The Whakatāne District Council has this week received a petition, signed by about 1800 people, demanding that a poll of electors be undertaken on the decision to introduce a Māori ward or wards at the 2019 local government election.

The petition is now being inspected by the district’s Electoral Officer to confirm that it meets the test of being signed by at least five percent (1161) of registered voters.

Assuming the validity of the petition is confirmed, Mayor Tony Bonne says the next step in this process will be to issue a public notice that a poll will be undertaken. “That notice will be issued on 23 February and the electoral roll will then be open for inspection through until 23 March,” he explains. “A public notice of the day of poll would then be issued on 28 March. Voting papers and information packs will then be sent to all registered electors on Friday 27 April and voting will be open through until midday on 19 May. Preliminary results should be available later that day and the Electoral Officer will provide an official declaration of the outcome on 21 May.”

If a majority of the people voting in the poll vote against Māori wards, the proposal will lapse. If a majority vote in favour of Māori wards, that will trigger a representation review, which will see Council decide on how the wards system should work, and then a period of community consultation before a final decision is made. Any objections to that decision would then be referred to the Local Government Commission for a ruling.

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