There's just a little over a week left for Waipā residents to have their say on whether a Māori ward should or should not have a seat at the table.
Waikato Regional Council (WRC) Ngā Hau E Wha constituency councillor Tipa Mahuta – of Waikato-Tainui and Maniapoto, spoke in support of Māori inclusion to Waipā District councillors on Tuesday this week.
WRC has had two Māori constituencies since the 2013 local government elections, the second is Kataraina Hodge.
At Tuesday's meeting, Tipa was supported by Waikato Regional councillors of the Waipā-King Country constituency Andrew MacPherson and Stu Kneebone.
While Tipa supports the inclusion of Māori at local government she made a strong point that Māori should be able to make it without special entry.
But disadvantages Māori face discredits the "meritocracy" some hold.
"What it [meritocracy] won't do is it won't change institutional racism, it won't change the confiscation line that happens to my people, it won't change the generations of disadvantages that we have had so you're actually doing no favour, you're just levelling the playing field so people like me can find a way forward in local government," says Tipa.
Andrew says it's becoming increasingly important that other leaders take the opportunity to support the need for Māori wards.
"I have an interest in the Treaty, and I've got an interest in Māori economic development but how can I possibly view their world through their eyes? How can I possibly as a stale, pale, male sit there and have a view as to the right and wrong way of Māori engagement?" says Andrew.
Currently, Waipā District Council (WDC) has no councillors that identify as Māori, despite Māori making up about 15 per cent of the Waipā population.
In 2017, the district council voted 8-5 against establishing a Māori ward and instead looked at alternative options for engagement for Māori which led to the appointment of four iwi representatives to formal committees last year.
Recent legislation changes have removed the requirement to have a binding poll on Māori wards if just 5 per cent of electors opted for one.
The changes have provided councils across the country with the opportunity to consider establishing Māori wards for the 2022 election.
Each will be responsible for making that decision for their councils.
"Is it the time to do this? I can't answer this for Waipā. That's a conversation you have to do for yourselves but if it's not the time now then when will be the time?" says Tipa.
"There has got to be a reason to not do it. The sentiment is that you can do it now so you have to come with a reason for not doing it."
Public consultation closes on Monday, April 19 and if WDC votes in favour of Māori wards it will then produce a representation review to determine boundaries.
This review would be publicly notified by September this year.
Calculated by population, WDC would appoint one Māori ward to cover the whole district.
Tipa says the big question that needs to be asked is how can Māori be a part of the Waipā communities' wellbeing if they're not at the table?
"How can we share the future with you if we're not in the plan? We're not in the planning room, we've have just been planned for," says Tipa.
Visit www.waipadc.govt.nz/our-council/haveyoursay/maori-ward for more information and to access the feedback leaflet.