Things you need to know about Māori seats...

Last Updated : 30 Aug 2023
Māori seats for Auckland Council

Auckland Council wants to know if you think Māori seats should be introduced onto the Governing Body of Auckland Council.
To help you provide your feedback, we’ve summarised some key points to consider…

What are Māori seats?

Currently, our Governing Body has one elected mayor and 20 councillors elected from general wards. These councillors speak on behalf of their communities when major decisions are made that determine how our city can continue to thrive. No councillors specifically represent voters who are on the Māori roll.

Councillor Kerrin Leoni says without Māori representation at the highest level of decision-making, Māori communities are at risk of not being heard.     

“Yes, I am Māori but I represent voters in the Whau general ward – not Māori voters. We have no councillors who specifically speak for Māori on the Governing Body,” says Councillor Leoni.

“This is important to ensure Māori have a voice at the table when we decide how to allocate resources and how we can best support the needs of everyone in Tāmaki Makaurau.”

To fill Māori seats, Māori wards will need to be established so voters on the Māori electoral roll can elect one or two councillors on the Governing Body. Māori wards will sit alongside general wards, with the number of seats determined in proportion to population. Read more about Māori wards here.

Why is this important?

Decisions made at the Governing Body table are big-ticket items that impact on everyone – from deciding how much we contribute through rates, to long-term regional planning. Read more about the Governing Body here

The Independent Māori Statutory Board (IMSB) currently advocates for Māori in council decisions by participating in committees and voting on issues covered by those committees.

But IMSB members do not have any input on Governing Body decisions, nor do they represent Māori voters on council decisions. The IMSB is a separate entity, set up by law – to ensure Auckland Council acts in accordance with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and is well-informed on issues of significance for Māori in Auckland.

Why now?

This is the first opportunity for Aucklanders to choose Māori seats. Previously, Auckland Council has been limited in its ability to introduce new seats because our council (unlike any other council in New Zealand) has the number of councillors set at 20. That restriction has now been lifted through a recent central government law change.

Another challenge has been the ability for public polls to overturn council decisions on Māori seats. That provision was removed in 2021. Since then, 32 of 78 councils around Aotearoa have now introduced Māori wards, resulting in more than 60 newly established Māori seats around the country. 

Why it’s important to have your say…

Auckland’s mayor and councillors want feedback to help them make the right decision.

"We are asking all Aucklanders to tell us how they want representation to look at the Governing Body table” says Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown.   

“I encourage everyone to speak up so we can approach this decision well-informed about what Auckland wants – to bring in governance change or keep the status quo.”

To introduce Māori seats, Auckland Council would like feedback about whether to do this using the existing formula, or whether it should seek legislative change.

The current legislation means that election by Māori voters happens in the same way general ward councillors are elected. This process is called the parliamentary model and will allow for one or two Māori seats on the Governing Body. Māori voters on the Māori roll would vote for a Māori ward councillor instead of a general ward councillor.

Elected Māori seats are provided for in the Local Electoral Act 2001, and a formula is used to determine how many seats a council might have. This is to ensure proportional representation for all councils who wish to introduce Māori representation. 

An alternative, which would require a change to the law, is for two Māori councillors to be elected and one Māori councillor appointed by mana whenua. This is known as the royal commission model, which guarantees representation for mana whenua – iwi or hapu with ancestral rights over the land in Tāmaki Makaurau. The Royal Commission into Auckland Governance advised that this was a good model for Auckland in 2009.

How do I make a submission?

Don’t delay – consultation closes on 24 September 2023. You can have your say simply by completing the feedback form here.

To find out more, read the Māori seats for Auckland Council consultation document or summary, and FAQs here.

You can register for an online webinar on 28 August here, or attend an Auckland Libraries drop-in session:

  • 29 August – Te Manawa Library (Westgate)
  • 31 August – Central City Library; 10:30am -12pm
  • 6 September – Te Paataka Koorero O Takaanini Library; 10:30am -12pm

Marae information hui will be held on:

  • 4 September – Papakura Marae; 1-4pm
  • 8 September – Hoani Waititi Marae; 1-4pm

What happens next?

After you’ve had your say, the Governing Body will consider feedback and aim to make a decision on 26 October 2023.

If Auckland Council does establish Māori seats for the 2025 local elections, these seats will be determined through a representation review. This involves a review of councillor numbers and is required by law every six years.

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