The decision was made at a meeting of the full Council. Approximately 18% of Palmerston North’s population identify as Māori. Several options to better represent Māori and honour the Treaty of Waitangi were discussed, including the introduction of standing committees and enhanced community engagement.
"No system is perfect but it must represent the people it affects. Māori people want to be, and deserve to be, around this table," says Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith.
I am proud that Palmerston North City Council has taken the bold and brave step forward in choosing to ensure Māori are directly represented at the table.Mayor Grant Smith
"We are the first city council that has confirmed its intention to have designated Māori seats in the 2019 local government elections."
Council consulted on the proposal to introduce Māori wards earlier this year. Over 90 submissions were received, with 60 opposed to Māori wards. Council heard from 12 members of the public earlier this month. Submissions outlined poor health, education and economic outcomes for Māori. Submitters in favour felt Māori wards would address some of the barriers to Māori representation through guaranteed seats.
Submitters against Māori wards voiced their belief in "one New Zealand" and faith in the existing democratic process.
The decision to include a designated seat, or seats, on the Palmerston North City Council will be discussed more in the lead up to a planned representation review in early 2018. This review is a requirement of the Local Electoral Act 2001.
Electoral Officer John Annabell says residents can demand a poll on the question of whether Palmerston North City should be divided into one or more Māori wards, provided five per cent of city residents sign a petition calling for change. Any such petition must be must be presented to Council by 21 February 2018 for the outcome to take effect for the 2019 elections.