The Government is being asked to stretch a local government Maori wards consultation deadline which could enable wards to be in place in Napier by local elections next year.
Mayor Kirsten Wise says she wrote to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta after discussion with her council's Māori Committee, asking for an extended deadline for councils to adopt Māori wards in time for the 2022 elections.
The deadline is currently the end of next week, which the Napier council had previously decided was not enough time for appropriate consultation to take place.
The Hastings District Council is proposing going ahead, with a decision to be made at a special meeting next Tuesday.
But the Napier council's Māori wards consultation process will not finish until September, meaning the wards currently cannot be introduced until the 2025 elections.
Wise told Hawke's Bay Today on Wednesday night, breaking from her weekly three-hour reo maori class, the council doesn't believe constituents "fully understand" complexities that go along with implementation of Maori wards, among the more significant being anomalies in how many people electors could vote for.
The Local Electoral Act 2001 provides for the establishment of one or more Māori wards in Napier which will allow those on the Māori Electoral Roll to vote for councillors to represent Māori in Napier.
A demographics scale means the council would have two Maori representatives, but that could be all those on the Maori Roll could vote for, while those on the General Roll would, on current council member numbers, be able to vote for up to 10.
"To me the biggest sticking point as that the public may not understand all of the issues, and that issue is one of the sticking points," she said.
But it compares with a current wards structure which means some people can only vote for two councillors while others vote for four.
The Ahuriri and Onekawa-Tamatea wards each have two representatives, while there are four councillors for each of the Taradale and Nelson Park wards.
Current members include the first councillors recognised as Maori on the council in a history dating back to the foundation of Napier Borough Council in 1874 – Apiata Tapine, elected in 2016, and Sally Crown, installed at the last election in 2019.
Napier had a city-wide vote and representation at the 2004 election but replaced it with a mixed format in 2007, with six "at-large" councillors, voted across the city and six among the four wards – a system in place for four elections before a 2017-2018 representation review resulted in the current numbers.
Coinciding with the current issue, the Napier council is also committed to exploring other aspects of Māori representation within its current committee structure, which includes elected councillors and co-opted members.
"Council must consider the views of the whole community, including all stakeholders who will be impacted by the decision-making processes," Wise says.
"Unfortunately the two and a half month timeframe set by Central Government has not provided sufficient time for council to undertake widespread consultation on this matter."