27 Feb 2015

New Plymouth to spend $80k on poll

7:50 pm on 27 February 2015

New Plymouth is to spend about $80,000 to conduct a poll over whether Maori should have an automatic right to a council seat.

The district council this week validated a petition calling for a binding citizens-initiated referendum on the establishment of a Maori ward and a ballot will be held in May.

Last year, the council voted 7-to-6 to establish a Maori ward at the local government elections in 2016.

A resident, Hugh Johnson, then organised a petition to force a referendum on the issue.

Mr Johnson says the issue is too important to leave to councillors alone.

"I believe we are one country and I believe in democracy. I believe there are changes to go on in local government in this sort of nature that people should have a say. Hence this referendum."

The Mayor, Andrew Judd, said he would respect the result of the referendum but would continue to seek improved engagement with Maori regardless of its outcome.

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