Rotorua Lakes Council's proposed ward structure gives six votes to people enrolled in a Māori ward and eight to everyone else.
The council released the proposed ward structure as an initial proposal for its Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee to consider on Thursday, which will be via video conference.
In a report prepared for the meeting, council district leadership and democracy deputy chief executive Oonagh Hopkins laid out the structure, which would be made up of one Māori ward with two seats, one general ward with four seats, four at-large seats and the mayor.
Currently, the council is made up of 10 at-large councillors and the mayor.
At-large means roles that are not bound within wards, and therefore can be elected by anyone within the district.
Hopkins' report stated the "mixed model" approach aimed to "restore equity as best it can".
"Equity in this situation means an opportunity, for every individual in Rotorua, regardless of what electoral roll you are on, to have the same amount [sic] of votes."
In her report she said the current at-large model provided this equity as every voter in the district could vote for 10 councillors regardless of their registered electoral roll.
However, the establishment of a Māori ward for Rotorua in May 2021 had "could be seen to push the Māori representation into a minority position" as it automatically created a ward-based model.
"Under this model, those on the Māori electoral roll cannot have any say in the election of the majority of elected members."
She said there could also be a perception that a ward member may only represent their ward, and consideration should also be given to Māori who are not on the Māori roll.
"Introducing an "at large" component into the model works to bring the proportion of votes between Māori and general votes closer to equilibrium."
The report then states this means in effect, the proposed model would mean those on the Māori electoral roll could vote for two people in the Māori ward, and four at-large councillor candidates, a total of six candidates.
Those on the general roll could vote for four people in the general ward and four at-large candidates, a total of eight.
It proposed to keep the number of councillors at 10. The mayor was the 11th, tie-breaking councillor, and was an at-large position. Until 2016 Rotorua District Council had 12 councillors and a mayor.
Without at-large positions, those on the Māori roll would only be able to vote for three candidates while those on the general roll could vote for seven.
According to the proposal document also distributed for the meeting, the proposed structure had been "developed from the input received from the elected members and the community".
The work was carried out as part of the council's representation review, a legislative requirement once every six years. The council agreed to include Māori wards in the 2022 and 2025 local elections in May.
The had also council decided to retain a first past the post (FPP) voting system for the 2019 and 2022 local elections in August 2017. Some other territories, such as Wellington and Tauranga cities, use single transferable vote (STV) which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.
Hopkins' report stated there had been four public forums on the representation review and listed the attendance of elected members at those events.
The council had also posted three different representation model options on a council Facebook post in July.
The post asked for feedback on the models – option one, with seven general ward candidates and three Māori ward candidates; option two with six general ward candidates, three Māori ward candidates and one at-large candidate; and option three, which was the proposed option.
There were 14 comments on the Facebook post with nine supporting option one, and one comment apiece supporting options two and three. Some commented but did not indicate their preference.
The post was also shared on Instagram but the only comment was one asking for clarification on what "at-large" meant.
The proposal also included retaining the Rotorua Rural and Lakes Community Boards. The council had already agreed to retain Te Tatau O Te Arawa, which provided mana whenua representation at council committees, but not at council level.
Thursday's committee meeting will decide whether to recommend the proposed ward structure to the council.
If it does, the council will likely decide at its August 31 meeting whether to put the proposed ward structure out for public consultation.
Public consultation is expected to be from September 8 to October 8, with a hearing – where the public can express their views to the council in person – on November 11.
The council is then likely to make a final decision on the ward structure on November 16.
After that decision, the public will have a right to make an objection or appeal between November 19 and December 20 before the proposal is sent to the Local Government Commission.
If there is an appeal, the Local Government Commission must make a final determination on representation arrangements by April 10 2022.
The 2022 local elections, held by postal vote, will be on October 8 2022.