Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell is to present a petition to Parliament calling for Maori seats on district councils - something which could work in addition to the iwi board in Rotorua.

Mr Flavell's push has already won some support from leaders in Rotorua while an opponent has called it "undemocratic".

Mr Flavell, who is the Maori Party co-leader, plans to present the petition at the urging of New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, who unsuccessfully championed the creation of a Maori ward in his city last year.

The petition calls for a law change to establish Maori wards by following similar rules for setting up other local government wards. "The fact that 5 per cent of the voting public can challenge any decision related to Maori representation is disheartening and means Maori will almost always be defeated in this process. How is it fair that mechanisms such as these can apply?" Mr Flavell said.


Rotorua Lakes Council now has an iwi board, Te Tatau o Te Arawa, which has members that sit on council committees. They have voting rights but any decisions made by council committees have to be ratified by a full meeting of the council.

Mr Flavell said Te Tatau o Te Arawa's function was the same as a Maori ward.

"I believe Rotorua would only benefit from having both a Maori ward and the iwi board because it would further enrich the culture of Rotorua."

Board chairman Te Taru White said he supported Mr Flavell. "We have made a significant step through the establishment of Te Tatau o Te Arawa Board. Maori wards and changing legislation to facilitate that I think is a good next step and is another step forward."

Mr White said it had always been a challenge to get Maori to vote in elections.

"All of this is geared towards trying to get our people engaged in the decision making processes in their community so I'm supportive of Te Ururoa's decisions and wait with interest."

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Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she was happy with what Rotorua had achieved but establishing Maori wards would be a community decision.

"We would take it out to the whole community and Te Tatau of Te Arawa Board."

Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers mayoral candidate Dr Reynold Macpherson, whose group had strongly opposed the formation of the iwi board, said Mr Flavell's call for compulsory Maori wards for all district councils in New Zealand was an "ill-considered ambit claim".

"Mr Flavell's petition ignores New Zealand's traditions of democratic and egalitarian principles. It would mean elected representatives, who are accountable to the public, sharing their responsibilities and powers with a group of non-elected citizens.

"New Zealanders' repeated rejection of mandatory Maori wards, however proportionate, indicates that the governed will not give consent to such structures in the foreseeable future. Guaranteeing respectful policy advisory structures is one thing, giving one ethnic group undemocratic privileges over other citizens is another."