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Auckland Council votes no to Māori seats at 2025 local body elections

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 Oct 2023, 3:06PM

Auckland Council votes no to Māori seats at 2025 local body elections

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 Oct 2023, 3:06PM

Auckland councillors have today voted 11-9 not to have Māori seats at the 2025 local body elections.

The councillors had the option of several models to provide one, two or three Māori seats, or not to have seats.

But after a long debate on the controversial issue at a governing board meeting, councillors voted to defer the issue of Māori representation to a working party looking at wider governance arrangements for Auckland Council set down to report back by December 31, 2024.

Mayor Wayne Brown, who abstained on the vote for Māori seats, said the issue was a complicated constitutional issue with no consensus from Maori, iwi or the broader public.

He called for the issue to be looked at as part of a wider view, not a narrow view, of governance arrangements.

“I don’t accept this is a missed opportunity. I don’t accept it will take until December 2024. It’s almost certain this will be one of many things I will be sitting down with the Government and talking about the problems with the way this council was set up that should have been dealt with years ago,” said Brown.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown deferred the issue of Māori seats to a working party looking at wider governance issues. Photo / Michael Craig

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown deferred the issue of Māori seats to a working party looking at wider governance issues. Photo / Michael Craig

Councillor Sharon Stewart said it would be foolish to vote for Māori wards when the governance review is looking to reduce the number of councillors and Local Boards, and those numbers are unknown.

Public consultation on the proposals drew responses from 11,825 individuals, 43 organisations and 17 Māori groups. At a high level, Māori groups (85 per cent) and individuals (54 per cent) were in favour. The wider public had 68 per cent of individuals and 54 per cent of organisations opposed.
There was also support from 18 of the council’s 21 Local Board for Māori seats in 2021.

The council already has Māori representation of sorts with the Independent Māori Statutory Board, appointed by a selection process overseen by mana whenua set up by the Minister of Māori Development. The board has nine members, who sit on council committees with voting rights but not on the governing body.

It was created after the National-led Government and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide rejected the recommendation from the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance for three Māori seats on Auckland Council - two elected and one appointed by mana whenua.

Over the past few days, councillors have been bombarded with emails from former National Party leader Don Brash and lobby group Hobson’s Pledge to oppose the creation of Māori seats. Manurewa-Papakura councillor Angela Dalton said she had received 1247 emails over five days.

Today, she said there is a special place for Māori around the council table.

“This isn’t about racism, but upholding our obligations signed 183 years ago by our ancestors. We will never make change while the same voices are heard around the council,” said Dalton.

Whau councillor, Kerrin Leoni, of Māori and European descent, said people have been fighting for years for Māori to be at the governing body table where the big decisions are made and “time and time again we do not have that strong Māori voice”.

Councillor Kerrin Leoni, of Māori and European descent, supported plans for Māori seats. Photo / Jay Farnworth

FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE

Councillor Kerrin Leoni, of Māori and European descent, supported plans for Māori seats. Photo / Jay Farnworth

She said nearly half of the country’s councils have Māori wards and Auckland Council is lagging behind.

During the election campaign, National and NZ First promised to repeal Labour’s law change for Māori wards on councils which has a provision allowing communities to veto Māori wards in a vote, and Act called Māori seats on Auckland council divisive and “morally repugnant”.

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