Councils give Maori seats idea brush-off

Last updated 05:00 26/08/2011

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Race relations conciliator Joris de Bres won't be getting his wish – none of South Canterbury's district councils plans to establish a Maori ward in time for the 2013 elections.

And as to Mr de Bres wanting to know how many district councillors are Maori, he's not likely to be told that either. Mr de Bres has written to councils around the country asking about the number of councillors of Maori descent, and also asking councils to consider the option of establishing Maori wards for the next local government election.

Waimate councillors considered the request, but decided they did not agree with the idea of establishing Maori wards. While a letter to Mr de Bres will inform him Waimate has eight councillors plus a mayor elected at large, it will not include any information regarding the ethnicity of councillors.

The Timaru council's acting chief executive, Peter Nixon, has no idea of the ethnicity of the district's mayor and 10 councillors. He said they were not required to tell him of their ethnicity, and he had replied along those lines to Mr de Bres. He did not intend putting the matter of Maori wards before the council as previous councils had decided against such a move because only about 6 per cent of the district's population considered themselves Maori. If one of the council's 10 existing seats was to be declared a Maori ward, then Maori would be over-represented, Mr Nixon said.

Any changes in the Mackenzie District seem even less likely. When asked, a spokesperson was unaware of Mr de Bres's letter.

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- The Timaru Herald

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