Thousands march for Maori voice

By Yvonne Tahana, Bernard Orsman

A hikoi through the Auckland CBD drew up to 7000 protesters calling for Maori seats on Auckland's Super City council, but Prime Minister John Key has indicated the plan for the city's future is unlikely to change.

Speaking in Wellington after the protest, Mr Key said nothing was off the table while legislation was going through Parliament to set up the structure of the Auckland Council.

But he repeated that Maori advisory boards were a better means of Maori input and local government legislation allowed communities to decide whether there should be Maori seats, "rather than doing it by decree by Government".

His comments were at odds with Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples, who predicted victory for the protesters: "They're almost ready to give in, don't give up."

Mr Key said he had discussed with Dr Sharples a proposal from iwi for Maori representation.

Dr Sharples said the iwi proposal by Ngati Whatua and Tainui, which has gone to the Cabinet, made provision for electing mana whenua representatives to the Auckland Council.

'We've come up with a way that we can democratically elect mana whenua on to this council our way that is still voting and still democratic."

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance called for two ward-based Maori seats and a third seat appointed by mana whenua (local iwi).

Yesterday's hikoi started at the four corners of Auckland at daybreak and converged at the bottom of Queen St.

The eastern march started from Orakei Marae, 31 years after 500 police and Army staff evicted Ngati Whatua o Orakei hapu members and supporters from Bastion Pt after a marathon 506-day occupation for its return.

At noon, protesters marched up Queen St to a small park opposite the town hall. Ngati Whatua kaumatua thanked non-Maori for their participation and support.

MC Dale Husband summed up the message: "It's Maori land and we deserve a seat at the table."

Former National MP and Manukau city councillor Arthur Anae agreed.

"If the [National Party] are not listening to this there is something seriously wrong."

Four of the region's mayors also turned out - Manukau's Len Brown, Waitakere's Bob Harvey, North Shore's Andrew Williams and Papakura's Calum Penrose.

Auckland City Mayor John Banks, who opposes Maori seats, invited Maori leaders to meet him after the hikoi so he could hear their concerns. They did not respond.

SEE ALSO

Room for compromise - A10

- NZ Herald

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