There were tears, singing, and a cricket ball in the Hastings District Council chamber.

It was an unusual combination, but the meeting in which the council voted to appoint four members of the Māori Joint Committee to the council's four standing committees was no ordinary meeting.

The debate became divisive, with four councillors arguing the decision should be taken to a public poll.

Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst , who supported the appointments, challenged the council to be courageous and vote for tangata whenua representation.

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Her voice cracked as she started her speech, saying, through tears, that she was proud to speak against the motion suggesting the decision should go to a public poll.

"I have loved my journey with the Māori Joint Committee for six years."

"This is how we can have a council which we've agreed to be more inclusive, a council which hears the voice of our iwi partners, Te Ao Māori perspective, for us to learn from."

Councillor Simon Nixon moved the motion to take the decision to the public.

"What we are talking about here is democracy, the principal of one man, or one person, one vote, and it my opinion this does not meet that criteria.

He said it was an attempt by a small group to muscle in, or gatecrash.

Hazlehurst disagreed with his comments, saying that he needed to come and sit in the Māori Joint Committee and understand what actually goes on.

Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst during a rendition of Tutira Mai Nga Iwi. Photo / Laura Wiltshire
Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst during a rendition of Tutira Mai Nga Iwi. Photo / Laura Wiltshire

Councillor Kevin Watkins , who also wanted to see it go to a public vote, said what council was doing was comparable to the infamous underarm bowling incident of 1981. Watkins made his point, using a cricket ball as a prop.

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He said while it was legal to bowl underarm, it was perceived negatively by the public, saying the decision by council to appoint Māori representatives to the standing committees was legal, doing so without asking the public first would be perceived badly.

Councillor Jacoby Poulain disagreed, saying it would always be defeated in the community because only 20 per cent of the population is Māori.

"For that reasons, some courageous decision making must, at times, take place."

The public chambers were full of people who supported the decision, and once it was made, councillors and the public stood up and sang.

There were, however, those who disagreed with the decision, councillors received over 100 emails from those who disagreed.

Councillor Geraldine Travers described the emails as a "relentless campaign clogging up our inboxes".

She said they came from all around the country, not just the Hastings Community.

Henare O'Keefe speaking during the debate. Photo / Laura Wiltshire
Henare O'Keefe speaking during the debate. Photo / Laura Wiltshire

The four Māori representatives will have full voting rights on their respective committees.

CEO Nigel Bickle , said legally, while only elected representatives can vote at full council level, councillors are able to appoint members to committees if they are deemed to have appropriate skills.

The Māori Joint Committee's role is to help deliver effective governance, engagement and service delivery for council's Māori communities.

The four standing committees provide oversight and develop policy. Decisions made by the committees are then re-debated by full council.

Those who voted for the motion were Hazlehurst, Poulain, Henare O'Keefe, Damon Harvey, Wendy Schollum, Ann Redstone, Bayden Barber, Eileen Lawson, George Lyons and Tania Kerr.

Councillor Nixon, Watkins, Malcolm Dixon and Rod Heaps voted against the motion.

Travers supported motion but had to leave before the vote.

The four members who will be appoint to standing committees are Evelyn Ratima,
Ngaio Tiuka, Tracee Te Huia and Te Rangihau Gilbert.