A groundbreaking decision by Masterton District Council will see two iwi representatives joining council committee meetings with speaking and voting rights.
This was agreed at a full council yesterday after a vigorous debate that mainly centred around the appointed iwi representatives having voting rights.
One appointee will come from Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and the other from Rangitane o Wairarapa, with each being paid $200 for every meeting they attend, but voting rights will be denied to them at full council meetings because that is not allowed by law.
Two selection committees, one for each iwi appointment, will be set up to consider applications with delegated authority to decide on who will represent them round the council table.
The decision to go ahead with the iwi appointees comes after the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan identified the need for the council to explore better ways of involving Maori in its decision-making processes and to form genuine partnership relationships.
It was enthusiastically endorsed by councillor Chris Peterson who said the idea "gave flesh" to the partnership between Maori and Pakeha.
"It walks the talk of a partnership and we as a council can show a lead here. We should look at this as putting us on the right side of history. It is a part of meeting our obligations under the Treaty," he said.
Councillor Brent Goodwin supported the proposal but was not happy with giving voting rights to the iwi representatives until that matter could be considered at the next representation review due in 2018.
Councillor Doug Bracewell supported the proposal but questioned whether it was "futuristic enough".
He said there was no voice for Asians, which make up a significant portion of the district's population but he was reminded by councillor Jonathan Hooker that Asians were not tangata whenua.
Councillor Gary Caffell sounded a warning that the iwi representatives could be "implanted" only to have a totally new council elected within a short time.
"My feeling is this shouldn't be rushed, more consultation is needed particularly with Maori people to see how they feel about it."