Local government candidate Hinerangi Goodman and her supporters are moving forward with planned legal action, despite Alison Silcock being sworn into Goodman's previous council seat this week.
Goodman's supporters had previously announced they would protest Silcock's swearing-in at the Whakatane District Council, but none showed up at the ceremony on Wednesday.
In a low-key event, supported by whānau and friends, Silcock was sworn in as the Murupara-Galatea ward councillor, nearly three weeks after her councillor colleagues.
The seat now looks set to be the focus of separate calls to change legislation, from Goodman as the ousted councillor and from the council.
Following a public meeting in Murupara , Goodman and her supporters vowed to fight the "unfair" process that saw her sworn into council and then removed after a recount of votes. Her supporters, known as "Team Orange", launched a Givealittle page to fund the coming legal battle as Goodman does not have sufficient personal funds.
In three days, $1291 had been donated.
Goodman said she was humbled by the donations and the messages of support. She said her team had contacted a lawyer with vast knowledge of local government legislation and were discussing their next moves.
"The purpose of local government is to enable local democratic decision making, actioned by and on behalf of communities and to promote the cultural, economic, social and cultural wellbeing of communities," said Goodman.
"It also has to have regard to the views of all its communities when making decisions … and provide opportunity for Māori to have input into its decision-making process.
"To me, council has blatantly disregarded its responsibilities."
Goodman is not convinced by council moves to also lobby for legislative change, seeing it as a "copycat" move and a way for it to improve its public image after having "egg on its face".
She said council staff had approached her to make a time and place for an in-person apology, but she had refused to meet with them.
"How pathetic is that, it's inappropriate right now," she said.
"They are marching on and want my blessing. I'm not a nasty person but I believe in fairness and justice and they need to be held accountable for what they have done."
The council announced earlier in the week that it was seeking a meeting with Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to discuss what it considered flaws in the local electoral legislation.
Whakatāne District mayor Judy Turner said the flaws were exposed in the process that had to be followed for the tie and recount in the Murupara-Galatea Ward election. The council has sent a letter to Mahuta outlining its concerns and requesting a face-to-face meeting with the minister and her advisors.
Turner said of particular concern to the council was that legislation guiding elections did not adequately address Te Ao Māori requirements. She said the meeting would discuss ways of making changes to the Local Electoral Act and Local Government Act so situations like the Galatea-Murupara Ward election did not happen again.
Turner said the council was attempting to meet with Goodman to apologise, not because it followed due process incorrectly, but because of the effect this process had on both Silcock and Goodman.
"We have taken every practicable step to ensure we have followed due process, and have acted accordingly, however, we have seen the impact that this prescribed process has had and we have acknowledged the profound hurt caused to both candidates," said Turner.
"We have been in close contact with Hinerangi during this process and have been acutely aware of the challenges this process has presented for both candidates, their whānau and supporters, as well as the impact on the community. "We took guidance from Hinerangi as to what she felt was an appropriate way to close this period off for her and we have acted on her wishes."
Prior to the election, the council was invited by kaumatua to welcome the new elected members and continue to nurture and enhance council-community relationships in the Murupara area. Details of the hui are yet to be finalised.