Prime Minister John Key says there was never any intention for unelected Maori appointees to vote on all Auckland Council committees, but it seems likely they will get to vote on at least 11 of the 19 standing committees.

Mr Key yesterday defended the Government's decision to allow the Maori Statutory Board to appoint members to council committees dealing with the management and stewardship of natural resources.

Labour's Auckland issues spokesman, Phil Twyford, has called the measure undemocratic and untenable, saying the Government should amend the law to make the positions advisory only.

Speaking at the his post-cabinet press conference, Mr Key said the policy intent on Maori participation in decisions relating to natural and physical resources had been in place in one form or another since 1977, and was specifically written into Super City legislation.

He said the intention was for the Auckland Council to determine which committees the Maori appointees should sit on, saying it was his understanding there were discussions between the council and the board to find an acceptable solution.

It is understood the council's in-house legal advice is that the board can make up to two appointments on 11 committees, and the board has advice saying it can make appointments to more than 11 committees.

The board and council are discussing how the board will make the appointments and what skills the council would like appointees to have.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has said he was "somewhat surprised" at the extent of voting roles of the appointed Maori members.

Yesterday, Maori Statutory Board chairman David Taipari responded to several days of political reaction by saying the board would exercise its role under the law responsibly.

"That means working collaboratively with the mayor and council to deliver effective decision-making which in turn achieves tangible outcomes for Auckland - the place and the people," he said.

Mr Taipari said he expected the appointments would be a mix of board members and other Maori with skills in governance, corporate finance, tikanga Maori and other areas.

"The concept of co-opting to a governance body is not unusual and is seen in everything from the boards of multinational companies through to school boards of trustees.

"We will also require that the board and all other representatives communicate directly with, and be accountable to, all Maori in Auckland."

Mr Taipari said the board was committed to reaching its decisions by consensus and would extend this policy to work on committees.

Talk of the board holding "the balance of power" on committees was incorrect, he said.

Mr Twyford said Local Government Minister and Act leader Rodney Hide should resign for giving voting rights to Maori appointees on council committees.

"Mr Hide threatened to resign if Maori were given guaranteed seats on the Auckland Council because he said it breached Act's core principle of one person one vote, and he couldn't as minister put his name to the legislation in good conscience," Mr Twyford said.

Mr Hide, who introduced legislation under his name allowing the board to appoint Maori to council committees, declined to respond to the call for him to resign.


The Maori Statutory Board representatives:

Mana whenua
Anahera Morehu, Glenn Wilcox, David Taipari, Glen Tupuhi, James Brown, Wayne Knox, Patience Te Ao.

Tony Kake, John Tamihere.

How was the board selected?
19 different mana whenua/iwi groups chose a 19-member panel to select seven mana whenua representatives and two mataawaka positions.

What is the process for board members to be appointed to council committees?
Not clear. Council to discuss Bernard OrsmanSuper City reporter