There is standing room only in the Stratford District Council chambers today as members of the public pack the room for an emergency meeting of the council, which was called by mayor Neil Volzke on Wednesday evening.
The meeting was called to discuss Māori representation on council and took place on the same day given by central government as the deadline for local councils to determine if they will introduce a Māori ward for the 2022 triennial local government elections.
The decision to call an emergency meeting to discuss the topic came less than 24 hours after Stratford District councillors heard submissions from Ngāti Ruanui and Ngāruahine representatives who appealed for them to introduce Māori wards in time for next year's elections.
After hearing those submissions on Tuesday, councillor Min McKay had asked her fellow councillors is they were still "comfortable with our stance" regarding Māori wards.
That stance - to not introduce Māori wards in time for the 2022 elections but rather to consult with iwi in time to consider the issue for the 2025 elections - had been challenged in March this year when Mayor Volzke asked councillors if they wanted to revisit that original decision which had been made in August last year.
While the mayor, along with councillors Min McKay, Peter Dalziel and Amanda Harris, had wanted to revisit the decision in March, they were outvoted, with the other seven councillors voting to leave it as it was.
At just after 5pm on Wednesday, May 18, notice of an emergency meeting of council was posted online on the council website and Facebook page.
The report, written by Tiffany Radich, director – corporate services and deputy electoral officer for the district, states it gives councillors another opportunity to make a decision on the subject.
"Elected members and council officers present at the hearing acknowledge the mamae (hurt) and disappointment expressed by these iwi at the current lack of Māori representation.
"Due to the significance the council places on its relationship with Māori in the Stratford District, and to acknowledge that council has come a long way in engaging with iwi and wants to continue to strengthen the relationship and work together for better outcomes for our community, elected members are being given a final opportunity to review Māori representation for the 2022 local election."
There will be six speakers heard at today's meeting. The final speaker, Jordon Wansbrough, of Ngāti Maru, has brought a carving with him, of Rongoueroa-Tamarau.
"This is to bring peace into the room, to today's discussion."
He says he is optimistic the outcome will be in favour of the establishment of a Māori ward.
"They changed their minds in Manawatū after they heard what I had to say. So I think the same will happen today."
Disclaimer: Ilona Hanne is married to the CEO of Stratford District Council.