Rotorua Lakes Council has received 12 appeals and objections against its decision to adopt a governance model with one Māori ward seat for the 2022 local election.
The council adopted the model – with one Māori ward seat, one general ward seat and eight at-large (elected by all voters) seats - on November 19, three days after it was introduced at committee level.
The late introduction of the model saw Te Tatau o Te Arawa representative Potaua Biasiny-Tule storm out of a committee meeting in November, calling it "insulting" and a "farce".
Appeals or objections are submitted to the Local Government Commission for consideration, and the Commission can overturn the council's decision.
The difference between an appeal and objection is whether the person made a submission on the initial proposal or not.
Neither the council nor the commission would comment on who the appellants were or what their appeals were about as the process was still under way, but Local Democracy Reporting spoke with two.
Last week, Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said the council-iwi partnership organisation had submitted an appeal about the council's decision.
He said Te Tatau was against having only one Māori ward seat.
White said the model had "lacked consultation" with Te Tatau o Te Arawa and was introduced and adopted "at the last minute".
In his view: "It was a fait accompli on behalf of the council. It had no resemblance to what they went out and consulted on."
The council's initial proposal had four general ward seats, two Māori ward seats and four at-large seats.
It had ultimately also voted to agree the ideal representational model was three general ward seats, three Māori ward seats and four at-large seats – a model currently unlawful under the Local Electoral Act - and to pursue a local bill to enable it in the future.
White said Te Arawa prioritised maximising guaranteed Māori ward seats at the council table.
"That's what our people want.
"We had no say [on the final model]. What kind of equity is that?"
He said history showed Māori were statistically "not good voters" so equity in voting power was not as important as seats at the table.
"We're not backing off that and hopefully the Commission will see it our way."
Rotorua businessman Justin Adams also appealed the decision, citing several reasons.
In his appeal, obtained by Local Democracy Reporting, Adams said the entire representation review process and the circumstances surrounding it had "significantly damaged my faith in democracy".
He believed the council had based its decisions on a maximum of 10 councillors, a decision Adams said was, in his opinion, "predetermined".
His appeal also said the adopted model did not give the Treaty of Waitangi and the Rotorua Township (Fenton) Agreement "the mana they deserve".
He said in his opinion, the council appeared to not have analysed alternative models proffered by the public.
He also said the adopted model differed from the initial proposal the council had consulted on.
In his view, there had been "clear bias and predetermination", which he found "extremely disturbing".
Council acting chief executive Craig Tiriana confirmed the 12 appeals were sent to the Local Government Commission on December 21.
He said the council was waiting for the commission to determine whether a hearing was required and it would be inappropriate for the council to comment in detail.
"In the meantime, [the] council is pursuing a draft local bill to be presented to Parliament to achieve [the] council's preferred representation model."
Information provided by a council spokeswoman said elected members participated in four forums to "define the principles on which to structure the initial proposal for consultation" and another forum after consultation to discuss the submissions.
She said the representation review was publicised before consultation. Consultation included six public webinars on the review process and the contacting of more than 500 community groups.
Local Government Commission senior advisor E-J Ruthven said the Commission must now determine the representation arrangements for the council for the 2022 local election, and that decision was due by April 11.
She said the next steps for the Commission were to assess the validity of the appeals and objections and whether to hold a hearing.
"As the Commission has not yet completed these steps, we are not currently able to share the appeals/objections, who they are from, or any details regarding them."
Ruthven said if a hearing was held appellants would be invited to present their views and it would be open to the public.