Community & Environment

Hamilton to revisit Maaori wards

Hamilton City Council will revisit the issue of establishing Maaori wards for the city in time for the next election.

Last week Council voted against introducing Maaori wards for the 2022-25 triennium.

But it did unanimously vote to strengthen Maaori representation and participation, including consideration of wards. It also voted to strengthen the role of Maangai Maaori following the adoption of a strategy, He Pou Manawa Ora. That draft strategy was developed alongside Maaori.

Today Council was advised a majority of Councillors had formally sought to revoke last week’s decision. The revocation was formally supported by Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate along with Councillors Ryan Hamilton, Maxine van Oosten, Dave Macpherson, Martin Gallagher, and Sarah Thomson. Other Councillors may yet sign it.

The Notice of Revocation will be addressed as part of the Long-Term Plan Council meeting on 15 April. The item is scheduled for 3pm. At that meeting, Council will consider a new motion which considers putting Maaori wards in place by the next election, but only after engaging with the wider community.

That community engagement would be held from from 16 April until 10 May.

Mayor Southgate said she was acutely aware of how deeply hurt some people had been by last week’s decision which had pushed out the possibility of Maaori wards for the city. Over Easter weekend she was dismayed to see rifts forming in the community.

“I understand people’s frustration and hurt and I have felt that myself very keenly. But my concern has always been to take people with us,” she said.

“So my focus over Easter has been encouraging and supporting my Councillor colleagues to revisit last week’s decision, on the proviso that there will be wider community engagement before a final decision is made. That was important to me, and important to others.”

She stressed a poll “was absolutely not an option”.

“No, those days are well gone. What I want, and what I think other Councillors also want, is an opportunity to socialise this issue with people more widely so they understand what we are seeking to achieve. Saying that, the final decision, on 19 May, will be Council’s.”

Southgate said she had had positive and productive talks with Maaori leaders over the Easter weekend as well as earlier today.

“We share the same aspirations around better representation of Maaori and Maaori wards are one option to do that. There are also other tools. At the end of the day, there is not one person around our table who does not want improved outcomes for all people in our city.”

Southgate acknowledged the resignation today of one of five Maangai Maaori, Hemi Rau, over this issue.

“I understand Hemi’s frustration and while I respect his decision, I am saddened by it. We are looking to strengthen the Maaori voice around our table and he would have had a role in that going forward.”

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