Waipa District Council has voted not to establish a Māori seat on Council for the next local body elections. With five votes in favour and eight votes against, the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting was disappointing to some councillors and the small group of Māori women who came to address the meeting.
Despite the assertion of councillor Susan O’Regan that having a Māori ward would be a “no brainer” to allow for the appropriate representation of Iwi around the council table, the majority of councillors were unmoved. Instead, they have asked for a report on how to better engage with Māori and the wider community for options to improve Māori representation on Council.
Mayor Jim Mylchreest, who also voted in favour of a Māori ward, said the concept was similar to the ward system already in place. Waipa is divided into five wards, meaning that no large area will dominate smaller ones by virtue of population. “I don’t really see a difference between that and having a Māori ward,” he said. Having a Māori ward would have allowed for true representation of Māori around the council table, with Iwi being able to elect their own voice rather than having people selected by council to consult, he explained.
Council is required to consider creating a Māori ward as part of its six-yearly review designed to ensure fair representation. There is a legal requirement for a Māori ward to be considered.
The options on the table for council consideration were establishment of a Māori Ward, not establishing one (status quo) or letting the community decide by running a poll at the cost of approximately $100,000. A council report tabled at the meeting laid out the options and said that due to growth in the area, the establishment of a Māori ward in Waipa would not require as many boundary changes as going with the status quo. The report cited census figures that Māori represent approximately 14% of the Waipa population, noting that it is difficult for a community of that size spread across all five wards to muster the electoral support to win a Council seat.
Councillors Grahame Webber and Liz Stolwyk, who voted against the Māori wards, were unavailable for comment.
Those who voted against establishing a Māori ward were Councillors Elwyn Andree-Wiltens, Judy Bannon, Marcus Gower, Sue Milner, Liz Stolwyk, Bruce Thomas, Grahame Webber and Vern Wilson.
Those who voted in favour were Mayor Mylchreest plus Councillors Susan O’Regan, Clare St Pierre, Hazel Barnes and Andrew Brown.