Hastings council rejects Maori wards as concerns raisedSave
By Nicki Harper
A request for more debate on Maori wards for Hastings was rejected yesterday, when the Hastings District Council decided not to introduce a Maori ward at this time.
The councillors were asked to approve a joint Maori committee recommendation to sideline the issue for now, but ask the chief executive to report back on options for increasing Maori participation in governance and decision making.
Jacoby Poulain said the Maori committee had been able to cover the issue in depth, but councillors who were not part of that committee had not.
"Now this is the only opportunity to have that debate - I am uncomfortable to support not going forward with Maori wards without discussion.
"Why can't we have a workshop on how the council will increase Maori representation?"
Simon Nixon said he supported the recommendation because if a poll was held it would be another cost to ratepayers, and probably be unsuccessful.
He did, however, suggest a workshop could clarify what other forms of Maori representation and participation would look like.
Mayor Lawrence Yule said the options for further Maori engagement could include considering what other committees could have Maori representation and whether these people could have voting rights.
This could be discussed in further detail when the chief executive came back with a report, he said.
Although she supported the recommendation, Ann Redstone said she was concerned that there had not been wide enough discussion in the community.
"I have had a couple of phone calls from people angry they were not consulted with - maybe more consultation with iwi and marae would be an advantage."
Bayden Barber said he had heard similar complaints, but under the legislative framework for these decisions, the committee held the mana in the community to advise the council.
He said going to a poll, as seen in New Plymouth, would be divisive, and with a population of 18 per cent Maori in the Hastings district, would be difficult to get over the line.
"We have other big issues to sort out here and we need solidarity and unity.
"I hear what councillor Poulain is saying but my fear is that it would get deferred and would then start to get muddy.
"There are other options that can really empower Maori representation and influence over decisions."
At the vote the recommendation was passed but with a further request that the council write to Parliament and send a remit to Local Government New Zealand pointing out the inconsistencies and disparity that the poll provisions for Maori wards created.
Despite the decision made yesterday, if 5 per cent of the Hastings district population requested it, a poll on the matter could be held.