Māori wards in Whanganui are almost certainly off the table for 2022 as a local iwi flags concerns that any new arrangements could affect existing ties with the district council.
Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall says Whanganui District Council will vote on Māori wards only with the say so of three local tribes – Ngā Rauru, Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa and Whanganui iwi Tūpoho.
Councils must decide before today, Friday May 21, whether to introduce Māori wards in time for the 2022 elections.
Iwi leader John Maihi says he congratulates those who are introducing Māori wards, but Tūpoho is "not really keen".
He says the iwi already has an effective working relationship with council and wants to stick with existing arrangements – an agreement he says was signed with the council more than 10 years ago.
"If we want to call the mayor and the chief executive together, we meet. We certainly make our faces available. If there's something we don't like, we will discuss it."
The agreement, signed in 2000, is updated every three years, Maihi says.
"The voice at the table – we're not really keen, we'll do it in our own time, in our own way. We've just taken the position that we need to make sure we're up front when things happen.
"Is that a vote at the table? No, it's not but I have been in the position now for a long time and I know they won't go past without us having a full and final discussion.
"Whether that's the right way to do it? I have to say times have changed. More information is needed. We've got to talk with each other further."
Maihi said one issue was that Tūpoho would not be comfortable if representatives elected to Māori wards did not whakapapa to the land or the iwi.
Te Kaahui o Rauru tumu whakarae Mike Neho says Ngā Rauru will also continue with existing arrangements established with the council.
He says the iwi has been busy with other key priorities and has not had a full discussion on Māori representation. However, it is supportive in principle and looks forward to working on Māori wards with the council.
"As long as it doesn't undermine the mana whenua, it can only be another tool for Māori to use to advance our aspirations as mana whenua. In that context I would support a Māori ward. It enhances opportunity for Māori across the catchment area of the Whanganui District Council."
Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa chair Pahia Turia says hapū and iwi throughout the Rangitīkei gave a clear signal of support for Māori wards to the Rangitīkei District Council but a wider conversation is needed about "Māori/iwi" representation in local government.
He said he was aware of concerns that Māori constituencies should not supercede hapū and iwi relationships already built with local government.
"I suppose the fear is that Māori wards will become the substitute voice for what we believe to be an iwi partnership based under Te Tiriti o Waitangi," Turia said.
"Māori representation will not be the default voice for iwi, we don't see it as that - and I don't think Rangitīkei District Council sees it as that either.
"If the worry is that we'll end up with people saying 'well, I'm an elected representative, and I'm elected to represent the interests of Māori' and that will supercede the voice of iwi, I don't think so. Not on our watch.
"There are lots of different things that our people need to take into consideration when we start to think about Māori wards. What our tūpuna signed up to was a partnership."