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Maori Party Vows To Continue The Fight For Maori Seats

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Peter Wilson of NZPA

Wellington, Aug 25 NZPA - The Maori Party is vowing to continue to fight for reserved Maori seats on Auckland's new super city council.

Cabinet yesterday reaffirmed the decision it made in April not to have reserved seats, going against strong representations from the Maori Party and other Maori organisations.

Prime Minister John Key said it would not be right to have reserved seats on just one council, and it would have been counter to the views of the National Party.

He said Local Government Minister Rodney Hide's vow to resign if the decision was reversed was not a dominant factor in the Cabinet's decision.

Mr Key has avoided a crisis by asking Mr Hide and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples to join forces and find other ways for Maori to engage with the council.

"Minister Hide and Minister Sharples will be working together to recommend to Cabinet what will be the most effective mechanism to enable Maori participation in the new Auckland council," Mr Key said.

"There's no doubt there's going to be representation, it's just not going to be in the form of reserved Maori seats.

Mr Hide said he was ready to do that but last night Dr Sharples expressed doubts about whether he could take part.

"I have grave reservations about that. I will discuss it further with tangata whenua before deciding on the next step," he said.

The positive outcome for the Government is that the support agreements the Maori Party and ACT have with it are still intact.

Mr Hide will not have to resign and Dr Sharples said he had no intention of quitting as Maori Affairs Minister.

"I'm a little bit brassed off," he said.

"But we're not going away and we will continue to press for a system of representation in local government where Maori are represented at the top table, and it will happen."

Mr Key said Dr Sharples and Mr Hide were going to look at several options, including a statutory board, a standing council committee and a Maori advisory committee or council.

Dr Sharples said an advisory committee was "a very, very poor and quite worthless and toothless substitute" for representation.

One way the Maori Party is going to try to get Maori seats on the council is to propose an amendment to the legislation that sets up the council, which is due to be debated in Parliament.

That proposal will go to a vote, but to win it the Maori Party would have to persuade some National Party MPs to vote against the Government, which is extremely unlikely.

The Green Party doubted whether an alternative to direct representation would be found.

"It is extremely unlikely that Pita Sharples and Rodney Hide will come up with an adequate solution any time in the near future," said the party's Auckland issues spokeswoman Sue Bradford.

"Maori will now have to take a back seat in this new era of centralised power."

Dr Sharples and Ms Bradford said the Government should have waited for the special select committee that tested opinion in Auckland to present its report before making a decision.

Mr Key said ministers considered the submissions made to the select committee.

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