12 Mar 2015

Few votes on Maori Far North council wards

7:00 am on 12 March 2015

Less than a third of Far North residents have so far voted on whether to create Maori council wards for the district.

The council has put the idea to a binding poll which closes next Tuesday.

Dedicated Maori seats have become a hot topic for councils, most recently splitting New Plymouth district and being rejected by the public in Nelson.

Yet after two weeks of the Far North District Council referendum, only 30 percent of eligible voters have sent in their ballots.

The voter returns are similar to those recorded at the same point in the last full council election in 2013, which ended with a return rate of just less than half.

The council has not taken a position on the proposal, but said if the poll got a majority, it would review the wards to see how many Maori seats should be created.

Maori wards exist in only two places nationwide, at the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional councils.

The attempt by New Plymouth's mayor to create a Maori ward is being challenged by a citizens-initiated referendum to be held in May.

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