It was an historic moment for many at the Whakatāne District Council. In an extraordinary meeting yesterday, council made an unanimous decision to establish Māori wards in time for the 2022 and 2025 elections.
Te Roopu Tautoko Māori member Toni Boynton has been a strong advocate for Māori wards and says tangata whenua have been waiting a long time for this decision.
"For a few of us it's been about four years in which we have been on this hīkoi, particularly for Māori wards for Whakatāne. But for a lot of us it's been coming for a long time, For the past 181 years in terms of when the treaty was signed," she said.
Whakatāne Mayor Judy Turner said Māori wards are a Treaty matter.
"The Treaty is our main constitutional document, and clearly articulates the relationship between tangata whenua and the Crown, representing all of those who came from time forward and are still here and are fortunate enough to live in Aotearoa."
Around 30 people made submissions to the council, with more than half in favour of Māori wards.
Submitter Danae Lee said there's long been cause for improved and fairer representation.
"I think it will bring better decision-making around this table, which will be better for our whole district, for everybody in our district, not just for Māori but for Pakeha as well."
Ngāti Rangitihi Chairman Leith Comer said Māori wards would bring Māori voices to the deliberation.
"You can argue all sorts of rights around the Treaty but your council should reflect the makeup of your constituents."
Not all were in favour, however. Resident Sez McKinnon said Māori don't need Māori wards to participate in decision-making.
"It's already happening here, either through the Māori roll or the main roll, they contribute to a team as a whole.
"As a council of duly elected people, as you are, making decisions for all citizens of all ethnicities, religious orientation and gender.
"You've already established and maintained processes to provide opportunities for Māori. Their voices, their opinions and contributions are already facilitated."
A representation review will decide the number of Māori wards and seats within them.
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