New Plymouth row focuses attention at Maori representation on councils

The issue of Maori seats on New Plymouth's council has brought claims of racism and abuse but has also focussed debate on Maori representation on local bodies.

Iwi throughout the country say proactive measures are already improving Maori representation on some local bodies. Source: 1 NEWS

Iwi say proactive measures are already improving representation but only eight per cent of local body councillors are Maori.

New Plymouth ratepayers were wary of having a Maori seat on their council and the idea was rejected, with the mayor spat on for his support.

"We've got some challenges and those challenges are ugly because racism never sleeps," Mayor Andrew Judd said, who is stepping down amid the ongoing abuse.

Waikato-Tainui has two seats at the regional council, as well as a co-governance deal to clean up the Waikato River and Tuku Morgan said people have to get used to the fact that partnership is here to stay.

"They deny it at their peril because it's coming and you cannot stop it," Mr Morgan said.

Other iwi have co-management deals such as those covering Auckland's volcanic cones and Ninety Mile Beach, while central North Island tribes are setting up council agreements to manage natural resources.

"No one has a larger slice of decision making than the other, we all share and it's 50-50," Mr Morgan said.

Despite the rejection of Maori wards in Taranaki and the racial ugliness that has come with it some are not ready to give the issue up and are even mooting equal council seats for Maori.