Anger rises over lack of Maori seats

By Yvonne Tahana

Protest and legal action could be options for groups angry at the Government's decision not to support specific Maori seats on the Auckland Council.

But Prime Minister John Key said a proposed iwi advisory committee that would work across all issues would do a much better job of representation than the three "token" Maori seats the royal commission recommended.

Nor were they rejected because National and Act wanted to abolish Maori seats at national level, he said.

"What ... Maori will be arguing [for] is a voice and input into the governance of Auckland and the way to achieve that is to be engaged across the region in a huge variety of activities," Mr Key said. "Not to have token representation of three people who can then be voted down by the majority because they don't want to listen to them.

"There's a very big difference between having a Maori face at the table and having input into the decision making."

While the Government would not be "imposing" Maori seats, Aucklanders could decide for themselves to do so using the Local Electoral Act.

Ngati Whatua o Orakei chairman Grant Hawke said the move was a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi and and a claim could be made to the Waitangi Tribunal.

Advisory committees had shown themselves "toothless" over the years - he did not expect the new organ to be any different and Maori would continue to be under-represented at a local level.

Mr Hawke said he would be talking with stakeholders, including Maori Party MP Hone Harawira, about whether organised protest was an appropriate option.

The announcement marks the first major disagreement between the National and Maori parties since their coalition agreement.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said Maori "were getting sick" of successive governments consulting Maori and then ignoring initiatives they suggested.

In the next week he would organise a hui with key leaders to work out a co-ordinated response.

* The new plan

In:

An iwi advisory committee.

Scrapped:

Three Maori seats.

Two elected from the Maori roll.

One appointed by a mana whenua forum.

- NZ Herald

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