Kawerau votes to not establish Māori wards

6:45 pm on 13 July 2021

Kawerau District Council will not be establishing Māori wards at the next elections.

Many councils have voted to establish Māori wards, including Whakatāne District Council, after the Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta removed the right for voters to overturn councils' decisiond earlier this year.

Malcolm Campbell

Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell. Photo: RNZ / Natalie Mankelow

However, Kawerau will not be following suit. Following a representation review, councillors have voted to keep the status quo and Kawerau will continue to be represented by one mayor and eight councillors with no community boards or wards.

At the extraordinary council meeting yesterday, councillor Aaron Rangihika said he believed the council had broad representation already including people of Māori, Pacifica, and European descent on the council.

He said he had spoken with Māori in the district who said they were comfortable with representation now.

"This chamber works really well currently ... and I believe the representation within this room is well suited to this community," Rangihika said.

Councillor Berice Julian said it was wise for the council to stay with the status quo until the government had finished undertaking the many reviews that affected councils.

Councillor David Sparks said there was also a good age range on council.

"I don't think that any electors out there think they can't reach any of us with their concerns," he said.

"I see no reason for change."

Councillor Sela Kingi said she agreed with her colleagues and that Kawerau council was one of the few with a broad representation of age, gender, ethnicity, experience and occupation.

"When you look at the intention of establishing Māori wards, it's so there is a representation of people in the community," she said.

"We were all voted in democratically by the community of Kawerau. They actually spoke, so they saw beyond the intent of ward establishment, and you can see there is a high membership of Māori at the table."

Mayor Malcolm Campbell said he just hoped Kawerau did not become a ward of a bigger council itself following a government review of councils.

Ōpōtiki District Council will be including a poll with voting documents to see if the community would like Māori wards to be established and will make the final decision following the next elections.

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