Past work

Māori representation in local government

The Human Rights Commission, in its annual review of race relations, identified Māori representation in local government and an effective voice for Māori in the decisions of the new Auckland Council as being among the top ten race relations priorities for 2010.

Unless positive steps are taken, Māori representation in local government will continue to languish well below the proportion of Mäori in the population. 

Key recommendations of the report

  • Analysis of the results of the 2010 local elections should be undertaken to determine the extent of Māori representation 
  • Iwi should discuss whether or not they want Māori seats on their local or regional council 
  • The new Auckland Council should proceed to establish Māori seats without further ado, subject to re-endorsement by Auckland iwi 
  • Discussions should take place between councils and iwi on Māori seats and Māori representation prior to the next representation review (in 2011-12) 
  • Councils should support the Māori choice 
  • Environment Canterbury Commissioners should resolve to establish a Māori constituency for Environment Canterbury for the 2013 elections 
  • There should be further national discussion on improved provision for Māori representation.

Read the report

You can read the Māori Representation in Local Government Report here.


Public discussion about Māori representation in local government has been re-ignited by the government decision not to adopt the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance that there should be three councillors representing Māori on the new Auckland Council.

Over a period of two days in April, the Commission conducted individual interviews with the Chair of Environment Bay of Plenty, a number of councillors, council managers and iwi representatives.

Most were positive about the system of Mäori constituencies and felt it had helped the council to better meet its obligations for Māori participation under the Local Government Act 2002.

Some went as far as to say it had transformed the council’s relationships with Māori and its way of doing business. Few would want to revert to the previous system.

Quotes from them in this discussion paper are from the interviews conducted. The recommendations, however, are the Commission’s alone.

Since the passage of the Local Electoral Amendment Act 2002 all councils have had the option of establishing Mäori constituencies or wards on the same basis as Environment Bay of Plenty, by resolution of the council challengeable by a poll of all voters.

A number of councils have considered the option, but none have taken it up. The Act does not provide for Mäori themselves to determine whether they wish to be represented as Māori.

Since the first draft of this paper the Commission has conducted a survey to establish how many councils have considered the option and what they decided. The results are included in this report.