Iwi were given voting rights on Hastings council committees in 2019 – and now the Maori voice is being amplified

Two years ago we reported on the Battle of Hastings, 2019. On one side, the stalwarts of democracy were intent on defending their concept of the best form of government for their district.  On the other side were the champions of attenuated lines of accountability between citizens and those who govern them.

The democrats were outnumbered and the Hastings District Council voted to fortify iwi influence by appointing four members of the Maori Joint Committee to the council’s four standing committees with voting rights.

Waatea News reported news of the vote under the heading Hastings to hear Māori voice.

This mischievously overlooked the full contents of a council press statement which noted:

  • The council’s Maori Joint Committee was established in 2005 (it comprises the mayor, five councillors and six appointed members from tangata whenua).
  • Five members of the elected council in 2019 (which comprises 14 district councillors as well as the mayor) had identified as being of Maori descent.
  • This meant 33.3% of elected councillors were of Maori descent in a district where 25% of the population was Maori.

What was wrong with the representation provided by the five councillors with Maori ancestry?

The press statement said they “were elected on their wider merits, rather than on a solely Maori mandate”.

In other words, they served the whole community, not just a part of it,

There was another consideration:  the council said “there were also no guarantees what the make-up of the council would be beyond the next election cycle, and a more permanent and robust model for Maori representation was considered necessary.”

This means voters were not to be trusted to make the right choices.

Point of Order observed:  Now let’s wait to see how the unelected appointees will flex their muscle.

Last month we were given a strong clue to what lay in store in a council press statement headed  Māori Standing Committee Recommends Māori Wards For 2022 Local Elections.

Hastings District Council’s Heretaunga Takoto Noa Māori standing committee had  recommended that Council introduces Māori wards.

The democracy-eroding Ardern government had paved the way, as the press statement acknowledged:

“The recommendation comes after changes to the Local Electoral Act 2001, which give councils a transition period ending on May 21, 2021 to consider or reconsider this matter for the 2022 local government elections.”

Heretaunga Takoto Noa Māori standing committee chair Robin Hape said the committee

“ … was looking to improve the voice of Māori in Council decision making.”

How much improvement did it need?

 “Introducing Māori wards simply gives Māori the opportunity to choose a representative who has the interests of all Māori in the district, and acknowledging the current Māori leadership at the Council table, the opportunity allows for specific Māori representation,” Mr Hape said.

The council said the number of candidates standing in the Māori wards would be proportionate to the Māori electorate population. On the current arrangement of 14 Councillors in the Hastings district, three would be elected from Māori wards.

This week the Hastings District Council voted to implement Māori wards in the 2022 elections .

Twelve councillors voted for the decision, one against and one did not vote.

Council chief executive Nigel Bickle​ said the council had received a “passionate response” from the community with 2000 submissions received just weeks after community consultation. Those in favour totaled 1575.

Whether enough time had been given for a consultation was speciously rebutted by one councillor:

Councillor Kevin Watkins asked if council felt there had been enough time allowed for consultation as he felt there had not been enough.

Councillor Bayden Barber​ said Māori had been waiting 181 years for a voice and it was “time to march together.”

So who prevented Maori from standing for office in the past, who silenced the councillors with Maori ancestry who were sitting on the council when appointed Maori members of committees were given voting rights in 2019 – and who silenced the Maori  appointees?

One thought on “Iwi were given voting rights on Hastings council committees in 2019 – and now the Maori voice is being amplified

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