There will be an explosion of Maori elected to local councils in the future. After the local authority elections late next year to be exact.
When did this happen, you ask? Within months of being re-elected last year the government passed legislation that removed the binding poll provisions that prevented councils from being able to consider establishing Maori Wards.
Until then, if councils wanted to establish a Maori Ward, they had to poll their local community to get it over the line. Invariably it was voted down.
I presume these communities believed they had mayors and councillors who were well linked into Maori communities, understood Maori culture and values and could articulate these well, particularly in relation to the use of tribal lands, assets and resources.
What added value could Maori bring to the decision-making table that wasn't already there?
The binding poll only applied to Maori Wards though. If a council decided for example their community needed rural or lakes representation, as in the case of Rotorua Lakes Council, no binding poll was necessary.
It was a good idea, had merit, and therefore these community boards were established. The government recognised that different criteria were being applied to Maori seeking equal opportunity and equal outcome.
What exactly are Maori wards?
It's not that difficult to understand because they are similar to the Maori Parliamentary seats. They are the local equivalent.
Maori Wards establish areas, or a number of candidate places, where only those on the Maori electoral roll vote. They sit alongside the General Wards and cover the entire district. At present 35 councils are trying to determine what this representation might look like.
Perhaps one, two or even three Māori will be elected under the ward system and the community can still provide feedback.
The ward system has been developed by parliament to provide Māori with the opportunity and enhanced role in local government decision making.
When I think how the people of New Plymouth District turned on their former Mayor Andrew Judd because he felt the council would benefit from a Māori Ward, at least one Māori at the council table, it does show what I think lies just below the surface in so many communities throughout New Zealand. Fear.
The thought of having to share decision making with Māori must be scary, otherwise why has it been so difficult to convince local communities at the polls?
Māori have rarely had a voice, seldom been consulted and I suspect viewed as not having the necessary skills to make a meaningful contribution. Outlandish when you think about it, as we know in Rotorua and a few other cities that thinking doesn't necessarily apply.
Judd didn't shrivel up and disappear either, thankfully. He embarked on a journey of self-discovery and as I have heard him say many times, "I am a reforming racist".
His was a life-changing journey. I hope he realises that his voice, once isolated and cried down in his own community, has been the strongest advocate in recent years for the change local authorities are now embarking on.
I suspect he can't keep up with his speaking engagements. I see he is in demand everywhere.
I look forward to the day when all elected mayors and councillors know their communities well, including Māori community. Know the history of the area, and who are mana whenua and mana tangata. What their aspirations are and the added value their participation at the decision making table brings.
Treaty settlements have also changed the landscape and Māori want a say in how their resources, whether lands, lakes, geothermal or urban areas will be used in the future.
Māori expectations throughout the country have been raised as was evident at the recent Local Government New Zealand Conference.
The majority of youthful councillors are Māori. Articulate, well educated, across all the areas of reform with eyes firmly fixed on the future. I see mokopuna decisions writ large.