Hamilton City Council is seeking public feedback on a draft strategy which aims to achieve better outcomes for Māori and all Hamiltonians.
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate says the time is right to have a broad community conversation about the role of Māori and Māori heritage and culture in the city's future.
A Māori strategy was first initiated under former mayor Andrew King and has been refined under Southgate who wants Hamilton to be one of the most culturally rich cities in New Zealand.
"I think this strategy is hugely exciting because done well, it will benefit everyone. It means growing and developing a city where all people and all cultures, including Māori, have the opportunity to thrive," she says.
The strategy, named He Pou Manawa Ora (Pillars of Wellbeing), outlines the council's vision for a city that celebrates its whole history, including its unique Māori heritage, and ensures everyone has a voice in developing its future.
The draft strategy has been developed with input from local iwi, hapū, mātā waka (urban Māori), council's Māngai Māori (Māori representatives), Waikato-Tainui, Te Hā O te Whenua O Kirikiriroa (THAWK) and Te Rūnanga Ō Kirikiriroa (TROK).
The strategy recognises Māori as key partners in determining Hamilton's future. It covers issues ranging from city artworks to council policies.
It is also based on Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti O Waitangi) principles of partnership, protection, participation and prosperity.
These inform the strategy's four "pillars" or "pou" of wellbeing: history, unity, prosperity and restoration. As a result, the strategy will help guide a new partnership between council, Māori and the wider Kirikiriroa/Hamilton community.
"This is an opportunity for Hamilton to work in partnership with iwi and the wider community and have a wider debate about issues of culture.
"We have an opportunity to decide what we as a city want to achieve and then put in place plans to do that," says Southgate.
"What is good for Māori is good for all of us and there are some really exciting opportunities we could be looking at. For example, what can we do in partnership with iwi to stimulate and support Māori tourism? How can we work together to better celebrate and showcase Māori art?" says Southgate.
"There is enormous potential to work together to achieve more."
Southgate says she expects some "curly and contentious issues" but hopes feedback will be well-informed and respectful.
"We will need to have some courageous conversations," she says.
"People have strong opinions about issues around culture, and that's fine as long as they are well informed opinions. Until we understand all sides of our city's past, we cannot fully understand its present. And until we do that, we won't be able to build a better city for everyone who lives here."
Southgate notes that the most recent projections predict Hamilton's population will be one-third Māori by 2038 and that local government has clear obligations to Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi.
They also show that more than half of Hamilton's Māori population now are aged under 25, yet young Māori voices in particular are rarely heard, she says.
"I think everyone should have a say in the future of this city, including young people, who will be impacted by decisions we are making today. So rather than doing things in an ad hoc way, let's share some considered views and agree what we need to do to get there. In partnership with Māori that's what this strategy aims to nail down."
Public consultation on the strategy's four pillars is open until Thursday March 4 (5pm). The document and feedback/survey form are available at council's offices in Garden Place, Hamilton, at public libraries or online at hamilton.govt.nz/haveyoursay
Copies of the form can also be requested from the council directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 07 838 6699.