Councillors have been asked to re-consider introducing Maori wards or resurrecting the Te Arawa Standing Committee, on day three of hearings into the controversial Te Arawa Partnership Proposal.

About 200 people asked to be heard in person by the Rotorua Lakes Council after it received almost 2000 submissions regarding the proposal that could see a new Te Arawa board set up to replace the old Te Arawa standing committee.

Sir Toby Curtis speaking.

While Te Arawa kaumatua Sir Toby Curtis yesterday asked councillors to approve the proposal in its entirety, former district councillor Bob Martin argued that the former standing committee structure would still be a viable option, if the council took its recommendations seriously.

"When I first got on to the Te Arawa Standing Committee there was some very good consultation and communication between Maori and the council and it fell to bits when this council decided to do memorandums of understanding directly with the hapu. "I understand the frustration of the old standing committee because they were neglected and left out of the loop, and consequently they didn't know what was happening," Mr Martin said.

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Sir Toby said the standing committee had passed its used by date and the iwi's thinking was a lot different since it was first set up in 1993. "This proposal is being put forward by the younger people of Te Arawa, not the old people - if we are to assist and encourage our young people to participate effectively in the affairs of our city ... we need them to be very much involved."

Former Rotorua surveyor Luke Martin and long-term Rotorua resident Judy O'Sullivan said the council should re-debate the issue of Maori wards. Both agreed the council should have a much better relationship with iwi, but neither said they agreed 100 per cent with the proposal as it stood.

Both Mr Martin and Mrs O'Sullivan said they did not agree with the provision of voting rights for unelected members on council committees. But, in November last year councillors voted not to introduce Maori wards, also choosing to keep in place the First Past The Post voting system. At the same time the council began a Representation Review, which is currently under way, to review the entire election process, including the option of introducing Maori wards. The last two days of hearings will be held today and on Monday next week before the council meets again on May 26 to make its final decision.

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