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Waikato Regional Council today voted to establish two Maori seats in time for the 2013 local government elections.
Chairman Peter Buckley said the groundwork for strengthening Maori representation started in 2006 when the council reduced the number of councillors from 14 to 12 and adjusted constituency boundaries to allow for two members to be elected from Maori constituencies in the future.
“This council has long recognised the special status of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand society and the potential for improving Maori representation in regional governance,” he said.
“At the last representation review five years ago, the council created the opportunity for Maori seats. It is now time to make it happen.”
The Maori constituencies would complement and reinforce current co-governance agreements, memoranda of understanding between iwi and the council, and other engagement and consultation arrangements, he said.
Councillors hoped that introducing Maori seats would encourage more Maori to vote and participate in local democracy.
Formal and informal feedback from Raukawa Settlement Trust, Waikato Tainui, Maniapoto Maori Trust Board and Te Arawa River Iwi Trust confirmed these views.
The council will now publicly notify the decision to introduce Maori seats, advising that a poll can be held on this issue if five percent of electors call for it.
All local authorities have to review their representation arrangements every six years. As part of the council’s review next year, the council will work with iwi to decide the Maori constituency boundaries.