15 May 2015

New Plymouth says no to Māori ward

7:07 pm on 15 May 2015

New Plymouth voters have rejected the introduction of a Māori ward in a citizens'-initiated referendum on the proposal.

It's a move the city's only current Māori councillor, Howie Tamati, says is not surprising.

New Plymouth

New Plymouth Photo: 123rf

There was a low turnout of voters - only 45 percent, or around 25,300 people, though 56,000 were eligible to vote.

Of those who did vote, an overwhelmingly large number - 83 percent - were against a more formal representation of mana whenua on the council.

Only 4285 people voted in favour of a Māori Electoral Ward.

New Plymouth District Councillor, Howie Tamati

New Plymouth District Councillor, Howie Tamati Photo: SUPPLIED

Mr Tamati said there was still a lot of work to do before Pākehā will trust Māori in decision-making positions.

"Obviously they don't want to engage in a more meaningful way with local iwi.

"I guess it still shows we've still got a lot of work to do to build a relationship that's built on trust and trying to allay some of the fears people may have."

Mr Tamati said the poor turnout could in part be explained by Māori deciding not to engage.

He believed many thought the vote could not be won and chose not to take part.

The Mayor Andrew Judd, who championed a Māori Ward, said the council will have to re-think how it engages with Māori.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"On a personal note I am obviously disappointed with the outcome, both in terms of the result and the fact that more than half the community didn't vote."

"The democratic process has taken its course and the Council's September 2014 resolution to create the ward has been overturned.

"We must now reconsider how best to engage with Maori and enable their participation in the Council's decision-making, as we are required to do by law."

Hugh Johnson, who sponsored the petition forcing a referendum, said he's satisfied with the result, which was more clear-cut than he expected.