You may have noticed over these past couple of months reports of an increasing number of local bodies giving in to the strident demands of iwi agitating for designated Māori wards. Nine councils have recently caved into these demands without seeking a mandate from their communities. They are: Tauranga, New Plymouth, Kaipara, Whangārei, South Taranaki, Ruapehu, Gisborne, Taupō, and Northland Regional Council. They do so despite poll after poll showing, overwhelmingly, New Zealanders do not want our communities to be divided by race.
Of those listed above, Gisborne was the only council to consult with the public before making a decision – although they did not poll the community to gauge the actual level of support. Instead, the councillors voted unanimously for Māori wards at last Monday’s extraordinary meeting. A couple of councillors expressed reservations during debate on the issue but voted yes anyway. Their misgivings are well justified. For instance, assuming a total of 13 councillors (plus mayor) remain for Gisborne, the formula when calculated would require five councillors elected from one or more Māori wards and eight councillors elected from one or more general wards. Councillor Kerry Worsnop raised concerns about losing the rural wards to accommodate this new arrangement “That is an enormous risk for myself and probably for all the other rural councillors here to support this. It's a big risk. We could lose our rural wards and we did not warn people about that,” she said at the meeting.
Gisborne District Council asserts that all elected members, whether they be elected from General or Māori wards, would represent the entire community. But, as Māori ward councillors are voted into office by those on the Māori roll, in reality they are only accountable to this constituency - who most likely would have the expectation that their elected representatives would be working exclusively for their benefit. We need only to look at the Māori seats at central government to know this to be the case. Therefore, five Māori wards at Gisborne District Council would result in a considerable power bloc advocating for one sector of the population with no incentive to consider the interests of the wider community.
Not to be outdone, there are fresh calls for Māori seats at Auckland Council. This is despite Auckland being saddled with the Independent Māori Statutory Board (IMSB), which was established ten years ago to promote issues of significance to Māori. The IMSB has nine members, and two members sit on most council committees with voting rights. IMSB chair David Taipari agrees this arrangement has led to more engagement with Māori but claims it could be improved by having Māori seats.
Yet, Auckland Council is already bending over backwards to accommodate Māori aspirations. The latest Māori Outcomes Report shows the council group’s strong performance in this area. Māori strategic outcomes head Simone Andersen said recently “While the impacts of COVID-19 started to be felt during the last financial year, the Māori Outcomes' portfolio of activities remained on track, with projects accelerating and performing well."
Of course, there are significant costs associated with delivering the Māori Outcomes programme. Our latest briefing paper, which was released in September, reveals that in just six years Auckland Council spent at least $129 million on targeted Māori spending and iwi consultation. In 2018/19 alone, the total spend was $30 million – more than double the $13 million spent in 2013/14. Please see the following article for more on this report, including an update.
In this newsletter we also report on the campaigns to gather signatures to force polls on Māori wards. Please offer your support and encouragement to those in Tauranga, New Plymouth and Northland who are standing up for the right of the public to have a say. See the following article for contact details.
Upcoming events which may be of interest:
- Hauraki Gulf Forum - the next meeting is scheduled for 1pm 30 November, at the Pukorokoro Shorebird Centre, 283 East Coast Rd, Miranda. The agenda includes an update on the Government’s response strategy to the Sea Change Plan. See a copy of the agenda HERE.
- The final Democracy Action working group meeting for the year Monday 14th December. Please email for details: [email protected]
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