War over iwi voting on council

By Don Farmer don.farmer@age.co.nz -
8 comments
Masterton district councillor Gary Caffell wants a halt to the iwi representation decision until after the election. PHOTO/FILE
Masterton district councillor Gary Caffell wants a halt to the iwi representation decision until after the election. PHOTO/FILE

A CONTROVERSIAL decision to appoint two iwi representatives to standing committees of Masterton District Council, with speaking and voting rights, is facing a fresh challenge.

Councillor Gary Caffell yesterday signalled his intention to file a Notice of Motion to be included on the agenda for the next Policy and Finance Committee meeting calling on council not to act on the decision until after the Local Body elections in October, thereby allowing an incoming council to enact the decision "if they so wish". Mr Caffell said in recommendations made to councillors who met at a full council meeting last week there was no mention of when the decision would be invoked, although in accompanying notes it was stated the process to recruit the two iwi representatives -- one from Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and the other from Rangitane o Wairarapa -- could start almost immediately, with appointments potentially made by the start of the new financial year, July 1.

Mr Caffell said in the notes it was said if the proposal was postponed and there were significant changes to council's membership there was a risk there may not be the same "momentum" to progress the proposal.

That outcome would not be in line with the council's "objective of being more inclusive and engaging more effectively with Maori".

"I believe that statement to be completely out of line because it suggests the existing council is better placed to make the decision than a new council which I think is actually a slight on those seeking election in October.

"In fact, they could be better placed to progress any proposal as they would have had the benefit of hearing both sides of the debate, something existing councillors have not had.

"It could be fairly argued their decision, or decisions, would actually be better informed," Mr Caffell said.

He said the notes also say at the beginning of each triennium the mayor has the right to establish a committee structure that he or she believes would best support the council.

Existing committee structures could therefore change following the October 8 elections, and the new council would have to reappoint the iwi representatives -- if they chose to -- to policy and finance, or an alternative committee should the committee structure change.

"I think it is misleading too to say the May council decision was well consulted, particularly with the public.

"Sure there was a mention in the air but nowhere was there talk of appointments to policy and finance, voting rights and payments of $200 each a meeting.

"That only became known to councillors within 24 hours of the meeting and to the general public in the media the following day.

"If that's a good consultation process then I'd hate to see a bad one," Mr Caffell said.

At the May meeting a vote was taken to agree to the iwi appointments, which councillor Caffell and councillor Brent Goodwin opposed, mostly on the grounds there had been insufficient time given to sum up the situation.

The remaining councillors at the meeting being the mayor Lyn Patterson and councillors Mark Harris, Graham McClymont, David Holmes, Chris Peterson, Jonathan Hooker and Doug Bracewell voted in favour.

Iwi appointments would not extend to allowing voting rights at full council meetings, only at the Policy and Finance Committee and Audit and Risk committee meetings.

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