Candidate hui challenges councils and iwi chairs

2:03 pm on 30 September 2022
Wharehoka Wano

Photo: Supplied / Te Korimako o Taranaki

Wharehoka Wano says iwi organisations are still forming positions on live issues like three waters and RMA reform.

A hui of Māori local government candidates has challenged not only councils, but also the iwi leaders who called the meeting.

Twenty candidates for Māori and general wards, for community boards and council committees met at Whakaahurangi Marae in Stratford on Wednesday night to present themselves and answer questions.

They were asked how to make Eurocentric councils more whānau-centric - more aligned with Māori values and approachable.

South Taranaki Te Tai Tonga ward candidate Glen Katu said a whānau atmosphere needed to be brought into council and councillors challenged to upskill themselves in te ao Māori.

"If [Māori councillors] around the table can work together to show them how Māori operate, to show them the whānau thinking that we bring to decision-making, then we will make change."

Joanne Kuvarji is standing as an at-large councillor in New Plymouth and said other councillors would be convinced to change when they understood the long-term benefits.

"Each of us are instilled with tikanga, protocol and values, by those that came before us, that handed down the knowledge, and… that will be portrayed in everything we say and we do as councillors, as leaders, as those on community boards and as people."

Kura Denness said Waitara is over 30 percent Māori and over 50 percent women but the community board she is standing for is "pale, male and stale."

“It is time for a huge change, a new fresh outlook: these guys have been there for a while and it’s time for them to go.”

In fact, two of the current four board members are Māori – Joe Rauner and Trevor Dodunski.

Kura Denness

 Kura Denness says it's time for more Māori and female representation on the Waitara Community Board. Photo: Supplied / Te Korimako o Taranaki

Several candidates praised South Taranaki District Council for taking steps in the right direction.

Te Hāwera Community Board candidate Russell Hockley hailed the council's iwi liaison officer Reg Korau, who was at the hui.

"He's done a fantastic job working with our councillors, our mayor to bring a lot of those kaupapa Māori initiatives, and bring in tikanga and kawa into council - and those councillors… have embraced te ao Māori."

Councils weren't the only ones to be challenged: candidates also questioned the chairs of the region's post settlement iwi authorities, who called the meeting.

Peter Moeahu, who seeks reappointment as a Māori representative on regional council committees, said he'd become hōhā (fed up) trying to discuss major issues with iwi chairs.

"I don't know what the iwi stance is on Three Waters, I don't know what the iwi stance is on the RMA [reform] or on the review of the Local Government Act: I don't know because we haven't been communicating."

Peter Moeahu

Peter Moeahu says Māori on councils need straight talk with iwi. Photo: Supplied / Te Korimako o Taranaki

Moeahu said in the next election the iwi organisations should support Māori candidates brave enough to stand, and Te Aroha Hohaia (who is confirmed as a councillor for Te Hāwera) also asked how they would support those elected.

The tumu whakarito of Te Kāhui o Taranaki Wharehoka Wano said times would be set to meet together after the elections.

"A lot of those kaupapa that we're dealing with in RMA, Three Waters, the health boards, they're all live and we're still trying to figure things out," he said.

Te Kotahitanga o Te Ātiawa chair Liana Poutu had opened the discussion saying it was the first time iwi had collectively worked to get Māori representatives in local government.

She said selection processes hadn't been perfect as iwi leaders were learning along the way - but the chance to strategise with a collective of Māori representatives around the maunga was exciting.

"I don't see it as iwi's role to financially support a council position.

"The best role that we can play right now is advocating really hard from outside of council to have those positions remunerated properly and to have council support."

Speakers at the notably good-humoured meeting recognised Māori trailblazers in Taranaki local government: Lindsay MacLeod, Grant Knuckey, Peter Moeahu, Howie Tāmati, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Bonita Bigham.

Hemi Haddon, who is standing for the Eltham-Kāponga Community Board, said as co-governance advances Taranaki Māori were well prepared.

Hemi Haddon

Hemi Haddon says tūpuna like Tohu Kākahi and Te Whiti o Rongomai have prepared descendants for co-governance. Photo: Supplied / Te Korimako o Taranaki

"I believe a lot of us uri [descendants] here have been experienced in that, right from our ancestors: I'm talking about Mumuhau raua ko Takeretō - you may know them as Tohu and Te Whiti."

Voting papers have already been mailed out and need to be returned by midday, 8 October.

If you're not enrolled, you can still make a special vote: pick up special voting papers at council offices or call 0800 922 822.

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

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