A group established last year to improve Maori input in Whangarei District Council decision-making has held its first public meeting.
The Whangarei Strategic Alliance comprises three representatives each from Whangarei District Council, Te Huinga (the hapu of the Whangarei district) and the Northland Regional Council. It was set up to establish partnerships between the three parties and to promote inclusive decision making on issues in Whangarei. It has a strong focus on Maori participation across WDC committees.
District council chief executive Rob Forlong said the group had held meetings almost every month since it was established in April last year but last week's was the first public meeting.
"We have Te Karearea, which meets every month at the council and at marae and it's great. But a lot of the issues raised are cross-council and we have to say to people it's not us [WDC] it's them [NRC]. "
Te Karearea is a group comprising Te Huinga and the WDC. Mr Forlong said some members would become frustrated when they raised issues and were told it was the responsibility of the NRC rather than the WDC. Mr Forlong said an example of that was the water quality of the Whangarei Falls.
"This is about working together and if everyone is in the room it's harder to have miscommunication," he said.
At the public meeting, chairman of the strategic alliance group, district councillor Phil Halse, said the partnership would take the handbrake off a lot of issues.
"In Te Karearea there is lost opportunity to have NRC sitting there to ask questions."
The point of the alliance is taking the handbrake off a lot of the issues. At the moment deciding who is responsible for issues is holding back progress.
"By working in tandem we can make sure we make progress," he said.
Pita Tipene, who is in the group representing Te Huinga, said hapu ultimately want to be self-reliant.
"In terms of Treaty partnerships, this is a step in the right direction. If we talk about water quality in the Whangarei Falls and have concerns about that we shouldn't criticise the WDC and the NRC, we want to be proactive and get in there and look into practical solutions."
NRC chairman Bill Shepherd said he did not want the NRC to be the "meat in the sandwich" and acknowledged it was not there to tell WDC what to do. He said he was pleased to see more collaboration.