Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Thames council votes for Māori wards

Thames-Coromandel District Councillors have voted unanimously in favour of establishing a Māori ward or wards in time for the 2025 local elections.

Under the Local Electoral Act, the decision now triggers a representation review that will consider the detail of the wards.

“This review process is heavily prescribed under the Act and will involve considerable public consultation. However, the review process does not revisit the decision to have Māori wards,” the Council said in a statement.

The representation review must be concluded by 31 July 2024.

The vote was held in front of a Council Chamber packed with community members, iwi and Māori leaders from across the district. At least a dozen residents spoke in support of establishing Māori wards at the meeting.

Prior to the vote, Mayor Len Salt told those gathered that the Council would not decide who would represent a Māori ward or wards.

“That is a decision for the voters. Our job is simply to decide the framework and to provide advice on the governance and Electoral Act requirements if required,” the Mayor said.

“Nor will our Council play any part in who a Māori ward nominee might be, that is not Council’s role. We do have very clear legal obligations set out in the Local Government Act to establish and provide opportunities for Māori to contribute to the decision-making process of the local authority.

“There needs to be an acknowledgement that every Councillor sitting around the table is only as strong as the support they have from the rest of their Council colleagues and from the community. And that’s a big part of what this process is about today.”

“I want to address the comment that a number of speakers have said: ‘Thank you for allowing us to be here today’. It’s not for us to allow you to be here, it is your right to be here. That is our starting point, we’re not allowing you, it’s your right to be here,” said Mayor Salt.

Councillor, Peter Revell thanked those who spoke to the Council before the vote for providing such a strong mandate for establishing Māori wards.

“Can I acknowledge the phenomenal passion, clarity, enthusiasm, humility that I heard this morning. It is a privilege to be here and witness that. Thank you very much one and all,” he said.

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