District councillor Mike McVicker says he will push for a referendum if the council goes ahead with a proposal to form a new Te Arawa-based board.
Mr McVicker has already resigned his position as head of the Rotorua District Council's Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy group saying he would not be able to work collaboratively with iwi if the council went ahead with its plan to form the new board.
But, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the Rotorua public would be consulted if any significant changes were to be made.
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Last week, the Rotorua Daily Post reported councillors had been shown a proposal which could lead to the establishment of a new Te Arawa board which would consist of eight members - six of those appointed by a Te Arawa mandated entity and two appointed during a Te Arawa hui-a-iwi (tribal meeting).
The new board could be in place by July and would replace the Te Arawa Standing Committee, which has been in recess since the council began a "cultural engagement audit" last year. The board would be separate from the council and would allow for members to sit on council committees, be part of Resource Management Act decisions and establish its own sub-committees.
The proposal would also require the council to give its reasons, in writing, if the council did not accept the board's advice on any matters raised.
Mr McVicker said the proposal was undemocratic and gave race-based privilege to Maori. "I give credit to the mayor who sincerely wishes to see an enduring and better relationship with iwi. Unlike other councils, who have consulted their communities and carried out a referendum, the council clearly had every intention of pushing this significant constitutional change through by the end of May and implement it by July 1.
"I believe it is essential that the council carry out a referendum on this issue if it wishes to proceed ..."
He said councillors were elected, and held accountable, by the community. "Who would the Maori representatives be accountable to? Certainly not the ratepayers of our city.
"The council has always been well represented by Maori councillors over the years.
"Just because the [Te Arawa] standing committee was not working in the eyes of some of the younger generation is no reason to go to the extreme step proposed.
"The time has come for the people of Rotorua to register their stand on such an important issue as this, as if iwi succeed in changing the long-held principal of one person one vote, such 'reserved seats' around the council table will become an anathema to democracy."
Mrs Chadwick said the council was committed to developing a new partnership model with Te Arawa.
"The time to publicly debate this will be once Te Arawa has held their hui-a-iwi with members and made recommendations to the council for consideration. Rotorua residents can be assured that no significant change to existing arrangements will be made without a process of public consultation as required under legislation."