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The Invercargill City Council’s first mana whenua-appointed roles have been filled, and the appointees are set to take part in their "historic" first meeting next month.
Pania Coote, of Te Runanga o Awarua, and Evelyn Cook, of Waihopai Runaka, will become members of the performance, policy and partnerships and infrastructural services committees, following the council’s resolution to establish two seats on its committees, one each for Te Runanga o Awarua and Waihopai Runaka, in July.
Runaka were invited to name their representatives, who will have full voting and speaking rights at committee meetings and will also be able to attend and speak at all council meetings, but without voting rights.
Ms Coote is a Justice of the Peace and holds a master’s degree in social work and community development from the University of Otago.
"This is a great honour to represent mana whenua at the council table, working together with Maori to build stronger communities and to achieve better outcomes for all," Ms Coote said.
Ms Coote has held several national governance roles, including as chairwoman of the national screening advisory committee for the Ministry of Health, Hei Ahuru Mowai (the National Maori Cancer Leadership Group) and Hui E! Community Aotearoa.
She was a member of the Bluff Community Board from 2007-13.
Waihopai Runaka nominated Ms Cook as its representative.
"I feel honoured to represent my whanau and runaka in this way, something my grandfather would never have envisaged for any of his mokopuna," she said.
Ms Cook is the Waihopai Runaka alternate representative to Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, a member of the Waihopai Runaka executive, runaka representative at Emergency Management Southland and the Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust, SMAG representative on Te Awhi Rito and a member of the museum governance group.
Council chief executive Clare Hadley said it was a significant moment.
"Not only are we adding to our store of knowledge and perspective, we are aligning with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and our own long-term plan."
There will be a formal welcome to the council building and chamber for the two mana whenua representatives before the committee meeting on October 5 at 3pm.