Partnership to some, separatism to others.

This week we asked Whangarei's mayoral candidates for their thoughts on specific Maori representation on councils, in light of the fact that the district's 14 current councillors are all Pakeha, yet represent a population where about a third identify as Maori.

In 2015, the Far North's referendum rejected the concept of Maori wards. This year New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd announced he would not seek re-election following his community's 'vitriolic racism' after he raised the idea of a Maori seat on council.

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell visited Whangarei last month, commenting that a low number of Maori candidates standing for council was a theme "right around the country".


"We should have designated seats or things will stay the same," Mr Flavell said. "[Maori] don't see a way into the council."

Under the Local Government Act, councils must seek meaningful engagement with Maori, which WDC aimed for via Te Huinga, a group comprising 16 representatives from Whangarei hapu.

Te Huinga met monthly with councillors, a partnership dubbed Te Karearea. This recently expanded to include three regional council representatives.

The 2013 to 2016 council term had seen WDC (controversially) co-opt non-voting Maori advisers on to two of its committees.

The Northland Regional Council's sole Maori councillor Dover Samuels said he was against this adviser model.

"Anyone who is appointed based on race, in my view, devalues the integrity of the person who has voted," he said.

Maori wards were a matter for the community to decide, he said. The current system meant councils could vote to establish Maori seats, but the community could overturn the decision via a binding referendum.

We asked the six mayoral hopefuls: Do you support the concept of non-voting Maori advisers on committees (a model currently used at WDC)? Do you support the concept of designated Maori wards? Why?
Stuart Bell:

Against both advisory roles and wards.

I believe anyone serving as a representative in the governance of the council should only be there based on their merits and strength of character as judged by the community they are to serve through the democratic election process that we are currently going through now.

David Blackley:

Supports advisory roles, is against wards.
Go-Whangarei is about being inclusive and we feel that it is very important to have input from all sectors of the community when dealing with issues, problems or even community requests.

Northland does have a high percentage of Maori compared to the rest of the country, therefore as a group they should be able to select and elect those who can represent them in council.

Go-Whangarei has two Maori candidates who want to represent Whangarei, and as we all live in this region together we must all be prepared to work with each other.

Kay Brittenden:

Supports advisory roles, undecided on wards.

I am undecided on the Maori ward or constitution issue. I would need to have consultation with stakeholders to see where to from here.

My initial reaction is no, as there is strength in numbers when dealing with Central Government however, in working within the partnership legislation, perhaps it is time to have this discussion.

Ash Holwell:

Supports advisory roles, is against wards.

We are partners in a relationship that is working towards living together here in the best way possible for all, and an important part of that is taking advice from the kaitiaki of the land.

Powerful and effective forms of indigenous governance exist today, and we do not need to co-opt these practices into our imported methods in order to be able to work together.

We can trust the people we are in partnership with to find their own leaders, using their own age-old processes of mana, mauri and whakapapa.

I believe in a council that gives everyone a seat at the table, hears everyone equally, and lets them use their own voices.

Matt Keene:

Supports both advisory roles and wards.

If Maori prefer to continue with Te Kārearea then [the question of Maori wards] is moot.

However, if Maori want to have voting rights in WDC decisions then either unelected iwi representatives or Māori wards are required.

In an ideal world Maori would be democratically elected. It is not an ideal world.

Maori are 50 per cent less likely to achieve NCEA level 2 than non-Maori, Maori over 15 years old are twice as likely to be unemployed than non-Maori, 1 in 2 Maori children live in low income households compared 1 in 5 non- Maori.

Te Ao Maori also has much to offer around the principles of manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga and consensus decision-making which I believe would greatly benefit the way council makes decisions.

Sheryl Mai:

Supports both advisory roles and wards.

Provided the community supports it. Elected representatives, Maori wards, Maori seats, appointed representatives, voting or non-voting rights, referenda - so many options.

Examples of appointed representation in our country's democracy include the Northland DHB - central government has appointed four board members, two having iwi affiliations.

And of course, there are unelected list MPs in Parliament, appointed by their respective parties. Our district has nearly 30 per cent Maori, but the council currently has no elected Maori members.

Maori participation in council's decision-making is required under the Local Government Act.

I wholeheartedly endorse and encourage the rich dialogue from having Maori and Pakeha at the decision-making table.