Rotorua Lakes Council is taking the next step in a process to allow a council table with the same number of Māori ward seats as general ones.
It follows a narrow council vote in November last year to pursue a local bill in Parliament to enable a governance model with three Māori ward seats, three general ward seats and four at-large seats.
That model was not lawful under the Local Electoral Act, and the council instead adopted a model with one Māori ward seat, which upset iwi partners Te Tatau o Te Arawa.
In a council statement, it said a bill had been submitted to the Parliamentary Counsel Office for review in December and the council had "been given the go-ahead" to publish a notice of intent to pursue it.
That meant the public would soon have the opportunity to provide feedback on the bill.
The statement said the notice of intent would be published in local papers the Rotorua Daily Post and the Rotorua Weekender from today.
The bill would also be available for the public to view at the Rotorua Library, at the Civic Centre and on the council website until March 23.
Rotorua mayor said it was "a proud moment for Rotorua" and she was pleased to see the bill progressing.
"Through the Representation Review conducted last year it became apparent that current legislation did not permit representation arrangements that are fit for Rotorua.
"We've made a bold move seeking legislative change through this bill, but it is reflective of the unique way we operate here in Rotorua and it is what is right for our community.
"As elected members we cannot take a 'business as usual' approach and we must carve out a new path that better serves the constituents that voted us into these seats."
She claimed feedback during consultation told the council "parity is largely desired by our community".
"This notion is one of the cornerstones of New Zealand's Te Tiriti o Waitangi and also reflects the spirit and intent of the Rotorua Township (Fenton) Agreement, and the generosity demonstrated by Ngāti Whakaue through this agreement.
"Representation in Rotorua must reflect the bicultural intent of the agreement."
She said the council was "striving to achieve equality" through the bill, here regardless of electoral roll or ward, every voter has an equal number of votes to cast for an equal number of seats.
"I am confident that this is the right way forward and that this bill aligns with the aspirations of Te Arawa to achieve dedicated Māori ward seats, while also achieving equal voting opportunity."
The local bill sought an exemption from current legislative requirements that prevented the council from adopting its preferred model, the council statement said.
The draft bill can be viewed here.
Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill - key features
• The bill will apply for two general elections once it comes into force. It is intended to come into force by May so that it can apply to the 2022 local election. However, if it does not come into force before June 1, it will not come into force until after the 2022 election and will apply to the following two elections. This is because the election process commences well in advance of election day.
• The bill confirms the decisions that have been made by the council as part of its preferred representation arrangements. This includes:
- A Māori ward, called Te Ipu Wai Taketake ward, will elect three members
- A General ward, called Te Ipu Wai Auraki ward, will elect three members
- Four members will be elected by the electors of the district as a whole ("at large");
- The Rotorua Lakes Community Board will be formed by four members elected by the Rotorua Lakes Community, and one member appointed by the council
- The Rotorua Rural Community Board will be formed by four members elected by the Rotorua Rural Community, and one member appointed by the council.
• If the bill comes into force before June 1, the determination made by the council on November 19, 2021 to adopt the interim electoral model (1-1-8) will be withdrawn and effectively replaced by the 3-3-4 model enabled under the bill.
• Any person who wishes to object to the bill will have a full opportunity to present a submission to a select committee after the first reading of the bill in the House.
• If the bill is passed, following two general elections, it may be extended by the Governor General. This will only occur if the council has resolved to continue with the electoral model contained in the bill, and has given public notice of its intention to do so.
• The bill does not affect any co-governance arrangements between the council and iwi, including Te Tatau o Te Arawa Charitable Trust.
• Once the bill has been available for inspection for the required 15 working days, the following process will begin:
1. The bill will be submitted to the Office of the Clerk, with a declaration from the council chief executive that the public notice requirements have been met
2. The bill is then introduced to the House by a Member of Parliament
3. The bill will receive its first reading, and will be referred for consideration by the select committee (public submissions will be heard by way of hearings at this stage
4. Once the select committee's report is available, the bill receives its second and third readings
5. The bill is then prepared for assent by the Governor General and, once it has received assent, becomes an Act of Parliament.
More information about how a bill becomes law is available on the New Zealand Parliament website here.
More information about the Local Bill and the Representation Review is available here.
Source: Rotorua Lakes Council