Hastings District Council could have Māori wards as soon as the next local government elections in 2022.
This week the council's Heretaunga Takoto Noa Māori standing committee will make a recommendation to council on whether or not it should introduce Māori wards by the 2022 local elections.
It follows the Government's decision to prohibit local polls that veto council decisions to establish Māori wards as part of the Local Electoral (Māori wards and Māori constituencies) Amendment Act 2021.
The bill was met with opposition from the National Party and Act, but was passed in March.
Under the act, the council has until May 21 to decide whether or not to establish Māori wards for the 2022 local elections.
The standing committee will decide on Wednesday to recommend one of two options to council.
It will either recommend the introduction of Māori wards in the district for the 2022 election, or wait until the 2025 elections while the status quo prevails and council considers Māori wards as part of its six-yearly representation review in 2023/24.
Hastings District Council electoral officer Jackie Evans said if the standing committee recommends introducing Māori wards for 2022, the council will then seek feedback from the community, and then make a decision before May 21.
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Due to the transition period deadline for councils to make a decision, "it would be important to start public consultation as soon as possible to ensure we allow enough time for public feedback," Evans said.
As a result, an emergency council meeting on April 22 would be required for council to decide to commence the public feedback process and call an extraordinary council meeting on May 18 to make a decision on whether to establish Māori wards by the deadline.
If it is decided to introduce Māori wards the council will have to undertake a representation review to decide the overall number of councillors, number of wards and ward boundaries including Māori wards.
This representation review is subject to formal community consultation process with the initial proposals publicly notified by September 8, 2021 followed by formal consultation and submissions hearing in late October, Evans said.
Introducing Māori wards would mean those on the Māori roll would vote for candidates standing in the Māori wards instead of those standing in the general ward, and for the mayor.
The number of Māori ward candidates would be proportional to the Māori electorate population, and on the current arrangement of 14 councillors, three would be elected from Māori wards.