The lack of a final decision by Stratford District Council on the subject of Māori representation was questioned by members of the community last week.
At a public meeting held by Stratford District Council at Whaakahurangi Marae to discuss the council's Long Term Plan, the mayor and councillors faced criticism regarding a perceived lack of progress on a final decision being made on Māori representation.
In March, mayor Neil Volzke asked elected members if they wished to reconsider the establishment of a Māori ward in the district in time for the 2022 elections. While the mayor and three other councillors, Peter Dalziel, Min McKay and Amanda Harris voted in favour of bringing discussion on the topic forward so a decision could be made in time for the next local government election, they didn't have the support of the other seven elected members who voted against, meaning the earliest a Māori ward could be introduced in Stratford is 2024.
The subject was raised at last week's LTP consultation meeting, with former New Plymouth mayor, Andrew Judd, who has become the face of a nationwide campaign for the establishment of Māori wards challenging that decision.
"It's really sad for our province that Stratford will be forever remembered in history for not taking up the opportunity," he said.
"It's so sad. Really sad. Your kids and grandkids are going to learn the history and they are going to ask you why."
2024 is "quite a while away" he said.
Deputy mayor Alan Jamieson said Judd's own experience with the subject - when he had tried and failed to introduce them in New Plymouth in 2014- had made Stratford elected members "gun shy".
"If we had charged at it straight away and said 'yes, we're going to have that', and it was overturned by the public, that would look bad for Stratford."
Councillor John Sandford said councillors and council staff had been "under the pump" with the impact of Covid-19 last year making for "a hell of a year", along with a number of shovel-ready projects under way.
"Give us a chance," he said, saying elected members wanted needed to be able to "consider it properly".
Whaakahurangi Marae secretary Lovey Read said she didn't accept that as a good reason for the delay.
"All of us have ups and downs in our lives that we have to work with, not just councillors."
Mayor Neil Volzke said he wanted to clarify a point.
"It's not council's decision to not have a Māori ward," he said, pointing out the decision was yet to be made.
Marcia Reid asked why council couldn't make the decision earlier, when other councils had been able to.
Volzke said "informal discussions" had begun between council chief executive, Sven Hanne, community services director Kate Whareaitu and representatives of the seven iwi connected to the district.
Councillor Min Mckay said she took on board the comments made.
"I hear you. We absolutely had the opportunity to consult. What I am hoping is that we can do better in three years' time and deliver this."
Chrissy Darth said she was "appalled" the discussion wasn't further along.
"As a New Zealander I think it is appalling that our Treaty partner has to go through this amount of talk just to sit at the table, to sit at any table. It's disrespectful."
Disclaimer: Editor Ilona Hanne is married to the CEO of Stratford District Council.