Council rejects iwi call for Māori-only say on wards

6:58 am on 11 August 2021

Taranaki Regional Council has rejected iwi calls for only Māori to have a say when considering Māori wards.

The national Māori flag - Tino Rangatiratanga.

The national Māori flag - Tino Rangatiratanga. Photo: 123RF

The Department of Internal Affairs is consulting on how the public should have input into decisions about Māori wards.

The department has asked whether councils should engage with iwi, with voters of Māori descent or on the Māori roll, or with the wider public about Māori wards.

Officers recommended Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) tell the department that engagement should include the wider public, in line with the rules for general wards (known as constituencies at regional level).

They advised that using separate processes could "place an undue public spotlight on the Māori constituency issue. This can be divisive."

Councillors voted in April to include a Māori constituency in next year's local body elections.

Council officers said wider public engagement back then had allowed both sides of the debate to have a say in a manner that wasn't divisive.

But the officers' report said iwi representatives instead wanted future engagement on Māori wards to be focused on "people who are affected by the decision."

The iwi representatives sit on TRC's Consents and Regulatory, and Policy and Planning committees.

They wanted public input on Māori wards to be restricted to consultation with iwi, hapū and whānau.

"Iwi representatives felt that only the Māori community are affected by the provision not the general electorate, hence limiting consultation to them," the advice said.

Councillor Charlotte Littlewood said it was important to bring the wider public along on such issues, but that the council should include iwi views in its submission to the Department of Internal Affairs.

"I very much respect and understand that our iwi representatives have given that view, and I think it is important that we reflect that view in the comments section."

Councillors agreed, so the submission would now include the iwi representatives' views, but continue to call for wider public consultation on Māori wards as the TRC's preferred option.

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