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Maori Party Not Given Up On Maori Seats For Auckland Council

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, May 5 NZPA - The Maori Party has not given up its fight for Maori seats on the Auckland super council, despite legislation excluding them as an option.

Yesterday, Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said legislation would be introduced next week to set up the council and said in line with previously announced decisions it would not include Maori seats.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said the announcement did not change the "outlook" for Maori seats.

"There is a process in place and currently being actioned, high level discussions with mana whenua leadership are being organised at present," Dr Sharples said.

"I am still strongly committed to the kaupapa of mana whenua seats at the top table and I remain hopeful of a positive outcome."

Mr Hide said the first two bills setting up a super council in Auckland would be introduced to Parliament next week.

The first bill to be passed under urgency will establish the Auckland Council as a legal entity and the Auckland Governance Transition Agency.

The bill will also give the agency the power to "constrain the decision-making powers of existing Auckland councils and their subsidiaries".

The agency will be responsible for rationalisation and the transition to the new governance arrangements.

The second bill will be sent to Parliament's local government select committee for public submissions for reporting back in September.

This will:

* propose the structure of the Auckland Council -- eight members elected at large and 12 members from wards, and 20 to 30 local boards including their high level functions;

* empower the Local Government Commission to determine the boundaries of the wards and the local boards, as well as the boards' membership; and

* provide for the integration of Auckland's water infrastructure.

A third bill would be introduced later this detailing the structure, functions, roles and powers of the council and local boards.

Labour has called for a referendum on the structure of the council, but Mr Hide said the parliamentary process was more appropriate.

Prime Minister John Key defended the use of urgency to pass the first bill, saying the Government was showing leadership and it was necessary to get the process moving.

The membership of the establishment board, which was likely to have five members, would probably be announced next week.

Mr Key said the details of contentious issues would be dealt with in the second and third bills.

Cabinet had "puts its best foot forward" on the Maori seats issue in ruling them out, but would still listen to arguments about it.

Mr Key said he believed Maori issues would be best dealt with by an advisory board to the council.

NZPA PAR il nb

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