Auckland Council is making moves to have three Māori seats at the 2025 local body elections.
The council is looking to adopt a model for two Māori seats and one seat appointed by Mana Whenua, which was recommended by the Royal Commission on Auckland governance but rejected by the former National government when setting up the Super City.
The issue of Māori seats was hotly debated in the lead-up to Auckland Council being formed in 2010, with thousands of people attending a hikoi up Queen St organised by Ngarimu Blair, deputy chair of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust.
Instead of Māori seats, the Government set up an Independent Māori Statutory Board made up of nine members, two of whom sit on council committees with voting rights, but not the governing body.
The IMSB holds its own board meeting and provides direction and guidance to the council on Māori issues. Members are appointed by a selection body representing mana whenua interests of 19 tribal authorities in Auckland.
A joint group of the IMSB and the governing body has agreed to support the Royal Commission model and engage with mana whenua and mātāwaka to receive feedback with the aim of having Māori seats at next year's local body elections or in 2025.
However, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has indicated to the council she is not willing to make legislative change under urgency to make it possible to have Māori wards in time for the 2022 elections.
If the council was to have three Māori seats, the size would increase from 21 to 24, comprising the mayor, 19 ward councillors, two Māori ward councillors and one Māori councillor appointed by mana whenua.
IMSB chairman David Taipari said the board had pushed for seats on council for a long time to ensure representation and decision-making at the governing body.
He said the seats would provide Māori representation at the governing body and not replace the board to give advice and direct the council
"It's not an either or. There are two functions. One is a decision maker at the governing body put there by the people across the region and the other is a selection body with an appointed board that is independent," said Taipari.
Asked how much progress the council has made on Māori issues since the IMSB came into being in 2010, Taipari said "it has made progress".
"Whether I think it is good progress is another matter. I think we have come some way down the path and there is a lot of change, I see it on a daily basis … but it is not at the optimum where I would like it to be," he said.
The council's move to adopt Māori follows a discussion document this year by Mahuta "Changes to Māori Ward and Constituency Processes".
Māori comprise 12 per cent of Auckland's population and the three Māori seats would comprise 12.5 per cent of the seats on council.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the current and long-standing council position has been to have direct Māori representation along the lines of the Parliamentary model.
The Royal Commission model is a different model which we have asked to look at by the Independent Māori Statutory Board, he said.
"The Governing Body will look at the alternative model in the new year, however I note that current legislation and the Minister's confirmation that there are no plans to change the law to provide for the Royal Commission's model means that the IMSB's preferred option is not currently available to Council," said Goff.
A report of the Māori seats is going to tomorrow's governing body meeting.