Two Maori on council suggested

There should be at least two Maori on the Palmerston North City Council, says Rangitaane kaumatua Wiremu Kingi Te Awe Awe.

At present there is none.

The council's community wellbeing committee yesterday recommended adoption of its Maori Community Strategy designed to improve relationships and foster Maori development. The final version of the strategy was presented and blessed with a prayer when the committee met at Te Manawa.

Among its goals, the strategy envisages more Maori voting, and more Maori candidates standing for election to council.

Mr Te Awe Awe said he believed success would be achieved if there were at least two Maori elected.

Earlier this year the council discounted the idea of setting up a separate Maori ward to ensure at least one Maori voice at the council table.

Cr Pat Kelly said it was possible that the change to single-transferable voting might help candidates from minority groups.

And other councillors questioned whether Maori would have had a better chance of gaining election if the council had pressed ahead with its proposal to move to city-wide voting.

Instead, it is likely to confirm next week that geographical wards will remain in place for the 2013 elections.

The city's most recent Maori councillors were elected before the introduction of wards.

Cr Susan Baty said the first step had to be encouraging Maori candidates to come forward, before there could be any hope of electing Maori councillors.

"The elections are next year. We need to move now to have support and mentoring, to have Maori candidates starting to think about it now, or it will be another time we miss the boat."

Council principal Maori adviser Todd Taiepa said another challenge was encouraging Maori to vote, and actually finding out how many voted.

The overarching aims of the strategy were to increase Maori participation in local government and in the life of the city generally.

A post-election survey has been proposed for next year to capture information about Maori voting patterns. Mr Taiepa said postal voting did not automatically generate that data.

But he said the council needed to build meaningful relationships with Maori and demonstrate that it was listening and taking action before voter turnouts were likely to increase.

Maori were asking whether local government in its current form was a structure that would and could progress their development, Mr Taiepa said.

Manawatu Standard