Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Cries of racism, sexism in fiery debate

Cathy Casey. Photo / NZPA
Cathy Casey. Photo / NZPA

The prejudices of racism and sexism surfaced at the Auckland Council yesterday during debates about the Maori Statutory Board and Khartoum Place - site of the city's suffragette memorial.

Councillor Cathy Casey accused the right-leaning Communities & Residents ticket of being racist when it came to the Maori Statutory Board, whose unelected members get to sit on council committees.

The C&R team voted last week to exclude the Maori Statutory Board from the budget process by bringing the budget discussions under the full council, where the board is not represented.

Last week, Mayor Len Brown made a tactical blunder of stopping Maori members having a say on the budget and failed to overturn the decision. Yesterday he made a fresh attempt to reverse the decision and, this time, he succeeded.

During a fiery debate, C&R leader Christine Fletcher said she was not motivated by race issues, but process. To stress the point, she said she had supported the original plan for Maori seats on the Auckland Council.

Her C&R colleague, Dick Quax, demanded Dr Casey withdraw and apologise for suggesting Mrs Fletcher was motivated by racism, which Dr Casey eventually did.

Calm had barely returned to the council chamber when an innocuous-looking recommendation from the CBD advisory board caught the attention of Councillor Sandra Coney, a lifelong champion of the suffragette cause.

The board had recommended changing the funding source for an upgrade of Khartoum Place from a targeted rate - funded by CBD businesses - to general rates, and reallocating the targeted rate funding to an upgrade of Freyberg Place.

Ms Coney wondered if this was a "fit of pique" by CBD businesses, who have lobbied hard to relocate the suffragette memorial from Khartoum Place to open up the view, with a staircase from Lorne St to Auckland Art Gallery.

"This sort of male dominance should not be supported by this council," Ms Coney said.

CBD advisory board chairman Connal Townsend said the reason for swapping the funding sources was the board wanted to bring forward spending on Khartoum Place to co-ordinate the work with an upgrade of Freyberg Place.

Meanwhile, the council has stepped back from increasing rentals for beach houses from 10 per cent in the off-peak season and 20 per cent in the peak season to 5 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. To offset the loss of income, it is proposing to raise beach camp site fees for adults from $12 a night to $13. There will be no rise in fees for children.

- NZ Herald

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