Māori ward is kapai

Roger Gordon was shaking during the meeting

Waipā District Council’s debating chamber became an auditorium for waiata moments after councillors voted to guarantee a seat for iwi.

Councillors – most of whom had interspersed their comments with te reo – stood with iwi representatives to celebrate the decision.

Eleven councillors and the mayor emphatically backed a recommendation this week to create Waipā’s first Māori ward for the 2022 elections.

Councillors lined up to back the motion. Both mayor Jim Mylchreest and Susan O’Regan said the fact it had taken so long was embarrassing. Mike Pettit said it was time to be courageous. Hazel Barnes, who said she would be standing down next year, said the decision said “we really are partners”. Clare St Pierre said Māori want “the same outcomes we all want” but did not have access to power structures.

The council’s iwi representation through four iwi standing committees will continue.

Mr Gordon’s LinkedIn profile notes he is a branch chair of the National Party – the party opposes Māori wards. He told the meeting he had struggled to sleep and was shaking during the meeting because he was going to vote no. He did not believe representation should be based on ethnicity.

Former deputy mayor Grahame Webber, who missed the meeting because of a back injury said he planned to make his mind up on the day and told the News after the meeting he still didn’t know which way he would have voted.

The historic meeting began with a karakia and mihi from council’s iwi liaison representative Shane Te Ruki before iwi representatives offered their views.

Mokoro Gilbert said Māori needed a clear voice in the community and “a say at this table”.

Ngā Iwi Toopuu o Waipa chair Gaylene Roberts said a Māori ward was an important step forward.

“This year we became the story, Māori became the story.”

Waikato Tainui representative Linda Te Aho said changing times needed to be met with change in the representation in the community.

Iwi joined councillors in a waiata following the decision.

“The mood is changing and councils across the country are saying yes to Māori wards.”

Deputy Chairman of the Maniapoto Maori Trust board Keith Ikin said “circuit breakers” were needed to change the dynamic of the community.

Mr Mylchreest said he could not speak strongly enough in favour of the move and introducing Māori wards was “just common sense”.

At the next election voters on the Māori electoral roll will have the option of voting in a general ward or for a candidate in the Māori ward

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