Guidance in good governance is called for – Wellington City won’t get a commissioner (not yet) but Wainuiomata lane vote will be revisited

Local body governance in the Wellington region has been found wanting in the past day or so.  City councillors in Wellington and community board members in Wainuiomata are being pressed to seek instruction on how to do a better job.

The decisions of Wellington City’s fractious councillors have huge implications for the rates burden. Those of the Wainuiomata Community Board – where cultural education is being recommended – demonstrate how a vote is prone to be overturned if local Maori are affronted.

For now, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has ruled out appointing a Crown commissioner for Wellington City Council where councillors have been wrangling over the future of the city’s central library.

According to Stuff:

The idea of a Crown observer or commissioner overseeing the council has been raised several times over the past year, and has come up again following disagreements over plans to privatise parts of the library building.

But that’s not the end of it, because … .

A Wellington City councillor has called on the Auditor-General to investigate Mayor Andy Foster’s eleventh-hour proposal to sell part of the Wellington library building.

Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, who has the libraries portfolio, made the call but councillors Rebecca Matthews, Teri O’Neill, Tamatha Paul, and Jill Day have all told Stuff they support Fitzsimons, who also asked that the Auditor-General provide training for councillors and the council’s executive leadership team in good governance.

These councillors need training in good governance?

But didn’t they tell voters good governance is exactly what they would deliver when they were campaigning for votes at the 2019 local government elections?

And if they haven’t been up to snuff in the good governance department, should they repay at least some of the money they have been paid for governing the city?

By the way, Stuff reported it had obtained Fitzsimons’ email to the Auditor General, sent on Sunday.

Hmm.  We wonder how they got hold of it.

Not from the Auditor General, surely, which suggests ….

Anyway, the email requests an investigation into the “deeply problematic” and “rather irregular” way a last-minute alteration was made by Foster to the council’s draft long-term plan.

All this is happening at a time when Wellington ratepayers are bracing for a proposed 17 per cent rates hike as the city deals with a deluge of big-cost items, including urgent work on deteriorating pipes, the Let’s Get Wellington Moving transport programme, and repairs on the central library, which was closed in March 2019 after being found to be a quake-risk.

Not far from Wellington, members of the Wainuiomata Community Board are being urged to undergo cultural training.

Their transgression?

A majority of them voted to name a lane in the township after a former mayor, Harry Martin Lane.

Another option had been to give the lane a Maori name.

Stuff tells the story:

Harry Martin Lane was named just five days ago but already its future is in doubt, with Lower Hutt mana whenua calling the decision to reject a Māori street name “disrespectful and hurtful”.

Undoing the decision will be disrespectful and hurtful to the Martin family, one imagines.

And fascinating questions are raised about a process whereby a vote taken by a community’s elected representatives must be revisited because some people regard it as disrespectful and hurtful.

Stuff goes on:

Last Wednesday, Wainuiomata Community Board narrowly voted 3-2 to name its newest street after the Lower Hutt’s suburb’s one and only mayor, Harry Martin, who passed away in 2017.

However, the decision has immediately come under fire, with mana whenua calling for cultural training for board members that rejected the Māori street name put forward.

Board chair Gabriel Tupou was one of two members who could not attend the vote due to alert level 2 restrictions.  He has confirmed the vote would be revisited in a second vote on March.

The Māori name put to the board last week, Raukura, means white feather.  In Māoridom it is often associated with Te Whiti o Rongomai III​, a Māori spiritual leader and founder of Parihaka.

His connections with Wainuiomata are not immediately obvious.

The vote for Martin was supported by acting chair Dawn McKinley, Jodie Winterburn and Terry Stallworth.

Keri Brown and Gary Sue Jnr voted for the Māori option.

But it seems something procedurally was awry because Wainuiomata Marae manager Linda Olsen attended the meeting and said she was frustrated by the process.

“I have got the greatest of respect for Harry Martin, but it was the process that was disrespectful and hurtful.”

The shortcomings with the process are not apparent from the Stuff report.  Nor is it apparent what process should be followed next time, except that Olsen said she believed board members “needed kaupapa Māori training to avoid similar situations in the future”.

At first blush, it seems Olsen reckons more weight should have given to “a large Māori delegation” which presented a video from Te Āti Awa elder Kara Puketapu​ emphasising peaceful co-existence and the long association Māori have had with the area.

Brown, who represents the Hutt City Council on the board, said the case for a Māori name was strong and the mana whenua had presented a compelling case.

The video sent a powerful message that Māori were united in their desire for a Māori name, she said. “Their case was extremely hard to ignore.”

But voting for Harry Martin Lane – surely – does not necessarily mean arguments for a Maori name have been ignored.   Rather, three out of five board members saw more merit in naming the lane after the former mayor, presumably after weighing all the arguments.

According to the Stuff report, Harry and Irene Martin settled in Wainuiomata in 1954 and he was mayor from 1981 to 1982 before the role was disestablished due to local government reorganisation.

He was a JP for 41 years and editor of the Valley News. He received the QSM in 1984 for his service to the community.

We wonder what would happen if the issue was put to the vote in a local referendum.

2 thoughts on “Guidance in good governance is called for – Wellington City won’t get a commissioner (not yet) but Wainuiomata lane vote will be revisited

  1. Harry Martin did a lot for Wainui, but of course, he was a white successful male. Seems ironic when maori school kids are petitioning on behalf of maori naming . . . would tthey not be better employed going tp school regularly, gaining jobs, paying rates, and earning the respect that gives them the right to have a street named after them.

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  2. There’s no way Mahuta will dismiss the Wellington City Council and appoint Commissioners because of the large number of Labour and Green party hacks on the Council. Wellington is a warning of the fate that awaits New Zealand under socialist “governance”.

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