Maori wards pass vote in Tauranga
Applause and haka erupted from the public gallery as Tauranga City Council voted to establish a Maori Ward for the 2022 local government election.
Councillor Jako Abrie started the debate by showing a slide show of every Tauranga City Councillor since its establishment to illustrate his point there was a representation issue.
Not one was of Maori descent, mostly older white males, and it was revealed it had been 28 years, before the City council was established, since Tauranga had a Maori councillor.
He moved the motion to establish Maori wards and said councils, as representatives of the Crown, had a right to ensure Maori were at the voting table.
“Is it fair we have 11 elected members here under the Crown without a formal voice for our treaty partner,” he says.
“Is it our obligation to put in processes for Tangata Whenua to have a vote? For those planning to vote against the recommendation, to vote down what our treaty partner has requested, I urge you to explain your reasoning.”
Councillor Dawn Kiddie, who abstained in the vote, says she liked the idea of Maori wards but argued it would never pass the binding referendum invariably called.
Once a council votes to establish a Maori ward a binding referendum can be called if five per cent of those who voted in the last election call for a poll.
This poll only applies to Maori wards and has seen councils who voted to introduce Maori wards have the decision overturned.
Tauranga's neighbouring council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council faced one such poll in 2018 with 78 per cent of the electorate voting against Maori wards.
Councillor Clout asked how much such a poll would cost. Staff advised $216,000.
This could be reduced to $25,000 if the referendum was conducted as part of a local body election.
Councillor Andrew Hollis, who had made public statements about “burning the treaty” during his election campaign, says the idea of establishing Maori wards was “insulting”.
“A decision based on the luck of the draw of being born to a set of parents [to represent at council] is the opposite idea of democracy,” he says.
Councillor Larry Baldock says the cost of any referendum should not form part of the argument as there was a cost to not having Maori representation.
“The only way we get to better future is we do the right thing today,” he says.
“Who knows what tomorrow might bring. Yes, we are nervous about the referendum, but we could be the difference."
Labour MP Tamati Coffey, who was in attendance, says he was "stoked and overwhelmed” by the decision though he admits he was surprised it passed.
“We know there are some councillors here who have been outspoken against Maori representation,” he said.
“Abrie was a champion. He took it back to the injustice of the land being stolen and taken. Let's not be scared by the poll. I was in favour of the council passing this and sending it out to the community.”
Council voted 6-4 to establish a Maori ward with Mayor Tenby Powell, deputy mayor Tina Salisbury and councillors Abrie, Larry Baldock, Heidi Hughes, and Bill Grainger voting in favour.
Councillors John Robson, Steve Morris, Hollis and Clout voted in opposition.
With the Maori ward voted on the council will now review its representation arrangements ahead of the 2022 election.