Whakatāne District Council elected members will decide on whether or not to establish Māori Wards at an Extraordinary Council meeting on 20 May 2021.

The opportunity to again consider the establishment of Māori wards comes following the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill was passed at Parliament in February this year.

The recent changes to the Local Electoral Act removed any options for establishing Māori wards other than the Council resolving to have Māori wards. Previously, local polls with five or more percent of the voting population could overturn a council’s decision to introduce Māori wards, which Whakatāne District Council experienced in 2018.

The change to legislation has set the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards to 21 May 2021.

To inform its decision, Whakatāne District Council’s elected members have sought input from the Iwi Chairs Forum, which carries representatives of iwi that hold mana whenua in the Whakatāne rohe. Council has also asked for feedback from the Youth Council and each of the four Community Boards within the Whakatāne District. A public forum will be held at the start of Council’s Extraordinary meeting on 20 May to enable members of the public to speak to the Mayor and Councillors ahead of making their decision.

In 2018, the then-Council voted in favour of establishing Māori wards following a public consultation process. The decision then went to a public poll after Council received a petition signed by 1,161 registered voters, and the binding poll determined that Māori wards would not proceed after 55 percent of electors voted against Māori wards.

There are 29 councils across Aotearoa that are either required to undertake a representation review or have chosen to do a further review ahead of the 2022 elections. Ten councils have already decided to establish Māori wards in time for the 2022 local elections, joining three councils that have already done so.