Maori poll would cost $80k

Last updated 05:00 19/08/2014

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Ratepayers could be footing a bill of up to $80,000 if the community pushes for the New Plymouth District Council to hold a poll about establishing a Maori ward.

Last month mayor Andrew Judd announced plans for the creation of a Maori ward.

The proposal comes just months after a move to give unelected Maori members seats on the council's major committees was turfed out.

That decision split the community, with Maori, especially the Te Atiawa iwi, upset the plan was not accepted, but critics saying introducing unelected members was not democratic.

Next month the council will vote on whether to agree to a Maori ward seat, or whether to hold a community poll.

Ratepayers can also have a say, as a poll demanded by only 5 per cent could nullify any council decision.

When Maori wards were last debated in 2011, Grey Power New Plymouth and its 2200 members opposed the idea and said it would support any moves to force a district-wide poll on the question.

The council voted down the proposal and a poll was never needed.

However, if called for this time the poll would cost ratepayers between $70,000 to $80,000, the council has revealed.

The money would be spent on an electoral officer, public notices, supporting documentation to enable informed decision-making, and the posting of voting papers.

Te Atiawa Iwi Authority negotiator Peter Moeahu said he thought the ward idea was a good move.

But he said he was a "little sceptical" about the level of support the idea would receive.

"From what I have seen in the past, there has not been a great deal of support for that [Maori representation]. So I'll wait for the outcome and go from there."

Judd said it was important to have Maori representation on the council and the council had an obligation under the Local Government Act to engage with the Maori community in a meaningful way.

He believed the council could do more to strengthen its relationship with local iwi.

"They'll bring different cultural aspects that will benefit us all."

Establishing a Maori ward for the district would involve electors on the Maori parliamentary electoral roll voting for candidates standing in that ward only.

Electors on the general parliamentary roll would vote for candidates standing in the general wards.

Currently, Maori wards or constituencies are in place at Environment Bay of Plenty (three seats) and on the Waikato Regional Council (two seats).

The possibility of establishing a Maori ward in the New Plymouth district will be considered by community board members next week.

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The recommendations of the four boards will be considered by the policy committee on September 9, before being debated by the full council on September 23.

- Taranaki Daily News

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