Mayor calls for half Maori councils
New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd has taken his fight for Maori representation a step further, calling for a law change so up to half of all councillors in New Zealand are Maori.
Judd, already fighting critics over his council's plans to create a Maori ward, believes there should be more Maori representation across the country to better reflect the Treaty of Waitangi.
"The reasonable interpretation of the Treaty is that you would have fifty-fifty representation around the table," Judd said.
"We should be incorporating the Maori perspective around council tables, and ultimately that would mean up to half the representation each."
In September the New Plymouth District Council narrowly voted for the creation of a Maori ward seat, but the move has not been without conflict.
Councillor John McLeod resigned in protest and former Grey Power New Plymouth president Hugh Johnson has vowed to fight it with a petition he hopes will force a binding poll.
MP Winston Peters slammed the idea as separatist and Judd said he has been sworn at in the supermarket by people unhappy with the decision, and said he believed his championing the cause would cost him a second term as mayor.
Despite this Judd has now challenged New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young and Labour leader Andrew Little to take the issue to parliament.
"They must have a view on this, and what is that? They are our representatives and they need to talk about it," Judd said.
District councils debated Maori wards every six years and because of this Maori had no permanent representation, Judd said.
However, if the representation was written into law Maori could have a constant presence around council tables.
At the moment, even if a council voted in favour of a Maori ward, a petition with signatures from five per cent of voters in the district could force a binding poll on the matter.
Judd has written to minister of local government, Paula Bennett, asking for the law that allows a binding poll to be changed.
"This is a national issue," he said.
"Central Government has set the rules for councils to engage with Maori in a meaningful way, and yet there are things that mean the engagement can be opposed.
"Well that's not good enough for me, let alone how it must feel for Maori."
- Taranaki Daily News