The swing from opposition to support for Māori wards in Waikato for the 2022 elections was complete when Waikato became the sixth of 11 local authorities to vote for them.
It came 24 hours both Waipā and Hamilton City reversed earlier decisions not to introduce them.
Before the change in legislation announced by Local Government minister Nanaia Mahuta in February, the total number of district councils with Māori wards was just three – Wairoa District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Waikato Regional Council.
Waikato became the 35th council out of 78 local authorities to vote yes.
By last Friday’s deadline Waikato, Hamilton City, Matamata-Piako, Waipā, Ōtorohanga and Taupō had followed the lead taken seven years earlier by the Waikato Regional Council.
South Waikato, Waitomo, Thames Coromandel and Hauraki are the odd ones out – and three have indicated they want to look at Māori wards again with iwi involvement.
South Waikato maintains that as a multicultural community it already enjoys a diverse range of cultures within its council.
Hauraki mayor Toby Adams told the News his council considered establishing Māori wards when it met in July last year.
“At that time, it resolved not to establish Māori wards because it had not had the opportunity to korero with Hauraki iwi. The Council wants to work closely alongside local iwi on this and had planned to start engagement in early 2020. Unfortunately, this process was stalled due to Covid 19 and the Council doesn’t want to rush a decision now, without first having those important discussions.”
The Waitomo District Council opted against a Māori in 2018.
“Council has not formally revisited this matter since the legislation change but has acknowledged that we need to engage and consult with iwi as the establishment of Maori Wards is a call for Maori first to make and Council needs to get the process right,” Michelle Higgie, Manager, Governance Support, told the News.
“We need to have iwi lead, or at the very least assist the development of the process with us. To that end Mayor [John] Robertson has already opened discussions with the Regional Marae Committees and the Maniapoto Maori Trust Board on the establishment of Maori Wards for the 2025 and future elections.”
Thames Coromandel District has taken a similar stance, rejecting Māori wards last October, then having further discussions last month before deciding “that further engagement should be undertaken with the local iwi to ascertain their interest in establishing Māori wards”.