Northland Regional Council's Te Tai Tokerau Māori and Council Working Party says the council should have three Māori seats.
Pita Tipene (Ngāti Hine), newly-elected Te Tai Tokerau Māori and Council Working Party (TTMAC) co-chair, said three Māori seats on the Northland Regional Council (NRC) would be a good start in a journey of incremental change.
The call comes in the wake of NRC's decision in October in favour of introducing designated Māori seats - known as constituencies.
TTMAC's tangata whenua caucus met on December 3 and provided feedback in favour of having the three seats after staff presentations about Māori representation options.
The working party is made up of the council's nine councillors and 21 iwi and hapū representatives.
"The feedback provided by TTMAC is now being considered by council at a series of workshops," NRC group manager environmental services Jonathan Gibbard said.
His comments were contained in an agenda report to the full TTMAC working party - councillors along with mandated iwi and hapū representatives presented to the working party's first 2021 meeting at NRC's head office in Whangārei on Thursday last week.
The working party's iwi and hapū representatives from across Northland recommended NRC's current nine-member council be increased to 11 – and include three Māori seats.
This was seen as preferable to two Māori seats on a nine-member council.
New Zealand's system for paying councillors was changed in 2019 when the
Remuneration Authority, for the first time, provided a pool of money that councils themselves decided how to spread across their councillors.
An 11-member council would mean that pool being spread across a bigger number of people.
Three Māori seats (constituencies) in an 11-person council would also mean eight councillors from general seats (constituencies) rather than the council's current nine.
NRC has seven general constituencies - Te Hiku (one councillor), Coastal North (two councillors), Coastal Central (one councillor), Kaikohe-Hokianga (one councillor), Whangārei Urban (two councillors), Kaipara (one councillor) and Coastal South (one councillor).
Gibbard said TTMAC called for a transition towards the three separate Māori constituencies.
The first stage would be setting up a single region-wide Māori constituency ahead of the new 2022 local government elections.
"A single Māori constituency, with all Māori councillors elected from (this) region-wide constituency, is preferable at this stage over multiple Māori constituencies," Gibbard said.
"It was agreed that there is insufficient time to establish three separate Māori constituencies for the 2022 election.
"Discussion would likely be fraught and not arrive at an acceptable outcome which would potentially taint the process for everyone going forward. The preferred option would be to use the first triennium to properly consult with tangata whenua on the feasibility of establishing separate Māori constituencies that met both the requirements of the Local Electoral Act 2001 and be meaningful/acceptable to Māori."
Gibbard said a phased approach would provide enough time for tangata whenua to understand and gain experience in the council governance environment.
"This understanding can then be applied to seeing if a way can be found to create separate Māori boundaries that would have the support not only of the elected representatives, but also of the people who live in them."
The Māori seats would be part of an NRC representation review. NRC would continue to work on an initial review proposal which it had to adopt by August 31.