Hamilton City Council is looking at buying a city kō – a traditional Māori digging tool – to use for civic sod-turning events, despite councillors being unsure on what a kō is, what it looks like or how much it will cost.

Mayor Andrew King raised the subject at this month's full council meeting after the Māngai Māori (appointed Māori representatives on council committees) asked him to seek approval of elected members to commission a city kō.

Māngai Māori sit on the Growth and Infrastructure, Finance and Community and Services committees, but not on the full council meetings.

The mayor included the proposal in his chair's report to the meeting, saying the kō would be used for official city sod turning events.

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Councillors were concerned at the lack of information in the mayor's report.

There was no costing, no images, and no description of the kō included, they said.

Mr King described the kō to the meeting, saying it was a sacred tool, but said the idea was put forward by the Māngai Māori, and he was unable to explain further.

Hamilton News established that a kō is like a hoe, with Te Papa Museum describing it as an agricultural tool mainly used to loosen soil.

It had various shapes and lengths, and was made from a variety of woods, depending on the nature of the soil and the requirements of the user.

A Māori kō. Photo / Collection of Agricultural Heritage Museum.
A Māori kō. Photo / Collection of Agricultural Heritage Museum.

Councillor Angela O'Leary asked the mayor if there was a cost for the kō, but he said he would have felt uneasy about asking Waikato Tainui for a quote.

"I don't know, and I imagine it is something we will ask Tainui, and they will send us an account depending on the time and energy, and it wouldn't be something I'd feel comfortable asking a quote for," Mr King said.

Ms O'Leary then told the mayor that extra information could have been provided in the report, such as a photo, however the mayortold her to "just Google it".

Councillor Geoff Taylor said he was uncomfortable approving something when he didn't know how much it would cost council.

"I don't feel comfortable approving something that will cost us money, and we don't know how much it is going to cost us," Mr Taylor said.

Mr King said that in this case it would not be a matter of money, but having something of spiritual significance for special uses.

"I'm not prepared to ask for a quote on something like this, and I don't believe Tainui would be irresponsible in the way that they charge for it," Mr King said.

"Sometimes these jobs are done on charge up."

Mr Taylor then asked if it would cost more than a balustrade, referring to a past discussion to upgrade the balustrade on the ninth floor of the council building for over $20,000.

City chief executive Richard Briggs then suggested an amendment to have council request a report on the creation of a city kō, with costs included.

Mr King took the chief executive's advice, with the council voting 11-1 to look into the commissioning of a kō.

Councillor Garry Mallett voted against the motion.