Council agrees to establish a Māori ward for Tauranga
Tuesday 25 August 2020
There were tears, many hugs and even a moving haka in the council chambers as The Tauranga City Council agreed to establish a Māori ward for the 2022 local government elections. The Council soon after released a media advisory (read below) giving further detail about the decision.
The resolution, made today after consultation with iwi and hapū, ensures a voice for local Māori in the Council chamber when important decisions are made about the city’s future.
It will also help the council meet its obligations under the Local Government Act, which requires councils to improve Māori participation in decision-making, and under the Local Electoral Act, which encourages fair and effective representation.
Today’s decision endorsed a recommendation by the Tangata Whenua/Tauranga City Council Committee and a group representing 17 iwi and hapū. Their report stated that non-Māori were not able to fully represent the Māori position on important issues, despite their best intentions to do so.
Carlo Ellis, the council’s manager: strategic Māori engagement, said today’s decision was a step forward for the council’s relationships with tangata whenua.
“Formal recognition of the Māori voice at the table shows a real commitment to the Treaty partnership.
“There was a strong, emotional reaction to this decision in chamber today, which shows just how much this means to the Māori community.”
Mayor Tenby Powell said tangata whenua would soon comprise 20% of Tauranga’s population, and it was crucial they be included in decision-making processes.
“It’s been more than 20 years since a member of the Māori community was elected to Council,” he said.
“This is proof that tangata whenua are being excluded from representation because the numbers don’t work for them at election time.
“Creating a Māori ward will go a long way towards putting things right.”
There are already three other councils with Māori representation, including the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
Tauranga currently has a mayor and 10 councillors – two for each of the three existing wards and four ‘at large’ (city-wide). It is yet to be decided how this structure would change with the new Māori ward.
Electors can demand that the Council hold a poll to counterdemand today’s resolution. The demand would have to be in writing and signed by 5% of electors. The results of a poll would be binding for the next two elections.
The council also agreed today that tangata whenua representatives be given voting rights on the council’s four standing committees.