A full public gallery celebrated in song as Hamilton City Council approved to establish five Māori representative positions to the council's three committees.

It is the second attempt at bringing in Māori representation, after council shut down the concept of a Māori ward in October.

On Thursday, the council approved six votes to four to appoint one Māori representative on the Growth and Infrastructure committee, Regulatory and Hearings committee, the Finance committee and two representatives on the Community and Services committee.

Staff recommended that the annual remuneration for the appointees should be $100 per hour, with the total cost varying depending on the length of the meeting and the committee.

Advertisement

The day started with a former Hamilton city councillor and a former mayor speaking in support of the move.

Pirihira Kaio, who served as the Chairperson of the Recreation Services committee from 1986 to 1995, said despite the council report making no reference to the historical relationship that council had with Māori in the past, called it a correct move for council.

"I do want to acknowledge that council has taken the brave step to take on this," Kaio said.

Former Hamilton mayor Margaret Evans said the council had came too far not to go further, and consider Māori wards again.

"Tribal politics are very robust, but at the end of the day your job representing this city is to decide how Māori are heard around this council," Evans said.

"This is the second best choice, first would be direct through the election."
One public submitter was against the move, calling it a final nail in the coffin for democracy.

"How many of these Taniui beneficiaries live in Hamilton?" he said.

"This matter should be done by an election or via a referendum."

The four councillors that voted against the motion were Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher, and councillors Garry Mallett, Mark Bunting and Leo Tooman.

Each had their different reasons, with Mallett calling the decision racist.

"Discrimination based on race is racism, that is reality," Mallett said.

"Racism in our democratic system is fundamentally wrong, it is worse than that it is evil."

"I don't see people through skin colour or race, I look at them through ideas."

Councillor Mark Bunting was concerned that there was no input from the public on this decision.

"My concern is that by not giving people the choice we are not following the process," Mr Bunting said.

"Are we afraid to have this debate with the public."

Councillor Tooman said he had an issue with just sorting out one section of the community.

"I see us all as one people," Tooman said.

"Surely as a community it does not matter what we are, I would rather have our community ticking the box for who they want representing them around this table."

Mayor King said the motion was the right move for Hamilton.

"Māori shareholders are telling us that having a voice is important to them," Mayor King said.

"I strongly believe that Māori representation is important."

Councillor Ryan Hamilton said council had an obligation to work together with Māori.

"I implore Māori if given this opportunity to use it, use it to empower your power and use it to show your past does not define your future."

Councillor Geoff Taylor said council's priority was to make great decisions.

"Surely in order to do that we need a wide variety of voices and experiences sitting around this table," Taylor said.

"I think you would be a pretty brave person to suggest that we have actually got that at the moment."

On Wednesday a petition against the appointment of non-elected members, started by Democracy Action, had reached 371 signatures,

The petition said "Hamilton City Council's plan to appoint non-elected members to Council committees will erode local democracy.

This proposal is potentially even more damaging than Māori wards. The new appointees will not be elected, so they will be unaccountable in their decision-making – even to Māori."

"The appointees will come from the local iwi and a Māori social service agency, will have full voting rights on their committees, and will receive full-time salaries paid by Hamilton ratepayers."