Opinion is divided among members of the council's Te Arawa Standing Committee over whether the establishment of Maori wards would be good for the city.
Members of the committee were briefed on the process to initiate a district-wide poll calling for the establishment of Maori wards for local body elections at a recent committee meeting.
Rotorua District Council policy analyst and Maori research officer Karla Kereopa said in her report this month that to initiate a poll 5 per cent of the district's registered electors would need to sign a petition - about 2255 people. If a poll was successful in getting the majority of Rotorua's registered voters to support Maori wards, the council would have to re-visit its position regarding Maori wards for the 2016 triennial elections.
Committee member Potaua Biasiny-Tule said the voice of Maori on council was often ignored and having permanent Maori wards would help redress the balance.
"I'm totally over it, we need more representation, not less."
He said the numbers of Maori voters was dropping every election and Maori wards would help Maori feel more involved in local politics.
Committee member Rene Mitchell said people should be careful about what they wished for saying she was sure the committee would be disbanded if Maori wards were introduced.
"In the past I have been against Maori wards but when we look at it for 2016 our people need to get on the roll, be proactive and vote if they want to have Maori wards. It has to work both ways. We can't support it if the people don't support it."
But, Mrs Mitchell said she didn't think Rotorua was big enough for Maori wards.
"We are all equal and we should, as Maori, put our hands up and be counted if we want to be on council," she said.
Committee member Kingi Biddle said it was still early days but at least members now understood the process if they wanted to establish Maori wards.
"We asked to look at this for 2016 and we wanted to know what pathways were open to us if we wanted to carry on."
Mr Biddle said it was all about representation and making sure Te Arawa had a voice on council.
"We still need to talk to our kaumatua for some guidance around this issue but there is definitely an interest among our iwi representatives to pursue this avenue."
Mr Biddle said some people would always think "there's those Maori, always asking for more".
"But for me it's about equality. Te Arawa have been very generous to the Crown and over the years our voice has been quietened. We want to ensure the voice of Te Arawa is given some credence," he said.
Committee deputy chairman Trevor Maxwell said he had always supported district-wide elections where people were elected on merit.
"Otherwise we may end up with having no need for the committee."
He said some local councils did not have any Maori representation but he said he did not want Rotorua to end up like that.
"We need to encourage Maori leaders, especially some of the younger ones, to get involved in local politics and to stand up and be counted," he said.
MAORI WARD POLL
- For one or two Maori wards to be established in the city.
- Can be initiated by 5 per cent of the city's registered voters.
- Must be made by notice in writing.
- Must be made by people on an electoral roll for either the local authority or parliamentary roll within the district's electoral boundaries.
- Must be received no later than February 28, 2015 to be eligible for the 2016 triennial elections.