at all. It's a start."

Former Auckland City councillor Sandra Lee, who was also the first Maori woman to chair a county council, Waiheke, and the first Maori woman to win a general seat to Parliament, said she was against a super city.

"My concern is bigger democracy doesn't make best democracy. But I'm heartened to see the need for Maori representation given that the Auckland region has the biggest Maori population on earth."

Ngati Whatua o Orakei trust board representative Ngarimu Blair praised the commission for the recommendations but said the fact that all councils had the ability to appoint Maori seats under 2002 legislation but only one had until this point was disappointing.

However, Auckland City Councillor Aaron Bhatnagar said he was opposed to "race based" seats. Ratepayers might be able to accept the two elected seats but the third appointed chair was undemocratic and "outright favouritism to Maori".

"I don't believe that people should be appointed to have full voting powers on the council. I think you should only be elected."

- NZ Herald

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