Napier City Council has resolved to introduce Māori Wards for the 2025 local body elections.
“This is a significant moment in the history of Napier and comes 170-years since the signing of the Ahuriri block purchase by Māori and settlers,” Council said in a statement.
The vote was carried by a resounding majority, 11 votes in favour with one abstention and with strong support voiced by councillors, it said.
A five-month consultation period resulted in 1,300 submissions being made and although over half wrote against Māori wards, 95% of those on the Māori roll submitted in favour. All those who spoke to their submissions over the two-day hearings were in favour of Māori wards.
In presenting the motion to implement Māori wards, Mayor Kirsten Wise said although she understood the frustration and disappointment when Māori Wards were not established for the 2022 elections, she had an obligation to provide the full community with opportunity to contribute to the decision.
“It is important to understand, first, that consultation is not a poll and second considering the content of the submissions is equally if not more important than the volume for or against,” Mayor Wise said.
“We must also consider other factors such as our statutory obligations and the views of those who are most affected by any changes.”
In summarising their positions, councillors spoke of their personal convictions, their journeys and learnings over the past months in the run up to making a decision. They spoke of the introduction of Māori wards as opening the door to true partnership, adding power and mana to the council, honouring the Treaty of Waitangi and adding ways for Māori representation rather than replacing any that exist already.
Councillors listed their key reasons for supporting Māori ward implementation.
- Guarantees Māori participation in decision-making
- Helps enable a stronger bi-cultural perspective for Council planning and decision-making and creates a balance of Te Ao Māori and tau iwi
- Provides Māori with a greater voice at the table and enables greater engagement on local issues
- Creates a platform for Māori to grow and to have the confidence to put themselves forward as leaders
- Builds Māori capacity in the leadership of our city thus accelerate and broaden the socio-economic capacity
- Is inclusive and provides fairness and equity for Māori at the Council table
- Honours our obligations under the Local Government Act to enable pathways for Māori contribution to decision making.
- Upholds the principles of The Treaty of Waitangi as Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding document
A representational review will now take place, which will decide how many wards will be established and how many councillors will make up Napier City Council.