A Māori council facing an uncertain future with the coming of Māori wards may have a new lease of life as a committee of council.
The Ruapehu District Māori Council, set up in 2009 to drive more participation by Māori in local body decisions, was facing the chop after the Ruapehu District Council voted to bring in Māori wards and it was thought a Māori Council might no longer be needed.
Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron said the future of the Māori council had been widely discussed since. Ongoing talks with tangata whenua could see it being re-purposed to support new representation arrangements including at least two Māori seats.
"We see a real chance to keep it but it needs to be reformed in a way that Māori think would be better to support particularly the two or three Māori ward members," Cameron said.
"Does it fit hapū/iwi aspirations and if not how can that be changed? That, I think, is something that's going to be quite a big conversation coming up in the next year."
Cameron said options included re-setting the Māori council as a committee of council or an entity similar to a community board.
He says local Māori have raised the council's membership as an issue and this would also need to be discussed.
The Māori council is a collective appointed by resolution of the council to represent "the three main iwi within the Ruapehu District".
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2013 at Mōrero Marae to seal a partnership between the Māori council and the district council.
The Māori Council comprises nine representatives – three each from Tūwharetoa, Maniapoto and southern Ruapehu iwi (Uenuku, Tamahaki and Tamakana).
The district council's website says it sees the Māori council as an important part of its governance structure that provides:
• Opportunities for iwi to contribute to local government decision-making that affects them.
• Capacity to build relationships and to consult with iwi and hapū.
• Access to a knowledge base of information otherwise unobtainable.
• An opportunity for local iwi and hapū to develop a deeper understanding of Ruapehu District Council's role as a local authority.
The website also notes "the fervent wish and desire of Ruapehu District Māori Council to be seated at the table with Ruapehu District Council as equals".