A proposal to give iwi members voting rights on influential council committees has been lambasted as undemocratic.
Yesterday councillors John McLeod and Murray Chong slated a New Plymouth District Council proposal which would see two iwi members appointed to each of the monitoring, policy and regulatory committees.
The six new appointments, which would be from Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga, Te Atiawa, Ngati Maru and Taranaki iwi, would have voting rights on these committees.
The proposal to dissolve the komiti Maori and create the new roles was released yesterday. It will be discussed by the full council next Tuesday.
If passed, the new members could be sitting on the committees within the next two months.
McLeod slammed the new initiative.
He said if iwi wanted representation on the council they should put themselves forward at election time and be voted in by the whole community.
"I believe in democracy and I believe in fairness and I believe that all of our people should have the right to say who can vote on our community issues," McLeod said.
"I'm probably the only councillor who has been out there on the frontline fighting for democracy and the freedom for people to vote and I don't care if you are Maori or Polynesian or Asian, we are all equal and you get voted on by our people as a whole."
Chong also lashed out at the proposal.
He said he had no issue with iwi representatives being on the standing committees to debate issues but he objected to them having voting rights.
"I don't think that's very democratic. They have not been elected by the community, so why should they have the power to vote," he said.
"There's an argument out there that there isn't enough Maori on the council, but people say the same about women too, but they still have to stand in an election.
"This proposal just makes a mockery of the whole process."
However, mayor Andrew Judd said he fully supported the idea and would speak out in favour of it at the council meeting. He said the proposal came about after discussions he had with kaumatua and iwi representatives about their feelings around komiti Maori.
Although the komiti worked to engage and educate, it did very little to put Maori in a position to discuss and debate directly at the coal face of decision making.
"This will be a partnership I will be proud to champion," he said.
"Change can make people nervous but to stay the same will take us nowhere. We will all be richer for this move."
Council's iwi relationships manager Aroha Chamberlain said the existing structure had been in place for 12 years and some Maori no longer believed it provided a meaningful or effective way for them to have an input.
There was a feeling among iwi that having an advisory role was no longer adequate and certainly not effective, she said.
If the council passed the proposal, iwi would meet, nominate and vote in six people to put forward.
"One of the most important things for iwi is making sure their representative has the skills and knowledge for this job," she said.
Maori representation on standing committees was now fairly common across the country, she said.
Councillor Gordon Brown supported the proposal and said the time had come to include Maori representatives on the NPDC.
"We would be foolish to ignore the impact of iwi in the region, especially with treaty settlements coming up," he said.
"I am sure it will be met with opposition from some quarters, but this is a sign that we are moving forward. I will welcome them."
Councillor Shaun Biesiek said he was still sitting on the fence.
"I fully understand where iwi are coming from with this, and I can see the benefit from it, but unelected people have not been through the democratic process," he said.
"There needs to be some good robust discussion around this. I look forward to the debate."
In May of 2011 the NPDC voted against establishing two dedicated Maori wards in the district, causing Peter Moeahu to lead a mass walkout of Maori from the meeting and Te Atiawa to suspend its involvement with komiti Maori for three months.
The council will now revisit the idea at the next representation review in 2015.
- Taranaki Daily News
Where do you buy most of your books nowadays?Related story: Online sales final page for independent bookshop