HB Flood Review Panel: Phil Mitchell (chair), Bernadette Arapere and Kyle Christensen

The Central Hawke’s Bay District Council has recognised Māori voices have a right to be at the council table.

For the first time, Mana Whenua of Tamatea Central Hawke’s Bay, via representatives on Te Taiwhenua o Tamatea, requested council consider Māori wards as part of partnership, rangatiratanga and representation in this rohe (district), and the council accepted the recommendation.

The council resolved to establish a Māori ward for the 2025 and 2028 local body actions, but meantime invited hapu and marae to select up to two representatives for Māori reps in an advisory role. Councillors Kate Taylor, Kelly Annand, Pip Burne, Exham Wichman and Mayor Alex Walker voted for the proposal; Councillors Gerard Minehan, Tim Aitken, Brent Muggeridge and Jerry Greer opposed.

Central Hawke’s Bay District Council conducted representation reviews in 2011 and then again in 2018. Back then, based on feedback from the community and Mana Whenua, council resolved not to establish Māori wards.

On November 15, 2023, the community had a further opportunity to consider Māori wards and it was obvious people were ready for change.

At a council meeting 16 people spoke to the council about the importance of Māori wards, and as Jenny Nelson-Smith said, it was an opportunity to change the narrative, to create equity, not equality.

“We tried to do it your way, but we are now asking you to do it our way. Recalibrate the narrative, heal the breaches and the hardships our whanau and hapu have felt. This is Kotahitanga.”

Dianne Smith said the decision to have Māori wards was a “no-brainer”, a sentiment echoed by other speakers.

“CHB should accept Māori wards, it is unjust for non-Māori to decide on Māori issues. It should be our decision to make, not yours. Māori should be included in all levels of government. Remove the inequitable treatment of Māori.”

Joanne Heperi said Māori wards was a way to achieve democracy in government. “It’s a step forward for Hawke’s Bay – our future is one people.”

Veteran and Pōrangahau resident Paora Sciascia said the time was right for change.

“It is about how we put, or who we put here. I have done a shit load in my life, I am not educated. But I have been able to function. I can do just about anything. Māori have a different mindset; we know how to get the job done. We have a use and are valuable and the sooner you get us on your board the better. It’s not a slight on you fellas, but we just haven’t had a shot at it yet. Put the person we want – familiar with hapus and how Māori work in different areas and don’t forget to pay him.”

Grenville Christie said he supported Māori wards. “It’s not up to council to give them the right, they already have it. If we want to be as one people, we have to start the partnership,” Christie said.

“The people on this land have been here so long they know it better than any of us. They have so much to offer in the knowledge, the history, the culture shaped by this land which brings so much colour to the bland Western culture we have … The future NZers will be so much more enriched when they have the addition of Māori culture.”

Resident Jenni Tomlins spoke passionately about changing the course of the future to be Māori inclusive. “Let’s not chop each other at the knees, let’s row our one waka in the same direction. Let’s put aside our petty grievances and work together,” she said.

“CHB should be a diverse, thriving place for all people. Do you want to be remembered as a council who perpetuated wrong after wrong or as a council who had mana, used their bravery, used their moral compass and did the right thing? You will be ahead of the curve, and that’s okay. We will be the first, show the world what good partnership looks like.”

Ngāti Kahungunu chair Bayden Barber said it was important for whanau to be part of the conversation. “We need to bring the whanau sitting here to the table, we need to have a korero.”

While some counsellors were against the option of establishing a Māori ward, those in favour, which included Mayor Alex Walker, won the day.

Walker said it was together that we, as a region, thrived.

“My whole worldview in the last seven years has been completely unpicked. It took this chain (the mayor ceremonial chain) for that to happen, it’s how my worldview was reshaped,” Walker said.

“This is a moment in time for us to come together to unite on what it means to be together; we have an opportunity to shape this in a new way. It’s new and it’s different but we can do this, we are strong and we can do this for the future.

“It is absolutely right for those on the Māori roll to vote for someone who unapologetically represents their Māori world views.”

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air


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