Giving iwi a say back on agenda

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2014

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New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd is forging ahead with his plan to give at least one iwi member the right to vote on council issues.

Yesterday Judd announced the New Plymouth District Council would again debate Maori representation, this time in the form of Maori ward seats.

"Central government has had Maori representation since the late 1800s," he said.

"Come on, how far behind are we?

"Maori ward seats would enrich our council and enrich our community."

However, it is not the first time the council has debated the idea.

In 2011 the council voted against establishing two Maori wards, leaving Wikitoria Keenan of Te Atiawa Iwi Authority labelling New Plymouth a "redneck town".

The influential iwi also struck out at the council earlier this year when councillors voted down the idea of appointing two iwi members to each of the monitoring, policy and regulatory committees.

"With that situation people said it was undemocratic because the representatives wouldn't have been elected," Judd said.

"Well, with this they would be."

Judd said he hoped this coming debate would be more respectful than previous ones, as Maori representation was noticeably missing from the council chambers.

He said he had brought forward the debate from later in the three-year term because it was an important matter that needed addressing.

The proposal will come first before the community boards, and will then be debated by the council's policy committee in early September before coming in front of the full council on September 23.

Judd said it was not yet decided if the Maori ward would have one or two seats, and if those seats would be on top of the number council already had around the table, or a part of the total number of councillors.

The council would have the opportunity to approve the proposal, not approve it, or send it out for a public poll.

Judd called on the community to make submissions on the matter when it came before the council and said it was important that all voices were heard.

"We need to have a debate about who we elect to this table, because representation is missing."

If approved, the Maori ward seat or seats would be voted on by people on the Maori Electoral Roll and would be in place for the next election in 2016.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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