Inclusion Northland leader Kevin Grose is calling on the Far North District Council to reconsider its decision over establishing Māori wards now that legislation has removed the potential for voters to demand a binding poll.
Grose said the council should now make a decision in their favour, particularly as 51 per cent of its people identified as Māori.
Northlanders were among those who made submissions to Parliament's Māori Affairs Select Committee. More than 12,500 submissions were lodged in the 48 hours allowed.
Grose said the FNDC could now make a decision for Māori seats without fear of it being overturned, but Mayor John Carter refused to be drawn, saying his council had made no decision on whether it would vote for Māori seats after the legislation change.
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Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has extended the deadline for councils to make decisions until May 21.
A bid in October by Crs Kelly Stratford and Moko Tepania to persuade the council to adopt Māori seats failed after a 5-5 split vote, in which Carter voted against doing so. Rather it was resolved to poll electors at the next local government elections in 2022.
Carter said last week that that decision had been nullified by the legislation change, however, and, as a result, the council had conducted an across-sector workshop and an extraordinary council meeting last week to decide how to proceed. It had decided to take the Māori representation topic out to its people as part of an informal much wider consultation on issues including the 2021-2031 long-term and district plans.
Aspects of the representation review would canvassed would include what the community thought of Māori seats and Māori committees, such as the Northland Regional Council's Te Taitokerau Māori and Council Working Group (TTMAC) or the Whangārei District Council's Te Kārearea standing committee. They would also look at whether the Far North's three community boards offered the best linkage into communities.
Carter said the council had not decided whether it would meet to make a decision on having Māori seats. Neither had thought been given to when it might do so. The council would only have one full meeting before the May 21 deadline for any decision change, but it could call an extraordinary meeting should it choose to do so.
Tepania, meanwhile, said the legislation change was great news, offering hope for Northland as a whole. Tepania, the council's te ao Māori portfolio holder, a member of Te Maruata (the national Local Government New Zealand councils' group focused on promoting Māori representation and participation in local government), and LGNZ young elected members' committee co-chairman, had voted in favour of Māori wards in October, along with Crs Stratford, David Clendon, Rachel Smith and John Vujcich. Carter, deputy Mayor Ann Court, Crs Dave Collard, Felicity Foy and Mate Radich voted against.
Carter's ensuing amendment, to conduct a council-initiated poll as part of the 2022 local body elections, was seconded by Collard and supported by Court, Clendon, Foy and Vujcich. Tepania, Smith, Stratford and Radich voted against that option.