To better "reflect the times", most Hawke's Bay councils are moving away from referencing God and religion in the statements which open their meetings.

This comes as national politicians are consulted on the wording of the daily prayer which has opened Parliament for more than 50 years, especially around references to the Queen and Jesus Christ.

Across Hawke's Bay/Tararua only half of the six councils have an official prayer which references religion. Of these three, two favour a karakia (a Maori formal greeting similar to a prayer).

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council's prayer has the most religious references, including "God our creator" and "Christ the Lord", but this term council decided the chair could decide whether to open with the prayer, a karakia, or a welcome.


The prayer is now "very seldom used", with council chair Rex Graham preferring to use a karakia to open meetings as it "reflects the times for us living in New Zealand just a bit better".

"The prayer that we have is very Anglo-Saxon, Norman. I don't think it reflects the times, but other people like it," he said.

A karakia has also become the preference at Central Hawke's Bay District Council. Mayor Alex Walker said she saw a karakia as a respectful, true reflection of the partnership between mana whenua and the council.

"I think its important to have something that signifies the opening of the meeting and the clearing of the minds and the start of the meeting process, but it doesn't have to be a religious process."

When the prayer was used, it was sometimes a variation on the official one which asks for "God's help to listen to all, to serve all, and to lead wisely".

As Tararua's mayors decide the format of meeting prayers, first-term mayor Tracey Collis has chosen to receive the each meeting's prayer from a different Tararua church.

Ms Collis said this ensured meetings started by establishing council's purpose (to serve its community), and that having each church provide a prayer was a way of acknowledging the work they did in the community.

She had also asked iwi to provide karakia. The prayers varied depending on which church had written them.

Hastings District Council does not have a set prayer or karakia. For the monthly council meeting a religious leader is invited and provides a prayer, or a councillor opens the meeting with a prayer or karakia.


Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said "this is an important part of our meeting as it allows us to reflect on our role and responsibility as community leaders for we represent our diverse community's religions and beliefs".

The other councils - the Napier City Council and the Wairoa District Council - do not use prayers.

Napier City Council has opened its meetings since 2001 with a statement acknowledging "there is a strength beyond ourselves when we work together to serve others", but has no direct religious reference.

Napier mayor Bill Dalton said he did not know why the statement did not reference religion. When asked, he said he thought their welcoming was "less exclusive" than those which made reference to a specific denomination.

At Wairoa District Council a karakia typically opens and closes every meeting, but there is no formal statement, and the karakia is usually "thought out on the spot by someone who is at the table", a spokesman said.

Wairoa mayor Craig Little said councillors felt this reflected the community better than a prayer.