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Published: 2012-05-25 00:00:00

Two new Maori seats and changes to Waikato Regional Council general constituency boundaries will strengthen local democracy and provide better alignment with local councils and river catchments.

In line with the requirement to review its representation arrangements, the council yesterday decided on 12 general seats from six general constituencies and two Maori seats elected from two Maori constituencies. The current council is made up of 12 general seats across eight constituencies, with no Maori seats.

Chairman Peter Buckley said the proposed new constituencies continued to provide fair and effective representation and improved the alignment of general constituency boundaries with city and district council boundaries and also provided an integrated catchment management focus.

Cr Buckley said the introduction of Maori seats was a significant milestone in local government in Waikato. Despite a Maori population of 21 per cent at the last Census, there has never been elected Maori representation on the regional council.

While councillors must be mindful of all people’s interests and perspectives, there was a case for considering Maori representation in a different light because of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the special status of tangata whenua in New Zealand.

“The view of most regional councillors is that Maori seats are about fair and effective representation. Everyone still has only one vote, but people on the Maori roll are able to vote for Maori representation,” he said.

Cr Buckley said Maori participation in democratic government was well-established at a national level through the Maori electoral roll and seats in Parliament.

“It’s hoped the Maori seats will enrich local democracy by encouraging greater Maori participation in local government decision-making.”

All councils are required to do a representation review every six years. The council will consult with the public over the proposed constituency boundaries from 6 June to 18 July. Hearings will take place in August.

The councillors’ total remuneration pool will not increase to accommodate the two new seats.

CONSTITUENCY

ELECTED MEMBERS/POPULATION

Thames-Coromandel General

1 member/31050

Waikato General

2 members/53100

Hamilton General

4 members/123900

Waihou General

2 members/56110

Waipa-King Country General

2 members/56200

Taupo – Rotorua General

1 member/30460

Maori (northern part of region, yet to be named)

1 member/32890

Maori (southern part of the region, to be named)

1 member/29250