The Maori Party is set to present a petition to Parliament calling for law change to establish Maori seats on district councils, which has the full backing of a Bay regional councillor.

Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell plans to present the petition at the urging of New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd, who unsuccessfully championed the creation of a Maori ward in his city last year.

Under existing legislation, councils can choose to establish a Maori ward or seat.

In 2014, Tauranga City councillors voted unanimously to ditch the idea of Maori getting a separate seat on council, citing community opposition to a Maori ward.


Last week, Tauranga City Council confirmed it would remain divided into three wards.

There is Maori representation on council's Tangata Whenua Committee, the Wastewater Management Review Committee and various working groups.

Mr Flavell said a change was long overdue.

"The fact that five per cent of the voting public can challenge any decision related to Maori representation is disheartening ... Everyone is aware of the low participation of Maori in local government and the existing legislation is clearly inadequate."

Mr Flavell said Maori seats would better represent and reflect the make-up of the community.

Awanui Black, who holds the Mauao Maori seat on Bay of Plenty Regional Council, said he was 100 per cent in support of the move. "It might seem as though it's because I have a vested interest, but it's the way our world is going.

"We have the largest population of Maori in the country living in this region, but it is very difficult to get a Maori candidate elected on to council at large because of some entrenched views."

Mr Black said within the next 20 years the large majority of the district's population would be Maori and people who were not born here.

"As a regional council we seem to be doing alright at the moment, but if you asked Maori there would be an expectation that within Tauranga councils should have Maori seats."

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Mr Black said the city needed to look to the future and do the right thing now rather than leave it to future generations.

"In Tauranga there should be the opportunity for better representation. That is what is important. Let Maori battle it out and determine how things are best decided in terms of who that candidate is."

Councillor Rick Curach said: "I think the wider public would find difficult to accept a race-based separate seat. I think the key is what best for the whole community."

Cr Curach said a Maori ward or seat would be unhelpful and damaging to race relations between Maori and non-Maori, and most people would find it unacceptable.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said every six years council was required to consider whether to opt for the establishment of a Maori ward and had decided against it for several reasons.

"What would the candidate's mandate be? We take an oath to represent the whole community without bias or prejudice and we do that with diligence," he said.

Mr Crosby said another difficulty with the concept was that Tauranga Moana had three iwi groups and choosing one candidate to represent all three would cause problems.

"Thirdly, one of the major reasons is that we already have a good working relationship with iwi and in my view to go down this path would damage those relationships," he said

Mr Crosby said there was no impending local government reorganisation.

"In my view, after weighing up all the pluses and negatives, establishing a Maori seat would be negative move. We have been on a journey of healing and reconciliation but we're not there yet and maybe in a few years' time we should have the conversation but this is not the right time."