Opposing views aired on partnership model

Polar opposite views have been heard on the latest day of hearings on the controversial Te Arawa Partnership Proposal.

Yesterday was day two of the planned five days of hearings at the Rotorua Lakes Council chambers, with nearly 40 people having their say on the proposal which could see an iwi board established outside the council structure. Members would be given voting rights and sit on various council operations and monitoring committees.

Rotorua public health doctor Hayley Bennett spoke about her experience of working with the Rotorua Hospital before spending the last decade in public health medicine.

Tamati Coffey speaks to his submission at the Te Arawa Partnership Proposal hearings

"I'm Pakeha. I support the Te Arawa Partnership model," Dr Bennett said.

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"Through my work in public health I have become aware of the unfair differences in health between Maori and non-Maori in New Zealand.

"In virtually every group of conditions, Maori have an unfair burden of disease compared to non-Maori. I have also learnt through my public health training that these unfair differences in health stem from historical causes."

Dr Bennett said Maori had lost control of social determinants of health - economic and social conditions that determined a group's health status.

"Increasing Maori participation in local government is one contribution towards righting the scales and allowing improved Maori health by allowing Maori to be involved in the decisions about the environment they live in the determinants of health," she said.

Business owner and former Labour Party candidate Tamati Coffey opened his submission by greeting the council, the public, iwi and the Rotorua Pro Democracy Society who oppose the proposal.

"For the record, I'm pretty pro as well. I'm pro-partnership and I'm here to voice my support of option two on behalf of me, my mum, dad, my whanau and my husband, Tim," Mr Coffey said.

"The fear that surrounds this partnership proposal is similar to the fear that was flying around a few years back when the marriage equality bill was going through. At that time it was being debated Armageddon was surely on the horizon, brothers would be marrying their sisters, owners would be marrying their cats and their dogs, and the plague of locust would sure be dispatched. It turned out none of that happened, it was just a fear of change that led people to throw out fearful and scaremongering arguments that they did."

Mr Coffey spoke about Thursday's submissions which objected to the partnership model. "I listened to the various arguments of the people pale with fear, talking about the apartheid, corruption and tyranny. The most repetitive concern I heard, the fear of heaving unelected Te Arawa representatives sitting and voting at a council level.

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"I want to say yes, they will be elected. They will be elected by Te Arawa, in our own way, with our own processes with our own people. And those people will be held accountable and I can assure you those checks and balances of Te Arawa, by Te Arawa will hold representatives to account just as vigorously, if not more than what you councillors would have to deal with here in these council chambers.

"We've always acted in the interest of Rotorua as a whole city, so why would people assume that would change now?"

SPEAKING OUT: Yvonne Te Rangikaheke Bidois was one of the speakers at the hearing yesterday. PHOTO/ STEPHEN PARKER
SPEAKING OUT: Yvonne Te Rangikaheke Bidois was one of the speakers at the hearing yesterday. PHOTO/ STEPHEN PARKER

Yvonne Te Rangikaheke Bidois also spoke in support of the model.

She gave a personal submission before speaking on behalf of the Te Tahuhu o Tawkeheimoa Trust of Ngati Rangiwewehi which represented nearly 3000 descendants.

"The lack of understanding by the Pro Democracy Society of inherent indigenous human rights is a dismal indicator of continued institutional racism that is normalised by these [who are] so-called pro democracy," she said.

One of those opposing the proposal was former Rotorua District Council deputy electoral officer Kathryn Phillips.

"I have three children and eight grandchildren all of whom have Maori ancestry of which both I and they are proud of. I am not racist, [but] I do not believe in a society where one group of people have more rights than another," she said. "I am deeply saddened and indeed horrified to have to be here before council today, trying to convince you not to change one of the basic principles of a democratic society and that is - one person, one vote."

Glenys Ihaka was also against the model. She said she believed in "fairness and justice". "If you decide to act fairly and justly, you must treat each group equally," she told the councillors.

"No one group, for whatever reason, should be treated differently by the Rotorua council."

-Hearings continue on Tuesday, Wednesday and the following Monday from 9.30am to 5pm at council chambers.