Saturday, December 9, 2023

Māori seats on Auckland Council fail to win support

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Auckland Council’s Governing Body has agreed to maintain the existing wards of Tāmaki Makaurau, without introducing Māori seats in time for our next local body elections in 2025.

Most councillors believe they have not yet received enough support from Aucklanders to justify changing the status quo for representation on the council’s governing body.

Thirteen councillors voted against introducing Māori seats to the council for the 2025 local elections this afternoon at the governing body’s October meeting.

Further work to consider appropriate Māori representation in Auckland will be undertaken by the council’s Joint Governance Working Party, who will report back to the Governing Body by 31 December 2024.

Councillor and Māori Portfolio holder Kerrin Leoni says the outcome is disappointing, especially after changes to legislation this year have finally made Māori seats in Auckland possible.

“It’s been a long wait to get this far. I had hoped for a different pathway, but this topic has generated widespread discussion and raised awareness about those core values we all hold close to our hearts – democracy, equality and fairness. That can only be a good thing.

“The next time Tāmaki Makaurau considers this decision, I expect there will be a whole lot more motivation to support change,” says Cr Leoni.

A total of 11,825 individuals, 43 organisations and 17 Māori entities gave their feedback on the proposal. Local boards also provided feedback to the governing body on this decision.

Those not in favour of introducing Māori seats accounted for 68 per cent of individual submissions and 54 per cent of organisations.

Support predominantly came from Māori entities (87 per cent), Māori individuals (54 per cent) and local boards (85 per cent).

Most of the feedback focused on the overarching themes of equality, equity, and democracy.

Those in support believe introducing specific Māori representation will help address Māori inequity and honour the council’s obligations to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Other submissions maintain Māori wards will help deliver proportional Māori representation based on population.

Opposition to Māori seats has centred around concerns of equality. Submitters believe that everyone should have the same opportunity for representation, regardless of ethnicity, and that our current system is the most democratic.

Auckland Council’s Manager of Governance Services, Rose Leonard, says the council made a significant effort to capture Māori views and preferences, in recognition that this decision has the greatest impact and significance for Māori.

“We canvassed the range of options that were possible under current legislation, and some that require legislative change. The difficulty is to find a solution that everyone agrees on for the process of how we can implement this effectively,” she says.

Mayor Wayne Brown says the council hasn’t yet found the right solution for Māori representation and he wants to see more work done on alternative options for this, other than the ‘parliamentary’ and Royal Commission models proposed during consultation.

“This doesn’t mean Auckland Council says ‘no’ to Māori wards. We want to get this right from the start to ensure we are creating a legacy everyone in our city can be proud of.

“There are problems with current Auckland Council representations wider than just Māori seats and these all need to be considered once the new government engages with Auckland over a proposed City Deal,” he says.

Howick Councillors Sharon Stewart and Maurice Williamson voted against the move but voted in favour of the Governing Body agreeing that “further work is required to determine the appropriate arrangements for Māori representation on Auckland Council, including in discussion with Māori and the Auckland public, and request that this be considered by the Joint Governance Working Party and reported back to the Governing Body by 31 December 2024”.

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