South Waikato District Council elected members at the completion of a hearing on Thursday, decided not to introduce designated Māori seats for the 2019 local government elections.
Council also decided to revisit the issue in three years' time rather than wait for the allowable statutory timeframe of six years.
What came to light during the feedback period was that engagement with Māori and in particular with iwi is different to having designated Māori seats on Council.
Council received 84 submissions, survey responses and feedback about the concept of designated Māori seats. Of the 84 responses, there was an exact even split, with 42 respondents wishing Council to introduce Māori seats and 42 against.
"Representation and engagement options have been discussed with Raukawa, and we will be working with them and other iwi to build on our partnerships that will reflect greater involvement in decision making for our community," commented Mayor Jenny Shattock. "The development of a closer and more aligned relationship with all iwi groups is something that we are keen to develop."
Reflecting on the hearing, Mayor Shattock said that the relationship with Māori is continuing to improve and we are confident that it can only get stronger with the development of a comprehensive strategy.
"One of Council's main outcomes over the coming three years is to focus on relationships with all sectors in the community; seniors, business, youth and pacific island peoples, including Māori and iwi," said Mayor Shattock. "We have already started this work through the Long Term Plan, holding 14 meetings with sectors in our community and hearing from around 300 people. This has been good positive engagement."
South Waikato District Council has been proud over the years to have always had Māori representation around the Council table, but the issue facing Council is how to have better engagement with iwi and Māori and whether this should result in having designated Māori seats. Council has decided not to have designated Māori seats at this time however the community can challenge this decision if 5% of eligible voters in the South Waikato request a poll by 23rd February 2018.