15 Jul 2021

Claim lodged over Napier council not introducing Māori wards on time for election

6:07 pm on 15 July 2021

Mana whenua in Ahuriri Napier have lodged a claim before the Waitangi Tribunal after the city council's failure to introduce Māori wards in time for next year's election.

28072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Napier City Council.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A protest was held in May in the city against the council's decision.

The five claimants are Tamati Cairns, Shayne Walker, Tania Eden, Matthew Mullany, Alayna Hokianga and Hori Reti.

Reti represents Te Taiwhenua o te Whanganui ā Orotu, the iwi authority in Napier.

The claim said current laws were in breach of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the Crown's Treaty obligations, to ensure Māori had adequate and proportionate representation at a local government level.

"To date, Māori representation and participation in local government has continued to languish well below the proportion of Māori in the population," the claim read.

The claimants said that the Crown had failed in its exercise of kāwanatanga, including failing to exercise good governance, by failing to ensure adequate Māori representation at a local government level.

They argue through the Crown, the Napier City Council had "actively obstructed Māori representation at a local government level by failing to take reasonable steps to establish Māori wards in Napier".

They are calling for immediate steps to remedy the inequitable representation of Māori in local government, and asking for the development and implementation of an Ahuriri mokopuna (tamariki/rangatahi) strategy facilitated by the taiwhenua, in partnership with the Office of the Children's Commissioner and the Ministry of Youth Development and the council paid for by the Crown.

Documents released to RNZ under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act show the taiwhenua's lawyer told the council on 21 May it would explore legal options to challenge the council's decision.

"My client views NCC's behaviour in this instance as a total disregard for democratic principles of transparency, accountability and fair governance," a letter read.

A spokesperson for the Napier City Council said it was committed to "significant process" on representation.

The council said it would make its decision on whether or not to add Māori wards in October.

"Given the significance of this decision, time was needed to undertake a full consultation and engagement process. The deadline of 21 May, 2021 provided by the government did not allow enough time for this process and an extension was requested in order for us to consult and make a decision that would take affect for the 2022 local body elections. Unfortunately, this request was not successful.

"There are a range of activities that our community can participate in before giving their feedback on Māori wards for Napier. The process continues regardless of the recent claim to the Waitangi Tribunal and NCC is looking forward to more discussion with mana whenua and the community as it heads into decision making."

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