Hamilton City Council has agreed to consider Maaori wards in time for the next election.
The wider community will have three weeks to provide feedback on Maaori wards as well as on other ways of achieving Maaori representation on Council.
Today’s (15 April 2021) decision revokes a Council vote on 1 April which resolved to support ways of strengthening Maaori representation, including the consideration of wards. That vote sought to bolster the role of Maangai Maaori representatives, but meant Maaori wards would not be in place for the next election.
Today’s decision overturns that and instead will see Council begin a community engagement programme on Friday (16 April), running until 10 May. Community views will be provided to Councillors before a final decision is made on 19 May.
If Maaori wards are confirmed, there is likely to be two Maaori wards in place for the city in time for the 2022 elections. The number of wards is based on population, outlined in the Local Electoral Act 2001. Only voters enrolled on the Maaori electoral roll could vote for Maaori ward candidates.
Mayor Paula Southgate acknowledged the Maaori wards issue had been “fraught” because people held deeply, passionate views. But she believed Council had today landed on the right result.
“I am very pleased at the decision today and very grateful for the respectful way in which that position was reached. I want to thank everyone who came and presented to Council.
“I and some of my colleagues were deeply uncomfortable introducing Maaori wards without wider discussion with our community. I’ve not changed my view on that. Today Council has given more certainty in terms of when a final decision will be made, but we are still giving all people an opportunity to comment and that’s important. It is now up to people who take that opportunity.”
“Over the next few weeks, we’ll need to have some courageous conversations as a city. We should not shy away from that. We are providing people with a way to respectfully share their views, and I hope all people do that with open hearts and open minds.”
Community feedback on establishing Maaori wards and other means of representing Maaori on Council is open from 12pm on Friday 16 April until Monday 10 May. To share your voice, go to hamilton.govt.nz/haveyoursay. Hardcopy feedback forms will be available from the Council building at 260 Anglesea Street, or any Hamilton City Libraries branch, from Monday 18 April.