The Napier City Council has agreed to establish Māori ward representation at the local elections in 2025.
The decision, unanimous apart from the abstention of Cr Tania Wright, was based on a motion put forward by Mayor Kirsten Wise and came at a meeting lasting just over two hours following the hearing of submissions over the previous two days.
It sets the path for a 2024 representation review which will focus on how Māori wards will be implemented.
Coming soon after 11am, it was greeted from the public gallery with waiata Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi and haka Tika Tonu.
Currently, the table comprises 12 councillors elected from four geographical wards in a structure in place just two years since the abolition of at-large citywide representation on half of the Council.
The motion was seconded by deputy mayor and Onekawa-Tamatea ward councillor Annette Brosnan and was followed by mainly prepared supporting statements from the Mayor and all but two councillors, lead-off by three Nelson Park ward members, including Maori councillors Api Tapine and Sally Crown.
It came five months after a controversial decision to undertake non-binding consultation when more than 30 other councils throughout the country were moving to get Māori wards in place for the triennial elections next year.
While the consultation showed marginal statistical opposition, all of the more-than-30 who spoke to their submissions were in favour of what is seen as the biggest change in council structure in the Napier borough and city council history of 147 years.
Much of the meeting was spent listening to and discussing legal advice from lawyer Jonathan Salter, of local government law specialists Simpson Grierson and who praised the non-binding consultation process that the council had undertaken.
He said that based on the process the Council had used, a decision in favour of Māori wards would be much less likely to have the potential for a challenge by judicial review than a decision against.
In support of her motion the Mayor read a lengthy prepared statement in which she said she was the only mayoral candidate at a public meeting prior to her election two years ago to say they "would" consider the establishment of Māori wards.
"I was the only candidate who said yes I would, and that I would do this in consultation with the whole of our community," she said. "Just as I, and all of Council, are required to do for any significant decision we make on behalf of our community."
"Over the course of the hearings we have heard many submitters talk about Māori ward councillors being elected on a mandate to represent Māori," she said. "Two years ago I was elected on a mandate to represent all of our community, and furthermore to lead an open, transparent Council which ensured that our community was at the core of our decision-making."
Councillors reflected on a new education acquired during the process, and please to have courage, be bold and be brave in reaching a decision supporting the change.
Taradale ward councillor Ronda Chrystal was brought to tears, saying that in addition to the views of the submitters, the strongest voice had been that of her son, a law graduate who told her: "The time is right."
Cr Graeme Taylor, also a Taradale representative and a former teacher, police officer and Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby coach, reflected on what was learnt over the last five months and an appreciation of injustices over the years, including some that he would have been a part of committing.
"I wholeheartedly support the resolution," he said.
In Hawke's Bay, the regional council, the Hastings District Council and the Tararua District Council (based within the boundaries of the Manawatū-Whanganui regional council area) decided in May to adopt Māori wards in time for the 2022 election.