25 Aug 2020

Tauranga City Council votes for Māori ward

4:59 pm on 25 August 2020

Tauranga City Council has voted in favour of establishing a Māori ward at the next local elections in 2022.

Tauranga City Council offices.

File photo. Photo: Google Maps

There was haka and applause in the public gallery as councillors voted six to four, with one councillor abstaining from voting, for the establishment of a single Māori ward.

Councillors also voted eight to three for tangata whenua representatives who sit on four council committees to have voting rights.

Te Rangapū Mana Whenua o Tauranga Moana Partnership, a collective of 17 iwi and hapū representatives, chair Matire Duncan gave an oral submission, and urged councillors to vote carefully and fairly.

"Racism is ingrained in the community", she said citing the backlash to the proposed gifting of land to mana whenua at 11 Mission Street as an example of this.

She said a Māori ward would "strengthen the Māori voice" on council.

"This engagement can provide the leadership model in this country, alongside the appointment of Māori seats in the Bay of Plenty Regional Council ... if we gather such a momentum, we will be recognised in the Bay of Plenty and Western Bay as the national leaders in local government."

Iwi leader Buddy Mikaere said the Māori population of the Tauranga electorate was 17 percent and growing so it was "entirely reasonable" for Māori to have their own seat on the council.

He expected the "discriminatory provisions" of the Electoral Act, which require Māori seats to go to a public vote if over 5 per cent of electors campaign against it, would likely be repealed after the election this year.

Councillor Jako Abrie, who voted in favour of Māori wards, gave a presentation on how the council was obligated under the Treaty to give Māori a seat at the table.

"Is it fair that we have 11 people here elected under the Crown system or the Western system without a formal voice for our Treaty partner - or is it our obligation to put in place a formal mechanism for tangata whenua to have their voice, and actually have a vote?"

Councillor Tina Salisbury said: "Ko te wā inaiānei", or the "time was now" to establish Māori wards.

Councillor Kelvin Clout voted against the establishment of Māori wards as he said they may be viewed as "tokenism" and it was likely a poll would be requested which would cost over $200,000.

However, he voted in favour of tangata whenua voting rights.

Councillor Andrew Hollis, who has previously called on the Treaty to be burned, voted against giving tangata whenua representatives voting rights or setting up a Māori ward, calling it "virtue-signalling" and "divisive".

Tauranga locals would now be publicly notified about the decision to set up a Māori ward, and if just 5 percent of electors oppose, it will become subject to a community-wide vote.

Only two of the previous eight polls that were instigated when local councils voted in favour of Māori wards have resulted in the seat being established - Wairoa District Council and Waikato Regional Council.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council introduced Māori wards in 2001 under separate legislation.

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