A front page of the Chronicle read there was an overwhelming support for Māori wards in the Horizons Region.
I will let you be the judge.
The consultation period was limited to just seven weeks, only those on the Māori electoral roll were surveyed directly (18,500 people), as Horizons considered this group the most affected.
I personally disagree with this view.
The survey information was also made available on Horizons website, local newspapers, and social media.
Those sent the survey form had three weeks to consider, understand and reply; 1251 did (6.8 per cent), plus 398 completed the online survey, and there were 103 replies from non-resident or non-ratepayers.
Horizons did not know the number of Māori on the general roll in our region.
In 2018 we saw a net 2207 opt to move off the Māori roll onto the General roll
My understanding is over 50 per cent of Māori are on the General roll, which would mean less than half were surveyed, making the percentage reply less than 4 per cent at best.
Central government, in my view, pushed councils into making a rushed decision.
The deadline for the decision regarding Māori wards had to be made by no later than May 21.
Seldom do rushed decisions result in the best decisions.
The views and opinions from the communities I canvassed ranged from those who were strongly in favour, to those who were strongly against.
I asked Māori these two questions:
1. Do you want two seats at the Horizons table?
95 per cent said yes.
2. Do you understand the processes and the unintended consequences?
More than 95 per cent did not understand. That was across the board; Māori and Pākehā alike.
Let me test your knowledge. Are you aware of the following?
Any New Zealander can stand for election in a Māori ward – they don't have to be Māori.
Only Māori on the Māori roll will get to vote on the wards.
You cannot change from the General roll to the Māori roll until 2024, which is after our next local body elections in 2022
Only Māori currently on the Māori roll will have any influence on who represents the 26 iwi in the region, which in turn means that the majority of Māori will have no input.
Are they happy to have two seats represent the 26 iwi in the region?
As an example, currently, voters in Palmerston North select four councillors; that is 25 per cent of the total 12 councillors.
Under this new structure, voters on the Māori roll will now only select one councillor.
In Whanganui there are currently two councillors, and likewise this will be reduced to one vote for those on the Māori roll.
Councillor numbers are highly likely to increase from 12 to 14.
If you change on to the Māori roll in 2024 so you can vote on ward and constituency seats in Horizons election, you are also changing who and how you can vote in a general election
People on the Māori roll can only vote on the Māori seats. In the general election, you will get the party vote and your MP vote will be for a Māori and not a general seat.
I personally believe it was more important to consult with Māori on the G\general roll as, in my opinion, the impact for them was far greater.
Of note, the Whanganui District Council was looking at different models and did not change to a Māori Ward seat due to local iwi views.
I'm not saying that Māori Wards or constituency seats are wrong.
I am in full support of discussion to enable iwi to make an informed decision, rather than being hurried into a pre-determined decision, that sounds good in principle, but has not had the benefit of exploring the possible ramifications.
A vote against Māori wards was not a vote against Māori, it was a vote against a rushed decision with a number of unintended significant consequences.
It will be interesting to see if our discussion is challenged. Did we do an adequate job for our communities in consultation and time frame and have we fulfilled our responsibilities under the Local Govt Act?
Time will tell.
• David Cotton is a Horizons regional councillor