Masterton council keeps iwi seats

By Don Farmer don.farmer@age.co.nz -
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Masterton district councillors overturned a motion to forestall the instalment of two iwi representatives with speaking and voting rights on council committees. PHOTO/FILE
Masterton district councillors overturned a motion to forestall the instalment of two iwi representatives with speaking and voting rights on council committees. PHOTO/FILE

A bid to have a Masterton District Council decision to appoint two iwi representatives to its standing committees with full speaking and voting rights will not be held over until after the election of a new council in October.

This was the outcome of a special meeting called yesterday and comes despite strong protests from two councillors who sought to have it delayed.

Councillor Gary Caffell had filed a Notice of Motion seeking to delay the appointment of an iwi representative from both Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu, claiming councillors had been unnecessarily rushed into agreeing.

He variously described the process that had led to the decision on May 4 as being "naive", "dreadful" and "probably the worst process on any issue since I have been a councillor".

Mr Caffell said he accepted, and even agreed with, the decision to have iwi representatives around the council table but the manner in which the decision had come about left him aghast.

"I would be the last person to say we shouldn't have Maori helping with our decision-making and recognise that iwi input is invaluable on many matters but we had less than 24 hours' notice before being asked to vote on this," he said.

Mr Caffell said he got the papers alerting him to the upcoming vote at 7pm the night before the meeting was held.

"That didn't allow me any time to consult with anyone on this.

"It was not fair on me, or on the public who didn't learn what had happened until they read it in the newspaper the day after the vote," he said.

Mr Caffell said the public response had been "immediate and stormy" and because some councillors were away on a trip to China he had been among those left to bear the brunt.

"It was a firestorm of protest and not only from Pakeha either.

"Maori people came to me to say it was wrongly done, it was rushed and why hadn't they been told about it earlier."

There was no need for urgency and leaving it over until the elections had been held Decision to go ahead

would allow the new council to consider the issue and "make any changes they saw fit".

Mr Caffell likened the council's attitude to the issue to remarks made by Winston Peters after last week's Budget.

"He called it the Get Stuffed Budget and that is what we have done here. We are telling both Maori and Pakeha we don't want to listen to you, telling them to get stuffed."

Support for not enacting the decision to appoint iwi representatives came from councillor Brent Goodwin who said the way the decision had been made showed the council's disdain for the democratic process.

He said the 24 hours' notice given to councillors was less than that in effect.

All other councillors voted to enact the decision and not to delay it, with the exception of councillor David Holmes, who abstained.

Mayor Lyn Patterson said she was "extremely proud" of the decision which had been flagged 14 months earlier when mention had been made in a council planning document to the effect council would be considering Maori appointment to its committees.

"To say this was a decision thrust on to councillors is unfortunate and factually incorrect."

Mrs Patterson said in December 2014 a person had been appointed to the audit and risk committee "not only with speaking and voting rights but also to chair the committee, and there had been no protest made then".

Allowing iwi representation would benefit "our future, our children and our grandchildren's future".

"What have we to be afraid of? I stand here extremely proud of a council that has had the courage to make the decision."

She said delaying the appointments until after the election would be "ducking the issue".

Councillor Chris Peterson said councillors often got papers within a few days of meetings being held. "This is no different."

He described the decision as being the "natural, right and proper thing to do" and was proud to be at the "vanguard" of the decision.

Leaving the matter over and putting it into the hands of a newly elected council was in essence saying the current council was not good enough to make decisions, he said.

Before yesterday's Notice of Motion debate councillors were addressed in public forum by Tina Te Tau, of Rangitane, and Nelson Rangi of Ngati Kahungunu, who supported the council's decision and opposed delaying appointments.

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