Creation of Maori ward discouraged

Invercargill's promised upgrade on coin-operated parking meters is delayed until next year. Photo...
Photo: ODT files.
A report recommends scrapping the idea of establishing a Maori ward for the Invercargill City Council.

At a meeting of the council’s performance, policy and partnership committee today, councillors will discuss the endorsement of a document from deputy electoral officer Michael Morris which discourages the creation of a Maori ward.

Mr Morris believes the council should instead investigate and discuss the creation of mana whenua seats on committees and on the council itself.

The report follows consultation with the community about the council’s representation review, which covers subjects including the idea of a Maori ward, more community boards, and whether to continue with 12 councillors and a mayor.

It came after the enactment of the Local Electoral (Maori Wards and Maori Constituencies) Amendment Act 2021, which gives councils the chance to consider whether to create Maori wards for their districts in time for next year’s local government elections.

Mr Morris said the feedback from the community was broadly supportive of having a greater Maori voice on the council.

"While much feedback has been supportive of a Maori ward as a means of ensuring this can happen, the feeling was that if this could be achieved without the need of creating a Maori ward and limiting the Maori vote to one person, then this would be the best possible outcome for the city."

He said the council received submissions against the idea of a Maori ward, some querying whether it would serve all Maori or just Ngai Tahu.

"There was a loud call for mana whenua seats to be created at council.

"The seats would be on the council’s standing committees that come with voting rights and an advisory seat on full council (non-voting). Representation on the Bluff community board and/or any other boards created would also need to be considered," the report states.

This approach would honour the council’s obligations to the Treaty of Waitangi by ensuring Maori are present in all decisions it makes, the report says.

Last month, Waihopai Runaka kaumatua Michael Skerret told the Otago Daily Times it was not about "only ticking a box".

"One seat is not really enough. There are two marae in the Invercargill area, Awarua and Waihopai ... We need at least two positions, just for a start, and they should be tangata whenua positions."

If councillors decide to follow Mr Morris’ recommendation, a further report will be prepared to set out the approach to establish the seats, and a panel will be created to oversee this work.


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