26 Jul 2018

Māori advisor position 'not a substitute' for Māori ward

7:46 am on 26 July 2018

The appointment of a new advisor will not give Māori a strong enough voice at the council, a Hawke's Bay councillor says.

Tino Rangatiratanga flag, a symbol of Maoridom

Tino Rangatiratanga flag, a symbol of Maoridom Photo: PHOTO NZ

It follows a failed attempt to establish a Māori ward last year by a five to four vote - a move that would have guaranteed Māori representation at the decision-making table.

Councillor Rex Graham said he wasn't expecting that result in a region that had a 23 percent Māori population.

"I was really disappointed we lost. We've got such a liberal council - smart, intelligent group of people - and I thought it would just fly through. But it didn't.

"I was stunned, to be honest."

The council is advertising for a senior Māori advisor which would hold more authority than the Māori advisory committee it currently has.

The successful candidate will help councillors and staff engage with tangata whenua, ensure they understand tikanga and are informed on Māori perspectives.

Mr Graham said the role was an important one but it would not go far enough.

"It's going to help us relate to tangata whenua much better than we do and we need to always improve there, but the real power is held at the governance level.

"We need to get Māori representation at governance level right across the country."

Councillor Debbie Hewitt voted against a Māori ward last year after consulting with the community and iwi.

She said people shouldn't be elected based on their race, religion or gender.

"I got elected to that table and if I can, then I think anybody can."

Ms Hewitt said she did not know enough about the new advisory role but thought there was sufficient Māori input into council already.

"My observation isn't that there is a lack of input from iwi perspectives because when they speak the people who are around those committees, they're really listened to."

But Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said Māori wanted a greater voice at the table.

"There's never been a Māori on regional council, ever.

"We've always been a subordinate party, an advisory group, or on some of the statutory committees but there's never been a voice at the council.

"And we'll never get elected because it's always farmers and the horticulturally-based voting block of Hawke's Bay."

Mr Tomoana was optimistic about the new Māori advisory role but said it was not a substitute for a Māori ward.