A claim has been lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal accusing the Napier City Council of failing to take reasonable steps to introduce Māori wards and thus obstructing Māori representation.
The claim was lodged this week - and served on the Crown - by a group of five on behalf of Napier area iwi representative body Te Taiwhenua o Te Whanganui a Orotu.
It follows the council's failure to meet a Government deadline of May 21 to enable Māori ward representation on the council in time for next year's local elections.
Shayne Walker, who is also the chairman of the Hawke's Bay District Health Board, is a spokesman for the group which also includes Tamati Cairns, Tania Eden, Mat Mullany and Hori Reti.
Deciding instead to go for public consultation with a view to possible installation of direct Maori representation from the 2025 election, the council decision followed implementation of the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act earlier this year, enabling councils to decide on establishment of Māori wards without fear of a decision being reversed by a ratepayer poll.
Of the councils in the Hawke's Bay Today circulation area, Wairoa District Council created a Māori ward in time for the last local elections in 2019, and Hawke's Bay Regional Council, and Hastings and Tararua district councils were among 32 councils nationwide which met the deadline and plan to include Māori wards in their representation structure next year.
The Napier City and Central Hawke's Bay District Council both decided against immediate moves to establish Māori wards, although the Napier council did unsuccessfully approach Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta for an extension of the deadline in respect of the deadline for 2022 implementation.
Targeting the latest legislation and also the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA) and the
Local Electoral Act 2001 (LEA), the claimants say the Napier City Council, as an extension of Central Government, breached its Treaty obligations by not meeting the deadline.
They say the Crown has a duty to ensure Councils and entities to which regulatory responsibilities are delegated recognise the rights of Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi, and the new legislation failed in not requiring councils to establish Māori wards nor requiring the Crown to monitor council compliance.
They say the Crown has failed to "ensure" adequate Māori representation in local government, when "the intent of the recent amendment act was to improve the democratic representation of Māori interests, ensure equity in representation, and to provide a Māori voice in local decision-making".
They seek immediate steps to remedy the position in legislation.
Hawke's Bay Today is seeking comment from Wise and Walker.