After considering submissions at a hearing last week, Stratford district councillors confirmed a proposal for the council's representation arrangements before the 2022 local body elections.
17 submissions were received during the consultation period, with two submitters speaking to their submissions at last Tuesday's meeting.
One of those submitters, Christopher James,
began by acknowledging they hadn't always felt the same way about Māori wards as they do now. They had stood for election themself in 2019, said Christopher.
"If I had my way of course I would have been sitting in one of those chairs instead of you ... during the election I made clear my own position on Māori wards - that I, as tangata whenua, was against them."
Their opinion had since changed, said Christopher, and they congratulated elected members on having voted to establish a Māori ward in the district.
"Already, enough of you have shown more courage than I in voting to establish a Māori ward. In the end, the voters are always right."
Christopher's was one of three submissions calling for a number of "at-large" seats to be established, with Christopher saying without at-large seats, Māori voters would be disadvantaged.
"Your proposal ... as it stands would mean ... if I chose to vote as Māori on the Māori roll, I have essentially one vote [for councillors, not including the vote for mayor] ... If I choose to vote on the general roll I would get six or four votes depending in whether I'm urban or rural. I have gone from having six votes, to one."
This was not, said Christopher, reflective of a true partnership, and therefore was not true to the core value of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
"Our home is not our home by chance, there is history here and you are playing a part in making sure our history is better than our past."
A written submission from Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui Trust's kaiwhakahaere, Rachael Rae, also called for at-large seats, saying the current proposal was "limiting".
"The proposal limits the opportunity for Māori to participate in local council."
Councillors Min McKay and Peter Dalziel also spoke in support of at-large seats, but they failed to find support around the table.
Mayor Neil Volzke said while he personally would prefer all seats to be elected at large, under the single transferable vote system, he was "pragmatic enough" to recognise that wasn't going to happen.
"The voting system belongs to the community, it isn't one person's view. In this case, we have historically had a ward system and haven't had a wholesale rejection of it. I don't think we have been given any mandate to change it."
When it went to the vote, the majority of elected members voted in favour of the proposal as it had gone out for review. This means there will be 11 councillors plus the mayor. The 11 councillors will be elected in three wards, Urban, Rural and Māori. The Māori Ward will have one councillor, Urban will have six, and Rural four. The mayor will be elected at large. There will be no community boards established. An adjustment to the boundary of the Urban Ward will be made to include additional residential properties.
The final proposal will be confirmed at an extraordinary meeting of the council next Tuesday.
• Disclaimer: Editor Ilona Hanne is married to the CEO of Stratford District Council