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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Hamilton commits to strengthening Māori representation

Hamilton City Council has committed to strengthening Maaori representation and participation, including consideration of Maaori wards, following the adoption of a wider strategy to improve outcomes for Maaori.

Whether Council would introduce Maaori wards for the 2022-25 triennium was debated by Elected Members at an Extraordinary Council meeting late last week.

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 21 May 2021 if Maaori wards should be established for the 2022 local government elections.

Maaori wards allow for members of Council to be voted in by electors on the Maaori roll.

Previously, if 5% of a council’s population challenged the introduction of Maaori wards, a binding poll was required. That option has now been removed.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said while some good work had been done, she acknowledged Council had much more to do in improving meaningful participation for Maaori across the city.

“But I could not, in all conscience, introduce Maaori wards without having consulted with the wider community,” she said.

“I don’t believe that would have achieved the right outcome, either for Maaori or for the city. I am concerned a rushed process would divide our city, not enrich it.

“Today’s decision commits Council to continuing a very robust conversation which I believe will culminate in Maaori wards in the near future.  In the meantime, we can do a lot more across all areas of Council to increase and improve Maaori participation and we will be a better city for it.”

She said the decision reaffirmed Council’s commitment to He Pou Manawa Ora, a strategy which 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.

An updated version of the Strategy based on community feedback will be considered by Council’s Community Committee on Tuesday, 18 May.

In the meantime, Southgate has asked Council to look at ways to strengthen its Maangai Maaori model and the broader role of Maaori in the decision-making process. Since 2018, Maaori partners have been represented on Hamilton City Council by five Maangai Maaori (the voice of Maaori), who are nominated by iwi (Waikato-Tainui) and maataawaaka (Maaori not of Waikato-Tainui descent) organisations and have voting rights on Council committees.

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