Hamilton City Council is attempting to do a U-turn on its vote last week against introducing Māori wards in time for the 2022 local government elections.
The aim is to put Māori wards in place by the next election, but only after engaging with the wider community on the issue.
Mayor Paula Southgate said she was acutely aware some people had been deeply hurt by last week's decision which had pushed out the possibility of Māori wards for the city and prompted the resignation of Māngai Māori council representative Hemi Rau.
At an extraordinary council meeting on April 1 elected members debated whether the council would introduce Māori wards for the 2022 election.
The debate was prompted by the upcoming introduction of the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill. The bill requires some councils to decide by May 21 if Māori wards should be established for next year's local government elections.
Māori wards allow for members of council to be voted in by electors on the Māori roll. Previously, if 5 per cent of a council's population challenged the introduction of Māori wards, a binding poll was required. That option is now being removed.
Southgate said on Tuesday that over Easter weekend she was dismayed to see rifts forming in the community.
"I understand people's frustration and hurt and I have felt that myself very keenly. But my concern has always been to take people with us."
Although the council last week voted eight to four against Māori wards for the next election it did unanimously vote to strengthen Māori representation and participation, including consideration of wards.
A statement from the council on Tuesday said it had been advised a majority of councillors had formally sought to revoke last week's decision. The revocation was formally supported by Southgate along with councillors Ryan Hamilton, Maxine van Oosten, Dave Macpherson, Martin Gallagher, and Sarah Thomson. Other councillors may yet sign it, the statement said.
The Notice of Revocation will be addressed as part of the Long-Term Plan council meeting on Thursday, April 15. The item is scheduled for 3pm.
At that meeting, the council will consider a new motion which considers putting Māori wards in place by the next election, but only after engaging with the wider community.
That community engagement would be held from April 16 until May 10.
Southgate said her focus over Easter had been encouraging and supporting her councillor colleagues to revisit last week's decision, on the proviso that there would be wider community engagement before a final decision is made.
She stressed a poll "was absolutely not an option".
"No, those days are well gone. What I want, and what I think other councillors also want, is an opportunity to socialise this issue with people more widely so they understand what we are seeking to achieve. Saying that, the final decision, on May 19, will be council's."
The vote last week against Māori wards was followed on Tuesday by the resignation of Hemi Rau, one of five appointed Māngai Māori representatives on HCC committees.
"I understand Hemi's frustration and while I respect his decision, I am saddened by it. We are looking to strengthen the Māori voice around our table and he would have had a role in that going forward," Southgate said.
Since 2018, Māori have been represented on Hamilton City Council by five Māngai Māori (the voice of Māori ), who are nominated by iwi (Waikato-Tainui) and mātāwāka (Māori not of Waikato-Tainui descent) organisations and have voting rights on council committees, but not at full council meetings.
After last Thursday's vote the mayor said: "I could not, in all conscience, introduce Māori wards without having consulted with the wider community. I don't believe that would have achieved the right outcome, either for Māori or for the city. I am concerned a rushed process would divide our city, not enrich it.
"Today's [Thursday's] decision commits council to continuing a very robust conversation which I believe will culminate in Māori wards in the near future. In the meantime, we can do a lot more across all areas of council to increase and improve Māori participation and we will be a better city for it."
The decision reaffirmed the council's commitment to He Pou Manawa Ora, a strategy which the council has consulted the community on but is yet to formally adopt. He Pou Manawa Ora covers issues ranging from city artworks to council policies.
The draft strategy's four "pillars" or "pou" of wellbeing – History, Unity, Prosperity and Restoration – are based on the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) principles of partnership, participation, protection and prosperity.