29 Sep 2017

Auckland Council Māori seat not a done deal yet

1:19 pm on 29 September 2017

The Auckland Council has taken the first step toward creating a dedicated Māori seat, but has now passed the job to the government to finish.

Phil Goff on the day he was elected Auckland mayor. 8 October 2016.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Councillors voted 10 to five yesterday to support the idea in principle, as long as a law was changed to allow an increase in the number of seats from the current 20.

Manukau ward councillor Alf Filipaina, who is part-Māori and who proposed the compromise, called it a win for Māori.

He was confident the mayor, Phil Goff, would drive the issue forward with the government.

"Our mayor is not alone, we have got other councillors who are going to talk to people within government to say 'here's our position', so the more we have getting out there, the better it is for us," he said.

Mr Goff said he accepted he would have to do the persuading.

"I'll certainly act on the council's recommendation - I raised the question of wards with the former Prime Minister and he said no, and I accepted that," Mr Goff said.

However, he said there were other priorities for what was being sought from the government, such as infrastructure for housing and transport.

"Those are the top of my list of priorities, but this is an issue which can be taken up without affecting those," he said.

The councillors steered away from holding a referendum on the seat at the 2019 local body elections, fearing it could fail, and also create division in the community.

Creating the Māori ward within the existing cap of 20 seats was also a non-starter.

The council has taken no position on the future of the Independent Māori Statutory Board, which was created by the government in 2010 as an alternative to dedicated seats.

Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei's Ngarimu Blair unimpressed

A leading Māori figure in Auckland, Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei's Ngarimu Blair, was not impressed with the council's move.

Mr Blair was one of the leaders of a 2009 march up Queen Street calling for Māori seats on the soon-to-be-amalgamated Auckland Council.

He said one seat was not enough, and there also needed to be a much wider review on how well the seven-year-old council was serving Māori interests.

"We have a myriad of iwi engagement, and mana whenua consultation bodies right through the council agencies for every project in the city it seems," Mr Blair said.

"We've had $25 million poured into the Independent Māori Statutory Board.

"I think we need very soon to take stock and see if any of these methods have increased Māori wellbeing in the city, then asses the Māori wards and Māori seats in that context," he said.

The council has set no timeframe for its ambitions to have a Māori seat.

Its stance can be challenged if five percent of voters, or 51,000 Aucklanders, petition for a referendum.

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