Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Hastings council to retain Takitimu Māori ward

Hastings District Council has announced its intention to retain its Takitimu Māori ward, following the introduction of a Government Bill that looks to re-instate the ability of electors to demand a referendum for the establishment of Māori wards.

The requirement for a binding poll of residents was removed from the Local Electoral Act 2001 in 2021, with Hastings District Council undertaking an extensive community engagement to gauge support for introducing a Māori ward.

Respondents to the consultation were 76% in favour, and this was followed by a
representation review, resulting in the Takitimu ward being established ahead of the 2022 local body election, the Council says.

This week, the Local Government (Electoral Legislation and Māori Wards and Constituencies) Amendment Bill was introduced into Parliament. It proposes to reverse the 2021 legislation change, and once again requires a community referendum to be held by local government authorities considering introducing Māori wards.

At its full meeting today, Hastings District Councillors resolved to retain the Takitimu ward, pending the legislation being enacted, and hold a binding poll at the 2025 local elections, the results of which would take effect from the 2028 local elections.

Mayor, Sandra Hazlehurst said the proposed change was concerning, particularly given the level of support for Māori wards the community had shown during council’s consultation in
2021.

“This is a matter that really should be decided by local government and its communities, not Central Government,” she said.

“In Heretaunga Hastings the community gave definitive feedback that Māori wards were supported.

“There is no difference between Māori wards and rural wards – both are minority populations that may otherwise not have a voice at the decision-making table.”

Mayor Hazlehurst said having increased Māori representation around the table since 2022 had “been nothing but beneficial”.

“Māori make up 27.3% of the Heretaunga Hastings population and that will continue to grow into the future. I am incredibly proud of our rich cultural heritage and the 19 marae and hapu of Heretaunga,” she said.

“It’s enhanced our already established relationship and partnership with iwi, that has helped us fulfil council’s legislative role to improve the wellbeing of our community. This has been seen across anything from youth employment, to housing, to our joint wastewater committee and Waiaroha.

“Having a Māori ward means our Māori community can elect councillors to bring their perspective to the table – as was noted by Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga chair Mike Paku when the ward was introduced, they’d been waiting 180 years for that opportunity.”

The Bill will now go through a select committee process before its planned enactment in July.

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