10 Dec 2015

Christchurch council considers greater Maori representation

8:11 am on 10 December 2015

Hot on the heels of a call for Auckland Council's Maori Advisory Board to be scrapped, Christchurch City Council is considering setting up a committee to boost Maori representation.

Last week, National MP Judith Collins labelled the Auckland board an unaccountable monster and said it should be scrapped.

Christchurch City Council will today vote on whether to set up its own committee, made up of the chairs of six local rununga, the mayor and the chairs of five council committees.

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Christchurch City Council is pondering greater Maori representation. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Council director of community and democracy services Mary Richardson said the purpose of the committee was to strengthen the council's relationship with local Maori.

"A number of councils have formal committees, to have something that symbolises and puts down on paper what that relationship will be and how it will be formed."

Each of the Auckland Council's committees contains two members from its Maori Advisory Board which is made up exclusively of appointees.

Ms Richardson said matters such as whether runanga representatives on the Christchurch City Council committee would have voting rights or whether they would be paid had yet to be decided.

"The legislation allows all councils to co-opt people on to its committees.

"It hasn't been discussed at this stage with the council, or rununga, so I would be pre-empting things to make any comment on that."

Maori party co-leader Marama Fox congratuled Christchurch for considering the move.

She said there were numerous models already in use around the country that the council could look to when deciding how the committee should work and how much power it should have.

"Bay of Plenty have Maori wards, Rotorua have Maori advisory groups, the Auckland Super City has an advisory board, Tuhoe have co-governance over the Uruwera Ranges, Waikato and Whanganui have co-governance over the river."

Ms Fox said despite some of the fears raised about the likes of the Auckland Council's Maori Advisory Board, Cantabrians had nothing to fear when it came to giving Maori a greater say in local government.

"It's not something that people need to be all worried about, that Maori are going to take away somebody else's rights to go to the beach and go to the river or venture into the forests.

"This is about ensuring protection over things that Maori hold as sacred and also coming up with ways that we can co-exist as New Zealand going forward."

Former Maori Affairs Minister and now Northland Regional Councillor Dover Samuels said after the last election his council also introduced a Maori Advisory committee made up of appointed members.

He said while they had the power to make recommendations, these still needed to be voted on by the full council.

"So you can't introduce some sort of radical idea about Tino Rangatiratanga and who owns the water and radical ideas about sovereignty when in fact it has got to go through council at the end of the day."

If the Christchurch city councillors vote in favour of setting up the committee, its first job will be to draft a memorandum of partnership and establish exactly how it will go about building the council's relationship with local Maori.