Today the Whakatāne District Council voted unanimously to establish Māori wards for the next two local body electoral cycles.

At the commencement of the meeting, 21 groups and individuals took the opportunity to speak in the Public Forum to share their views on Māori ward establishment with elected members.

The next step is to consider Māori wards as part of Council’s Representation Review.

To achieve fair and effective representation, councils must review their representation arrangements at least once every six years. The review asks how many elected members there should be in a district and how they should be elected. It considers wards, their boundaries, names, and how many councillors are elected to each. A representation review is also an opportunity to review the number of community boards, the number of members and subdivision boundaries.

A community engagement programme will take place as part of the development of an initial proposal on the structure for elected representation. The initial proposal then goes through a full consultation and public submission process ahead of the Council meeting on 28 October to adopt the final proposal. Public notification and an appeal period follow.

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