Majority votes to retain iwi representatives

Michael Laws
Michael Laws
Iwi representatives will remain on the Otago Regional Council policy committee, despite a determined bid by some councillors to alter how it consults Maori.

Two Ngai Tahu representatives joined the council's policy committee, in paid positions with voting rights, in June last year.

Yesterday, the new council elected in October ratified its committee structure for 2019-22, including revisiting the make-up of its strategy and planning committee.

Councillors Michael Laws, Kevin Malcolm, Hilary Calvert and Gary Kelliher all opposed having iwi representatives on the committee.

Cr Laws said the council was required to consult with Maori, not iwi, and that was not the same thing - ''Maori'' meant all Maori, while ''iwi'' was a subset of Maori.

''I am all for having a much greater involvement and connection with Maori in the Otago region, but this ain't it.

''Can you imagine the damage that would cause, in a close vote decided by iwi votes, if we then overturned that decision because iwi were not sitting around the table?

''This is not the way to do it.''

Cr Kelliher said he took issue with unelected representatives of any kind on ORC committees: ''I have a strong view around the democratic process and going through an election process to get to sit at this table.''

He said he had full respect for iwi and the council had an obligation to consult, but there were other ways iwi could be engaged which did not involve conferring voting rights.

A range of councillors spoke in favour of retaining iwi representation, with several saying their dealings with Maori had been a highlight of their previous term on council.

Cr Michael Deaker said the last time the council had debated the proposition he had received many emails which accused him of being racist and anti-democratic for backing Maori representation.

''The input iwi made to our decision making last time was positive and thoughtful and expert, and I look forward to it again.''

Cr Bryan Scott said iwi were Treaty of Waitangi partners and the council had treaty obligations: ''It has been great that we are trying to fulfil those commitments.''

Cr Kate Wilson said one of the privileges of her time on Dunedin City Council was being part of its Maori participation working party.

''That ensured collaboration was better and a more seamless process ... I support this structure being adopted. It is a win-win situation.''

The council voted 8-4 in favour of iwi representation.


Having representatives of special interest groups able to influence democratically elected bodies is anti democratic. Worldwide there are people fighting to protect democracy from the forces that would undermine it.

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