Doubt about Maori wards for Dunedin

Edward Ellison
Edward Ellison
Any push for Maori wards at the Dunedin City Council may depend on a shift in position from mana whenua.

A councillor could bring a notice of motion to the council to have the matter considered, but none has indicated they will do so.

And runanga leadership in Dunedin has lingering doubts about Maori wards being the best way to foster a partnership with the council.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins has previously argued he is open to the idea, but "in these sorts of discussions I would take my lead from our local runaka leadership".

Other councillors have put forward a similar argument.

The issue has come into focus amid debate about a law change that would mean councils that opted for Maori wards could not have those decisions overturned via referendums forced by community petitions.

A Government Bill passed its first reading under urgency on Tuesday and public submissions have closed already. The Maori Affairs select committee reports back today on the Bill.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said removing the public veto on Maori wards was overdue and the Bill had to be passed quickly to have an effect on local government elections in 2022.

Otakou marae kaumatua Edward Ellison, of Ngai Tahu descent, has previously expressed concern about disharmony associated with debate about Maori wards, including when such debate was generated by referendums.

However, he remained uncertain Maori wards were the best approach for Dunedin and he said there had not been significant recent discussion of the subject.

Mana whenua representation was fundamental and councils needed to work with the people of the land, he said.

It was important that councils sought to engage with mana whenua to appreciate their perspectives and knowledge, he said.

He was not sure Maori wards in Dunedin would necessarily achieve this.

The city council engages with iwi through its Maori participation working party and Mr Hawkins has said this is how Maori have strategic input into decision-making.

Cr Steve Walker said he would support a notice of motion requesting Maori wards only if it had the backing of runanga leadership.

Cr Rachel Elder said creating the opportunity for Maori wards was a step in the right direction, but needed to be discussed with iwi first.

Studies showed racial diversity on boards promoted better decision-making, she said.

"Dunedin City Council has a strong commitment to the Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

"Ngai Tahu have a strong and positive working relationship with the Dunedin City Council and we already partner across a broad spectrum of projects and decisions."

Cr David Benson-Pope said the wishes of the local runanga needed to be respected.

Cr Andrew Whiley said he felt moving away from a ward system in Dunedin — implementing city-wide voting instead — had been positive.

"I’ve seen us come a long way in engaging with iwi," he said.

The National Party objected to the Bill being pushed through under urgency.

There would have been enough time for the Government to go through the usual select committee process, hear from the public and consider alternative policy options, National MP Chris Bishop said.



Get voted in on your merits.
Nothing wrong with trying and failing, just try again.
If you are good enough you'll make it.
But ramming unelected positions down the public's throat is definitely not the way to do it

'Good enough' on pakeha terms?

Good enough to succeed on merit in a democratic process.

Well Truthtimeplease, you will be glad to know that Maori ward positions are elected, just like if you were on the Maori roll in a general election. You must be relieved!!