Thursday, May 23, 2024

Waikato councillors back Maaori Wards

Waikato District Council has declared its strong opposition to any legislation that has the potential to remove Maaori Wards from its governance model.

Council currently has 11 General Ward Councillors and two Maaori Ward Councillors, elected in 2022. 

The Council resolved to incorporate Maaori Wards within its 2021 Representation Review, once the previous legislation to hold a binding poll was removed, and to recognise the long-standing partnership that they hold with Waikato-Tainui and other iwi.

At a Council meeting this week, Councillors discussed the Coalition Government’s announcement, as part of its 100-day plan, to repeal the provisions for Councils in New Zealand to implement Maaori Wards without a binding poll.

As well as strongly voicing their opposition to the government’s proposed bill, Councillors unanimously supported the continuation of Maaori Wards in the Waikato district.

This is especially important to Council when the fact that 26% of the district’s population is Maaori, while the percentage of Maaori population in New Zealand as a whole is 17.3%, is considered, said Mayor, Jacqui Church.

“I have consistently stated publicly that our current governance structure, which includes our two Maaori Wards and Maaori councillors in general wards, puts us in the best position possible to deliver positive outcomes for all of our diverse people and communities,” the Mayor said.

“We value our current governance model highly and none of us see a need to change what is delivering positive and progressive outcomes to our communities and country.

“In fact, the introduction of Maaori wards in 2022 injected additional important fresh perspectives into the district’s governance as well as strengthened our partnerships with Maaori, allowing a Maaori voice to be present at the decision-making table.

“Our elected members with their unique attributes, varied backgrounds, life experiences, and opinions coupled with their ability to find common ground and reach agreements across both our general electoral roll and Maaori roll, all contribute to shaping our policies and initiatives.

“All of our insights enhance the ability to build liveable, thriving, and connected communities,” she said.

Following the discussion at the meeting, Councillors unanimously agreed to resolve that they:

  • Strongly endorse the decision of the previous Council to implement Maaori Wards
  • Strongly oppose any legislation that has a potential to remove Maaori Wards
  • Support continuing with Maaori Wards in the Waikato district
  • Make a submission to the Select Committee once the proposed Bill is introduced.

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