Māori ward call: ODC says yes

Ōtorohanga has stolen a march on fellow Waikato councils and voted to create a Māori ward for its 2022 elections.

In doing so it opted against the consultation process favoured by sister councils.

The decision, a majorty vote on Tuesday, was applauded by Mayor Max Baxter.

“I am incredibly proud of our councillors… the addition of a Māori Ward can only enhance our decision making and add value. We have listened to iwi in our district, and working together is fundamental to the future of Ōtorohanga,” he said.

The district’s Māori population sat at 30 per cent in 2018 – Waipā’s is 15.

The decision came as Waipā council staff began to process hundreds of responses to its public consultation process as it considers a Māori ward.

To introduce Māori wards, councils have until late May to make a decision.

To date, more Waipā councillors have indicated support for a Māori ward than oppositon to it.

Meanwhile, both Hamilton City and Waikato District councils are reviewing earlier decisions not to introduce Māori wards – in Hamilton’s case, a decision made just three weeks ago.

Waikato District could follow Ōtorohanga’s lead.

Its councillors will review a report on Māori wards on May 20. If they back a Māori ward, then the decision will be final as there won’t be time for a consultation process.

Hamilton overturned an earlier “no” decision and has given residents three weeks to provide feedback on Māori wards as well as on other ways of achieving Māori representation on Council.

If Māori wards are confirmed Hamilton could opt for up to two.

The number of wards is based on population.

Māori seats will not be additions – they will come at the expense of existing council seats.

Mayor Paula Southgate believed her council had made the right call.

“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.”

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