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Govt And ACT Deny Rift Over Maori Seats On Auckland Council

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Rodney Hide
Rodney Hide

Wellington, Aug 20 NZPA - The Government and the ACT Party are denying that a crisis has developed over whether there should be reserved Maori seats on Auckland's new city council.

It was revealed last night that a senior National MP sent an email to his caucus colleagues telling them ACT had threatened to end its relationship with the Government if it "gave in to Maori" and agreed to having special Maori seats on the council.

But ACT leader and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said the email was wrong.

"We've certainly never threatened to end the relationship," he said.

"What we have done is state our position very clearly and we are opposed to any reservation of seats for a particular group."

A spokesman for Prime Minister John Key said ACT's views were well known.

"We are working through arrangements for the super city. We have all sorts of discussions with support parties, we're not about to start conducting those in the media," the spokesman said.

"Our relationship with ACT remains strong."

The Royal Commission which reported on Auckland's local government structure recommended reserved Maori seats but the Government scrapped that when it set out its plans for the city.

The Maori Party has been lobbying to overturn the Government's decision and both sides have been looking for a compromise.

It has been reported that Mr Hide will resign the local government portfolio if the Government goes against him, but that could not be confirmed last night.

He said it would be hard for him, as a minister, to introduce Maori seats.

"But that's part of the discussion we're having," he said.

A special select committee which has been holding hearings in Auckland on the legislation that sets up the new city council is due to report to the Government in about two weeks.

It set up a sub-committee to deal with the Maori seats issue and is expected to make a recommendation one way or the other.

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