A Bay of Plenty regional councillor has declared that he will abstain from voting on matters relating to Māori partnership deliberations after raising concerns about ratepayers covering the cost of engagement.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council met on Wednesday for Long-term Plan deliberations, which included consideration of funding $1 million for engaging Māori on freshwater matters.
Councillors were asked to consider funding the $1m, as well as an additional $600,000 over three years, to Toi Kai Rawa, Bay of Plenty's Regional Māori economic development organisation.
Following the presentation in which staff recommended the funding, councillor Matemoana McDonald spoke in response to an earlier comment councillor David Love made about "ratepayers footing the bill".
"I just want to remind everybody Māori are ratepayers as well, and can I also state that they are probably the longest standing ratepayers, in the Bay of Plenty," she said.
"When making comments like that it's inferenced that Māori do not pay rates. When you say 'ratepayers are responsible for this', Māori are ratepayers too".
Love indicated that was not what he meant but McDonald said that was the message she took from the comment.
Chairman Doug Leeder reminded councillors that helping iwi and hapū to engage in forums such as the draft Long-term Plan was in alignment with Crown expectations and the funding being discussed was part of the regional council's contribution to that.
Love questioned why the regional council was put in such a position.
"I've had no real explanation about why this is fully a ratepayer responsibility, especially since we lead the way in regional councils in funding far more than anyone else in this particular area. Until I've had that explanation I can't accept it or I can't accept the way we fund it. Therefore, for all recommendations, I will be abstaining from all of them."
Councillor Stuart Crosby, who is also president of Local Government New Zealand and a former mayor of Tauranga, reminded Love that as a councillor he had a duty to meet Government expectations, including those of Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
"When a minister comes up to you and says 'this is now your core business'; this is now your core business, whether you like it or not. That is the way in which government legislation works," Crosby said.
"It's very much our core business ... it's also very much ... added value to the economic development of the Bay of Plenty. We [the regional council] have been in that fortunate position to do it and we should continue because the spinoffs from that are significant in a positive way.
"Overall we just need to come to grips that significant changes [are] happening in this country.
"We have 39 [iwi] and 260ish hapū [in our region] so we have to develop a system as an organisation, that will be required under legislation current and future, to manage those relationships.
"So while it's hard for a number of people, both in council and definitely in the community, to come to grasps with this, the reality is that this is something that has to be done and it has to be done as best we can."
Crosby said he supported the recommendations and looked forward to seeing how they were rolled out.
He said most of the submissions were about building relationships and progress "and doing that pays huge dividends as we move forward".
Love did not respond to this, as his time to speak had previously ended.
The decisions will now be incorporated into the regional council's draft Long-term Plan for adoption next month.