26 May 2015

Rotorua Council adopts partnership with Te Arawa

7:28 pm on 26 May 2015

A new agreement between Te Arawa and the Rotorua District Council has been heralded by local government and Māori leaders as a breakthrough in Māori-Government relationships.

The council voted in favour of a new partnership model, eight votes to five, after more than a year of development, 1872 submissions, and five days of hearings.

Part of the model includes setting up a new independent board of Te Arawa representatives to ensure the council meets its legal requirements for engaging with Māori.

This includes consulting iwi on Resource Management Act consents and providing opportunities for iwi to contribute to council decision-making.

Te Ururoa Flavell

Te Ururoa Flavell Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said he was relieved the tāngata whenua of Rotorua had been listened to and non-Māori have nothing to fear from the new arrangement.

"What is good for Te Arawa is good for the city," he said.

"Our history is one of caring for everyone in our district. Te Arawa gifted the land that is now the township and in the spirit of manaakitanga, the proposed partnership going forward gives expression to this."

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the new set up would do a better job at facilitating Māori opinion than the Arawa Standing Committee which had been in place for 20 years.

"The analogy about that committee was that council sat at the table and we [committee] were invited to sit in another room and the door is shut on us."

Agenda items were not referred on to it and recommendations were not taken note of leaving the committee feeling marginalised, she said.

"The district, as a result of not having them at the table, has made some decisions that have been very high cost decisions for ratepayers," she said.

"[For example] a sewerage scheme at Lake Rotomā, they [council] went against the advice of the standing committee as to who they should consult and work with."

Ms Chadwick said the independent board would create a stronger Māori presence.

"Two members from that board will be appointed to council committees that we have and they will take part in the discussion at that level to make a recommendation to the full council so they'll be at the table."

The president of Local Government New Zealand Lawrence Yule said the new model was a positive sign that relationships between Māori and governments were improving.

"As we are evolving around Treaty settlements, there is a closer relationship between iwi, claimant groups, and councils, and in many ways that's often been reflected in changes in governance and planning arrangements."

But he stopped short of recommending every council copied the same model.

"Every area in New Zealand is different so we can't have a one -size-fits-all approach, but this is a new step forward and all councils should watch what other councils are doing," he said.