Hamilton city councillor and chair of the finance committee Garry Mallett has warned councillors that they have raised expectations on who can vote on council matters after they approved Māori representation for city council committees.
His comments followed a request by new Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief Chris Simpson, who wants businesses to have a seat on certain council committees as well.
"Like Māori, commerce and industry deserves representation and voting rights on council subcommittees," said Mr Simpson.
"The issue from the chamber's point of view is not about Māori representation, it's about business representation too.
"Businesses pay a large portion of council's rates take. It's well in excess of $60 million in rates and service charges through various fees and development contributions. That's over half a billion dollars of business money that council is spending over the next 10 years.
"We will be approaching the mayor and councillors to put our view forward, and push for our voice to be heard on those committees."
Speaking to Hamilton News councillor Mr Mallett said that this would show favouritism by council, while also risking over-saturation around the council table.
"This is exactly one of the reactions I was concerned about. Of course any individual, subject to a few sensible qualifications — an adult, not in jail etc — should be allowed to run for public office.
"This would include anybody from the Chamber of Commerce or any other group. But they'd have to run the gauntlet of an open election as we all do," Mr Mallett said.
Last week, the council approved six votes to four to appoint one Māori representative each to the Growth and Infrastructure committee, Regulatory and Hearings committee, the Finance committee and two representatives to the Community and Services committee.
It is the second attempt at bringing in Māori representation, after council shut down the concept of a Māori ward in October.
Staff have recommended that pay for the new appointees should be $100 per hour, with the total cost varying, depending on the length of the meeting and the committee.
The four councillors who voted against the motion were Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher, and councillors Garry Mallett, Mark Bunting and Leo Tooman.
Each had their reasons, with Mr Mallett calling the decision racist during debate.
"Discrimination based on race is racism, that is reality," Mr Mallett said.
"Racism in our democratic system is fundamentally wrong. It is worse than that — it is evil."
"I don't see people through skin colour or race, I look at them through ideas."
Councillor Mark Bunting was concerned that there was no input from the public on this decision.
"My concern is that by not giving people the choice we are not following the process," Mr Bunting said.
"Are we afraid to have this debate with the public?"
Councillor Tooman said he had an issue with sorting out just one section of the community.
"I see us all as one people," Mr Tooman said.
"Surely as a community it does not matter what we are. I would rather have our community ticking the box for who they want representing them around this table."
Mayor Andrew King said the motion was the right move for Hamilton.
"Māori shareholders are telling us that having a voice is important to them," Mr King said.
"I strongly believe that Māori representation is important."
Councillor Ryan Hamilton said council had an obligation to work together with Māori.
"I implore Māori if given this opportunity to use it, use it to empower your power and use it to show your past does not define your future."
Councillor Geoff Taylor said council's priority was to make great decisions.
"Surely in order to do that we need a wide variety of voices and experiences sitting around this table," Mr Taylor said.
"I think you would be a pretty brave person to suggest that we have actually got that at the moment.