19 May 2021

Hawke's Bay Regional Council votes to establish Māori wards

4:53 pm on 19 May 2021

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council has unanimously agreed to establish Māori wards.

Protestors march in the streets of Napier this morning

Protesters marched in Napier yesterday after the council decided not to establish Māori wards. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

All nine councillors voted in favour at a meeting this afternoon, after years of debate over the issue.

The idea has been before the council for several years, but has never passed until now.

Chairman Rex Graham said it had been a "long and difficult process".

"But we got there and we got there respecting each other for our different points of view. I think all of us learned a lot through the process."

In November, before a change in leglisation, a motion to add wards was put before the council.

The council voted against the wards by a 5-4 vote.

"This resulted in considerable disquiet and fallout in our community and challenged many of our relationships," Graham said.

"But as a region and as a council, we survived that challenge and managed to pull ourselves together and get on with the job."

In February, the council agreed to consult on adding Māori wards.

Nearly 1,100 submissions were received, with the vast majority in support.

At the meeting, Graham spoke strongly in support of the wards.

"This will secure a place at our regional council table for tangata whenua and correct some of the political and social imbalances that have occurred in our democracy and in our community. Be very clear councillors, history is watching us today."

Yesterday in Hawke's Bay, the Hastings District Council voted to establish Māori wards

But just a few hours earlier, mana whenua led a protest in Napier on the same issue. The Napier City Council decided not to introduce Māori wards in time for the next election, arguing it didn't have time to properly consult the community.

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