A heartfelt, emotional discussion preceded the Hastings District Council-Maori joint committee's decision yesterday to recommend that the council not introduce Maori wards for the district at this time.

It was not a unanimous decision and there were compelling arguments on both sides.

In the end though it came down to the vote, with the majority of the committee in favour of retaining the status quo, but keen to explore more options to increase Maori involvement in all council business.

Councillors Adrienne Pierce, Bayden Barber, Henare O'Keefe, mayor Lawrence Yule and committee member Tracee Te Huia spoke to their belief that Maori wards were not necessary to ensure an effective Maori voice on council.


Ms Te Huia spoke strongly about how far Hawke's Bay had already come in terms of relations between Maori and Pakeha.

"There is a job for both cultures to do now for our generations coming through - we have to start thinking about how we build each other up.

"We already have a mandate and the mana of who we are - we don't need structures like local government for that.

"We have a local authority here that wants to meet us halfway - they want partnership.

"I do not want my mokopuna coming through Maori wards, I want them standing up through their own mana and capability."

Councillors Henare O'Keefe and Bayden Barber were concerned that going through the process of a poll to decide on Maori wards could be unnecessarily divisive and damaging, and likely to be unsuccessful.

"I do not think Maori wards are in the interests of the people - we would be on a hiding to nothing going back to a referendum," Mr O'Keefe said.

"Regardless of ethnicity you get to this table by doing the hard yards - you don't need Maori wards for that."


Mr Barber said that his concerns lay around holding a referendum, that would likely be lost given the Maori population made up 18 per cent of the total in the Hastings district.

"It would be a very painful process, and even if it was successful it would be pigeonholing Maori - I am here to represent everybody."

He said it was possible to have conversations about strengthening Maori representation without the collateral damage that could come from putting wards to the vote.

On the other hand, committee members Evelyn Ratima, Robin Hape and Shayne Walker said Maori should be given the opportunity to decide whether they wanted a separate ward or not.

Mrs Ratima said no matter the cost or damage, the option should be there.

"If they decide they do not want one that's their decision - we have time to hold workshops and get educated.

"If we have our own representation on council that will make a difference - I don't think it [a poll] will blow everybody apart.

"The [current] Maori councillors have to speak on behalf of everybody, they are not mandated to speak on behalf of Maori."

Mr Walker said that while it was great to have the current Maori councillors, he wanted the guarantee of Maori representation at the table that a ward, or wards, would bring.

"There's risk around trying to build Maori capability at committee levels where we can provide advice but that's not the same as influencing and making decisions.

"Are we scared of losing the vote and the fallout from that? I'm not - we should be brave, we should put it to the people.

"We should not underestimate the will in the community to recognise having a Maori advocate at the table can be beneficial to all."

The committee's eventual recommendation to not introduce a Maori ward or wards will be considered at the next council meeting.

If the council agrees to this, it would be required to notify the decision and wait to see if 5 per cent of electors required a poll on the matter before the cut-off date of February 28 next year.