HB Regional Councillor Hinewai Ormsby has absorbed a heap of attack from the Maori community for her position advocating robust public education and consultation prior to action being taken regarding the possibility of dedicated Maori seats on HBRC.

Those attacking her wanted Councillors to mandate the seats by their own vote for the next local body election. If that had been done, a petition by 5% of HBRC voters could have demanded a binding Poll on the issue.

As the matter now stands, HBRC has voted to conduct a Poll on the matter at the next local body election in October 2022, which is the position she advocated.

Although – on that timetable – decision time is far away, the Government has indicated it intends to remove the current requirement for a public referendum to endorse Maori seats on local bodies, which might re-table the matter for Regional Councillors sooner.

In the meantime, Councillor Ormsby endures unfair abuse. For that reason, here are two letters published recently in HB Today that support her approach, which many BayBuzz readers will not have seen.

Debate on this issue will most likely be heated. Councillor Ormsby has advocated that the debate in fact occur, rather than be pre-empted by Councillors … a move that would have proved even more inflammatory.

Open letter from Mat Mullany

E te Rangatira, Tēnā koe,

This letter concerns the most recent vote regarding Māori Wards on the HBRC.

Safeguarding Māori interests and demonstrating a tangible Council commitment to Te Tiriti via the proposal of establishing Māori Wards is both a regional and national issue. I applaud your efforts that demonstrate a willingness to form stronger partnerships and to progress a constructive agenda between the HBRC and tangata whenua. Long may they continue.

With respect, the execution of your strategy has unintentionally created a deep chasm within the Māori community.

I had hoped that that the voices of Māori would be united on an issue as important as this one. Unfortunately, as a result of the vote, Māori were split: one side advocating for accelerated progressive reform without robust community consultation and perhaps risking alienating the wider constituency and the other advocating not in opposition but for time to bridge understanding and build a greater consensus so that we can move forward stronger, together.

To her credit, Councillor Ormsby attempts to progress this stronger, together approach by leading calls for robust and transparent community consultation.  It takes hard work, and at times can be misunderstood. We are seeing that some members of the Māori community, feel disillusioned and even abandoned by what they perceive as her stance in opposition to Māori wards. As a result of this, she has received vitriolic criticism, she has been labelled ‘a kupapa’ and considered by some perhaps as an obstacle to Māori interests in this region. This is not only a misperception; it couldn’t be further from the truth. By encouraging robust and respectful consultation, she creates space for greater understanding between members of differing perspectives, building a strong foundation that safeguards Māori long term interests.

I don’t believe there should be a conflict between progressing Māori interests and the interests of the wider community. Although this can be a delicate balancing act, we all benefit from having both. These are the ideals that we strive for as members of the Hawke’s Bay community and also apply to us all as New Zealanders.

Our current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern takes the view that “transformation is change that sticks.” In wānanga, Māori debate issues until consensus has been achieved. I urge you to take this same approach so that we can realise our collective goals for the region. This means getting out and doing the difficult business of taking our community with you so that we can move united as one.

Ngā mihi,

Mat Mullany

Letter to the Editor from Denis O’Reilly

I voted for Hinewai Ormsby in the elections for the HB Regional Council.

Her femininity and Maoriness were undoubtedly factors, but the major reason for my vote was her demonstrated competence.

I find  the demonization heaped upon her by her older male colleagues, and even more astonishingly by the tribal patriarchy, inexplicable.

Hinewai made a difficult political decision and eschewed popular dogma. She made an intelligent and, in my view, correct political analysis about what was sustainable. Hinewai Is doing exactly what we voted for her to do. Make difficult decisions, ensure sustainability, and keep us together rather than divided. Tatau tatau e.

As  a Pakeha, I offer this. Hinewai Ormsby is a Maori woman. Simply by dint of population the voting ‘we’ was primarily Tangata Tiririti rather than Tangata Whenua. Hinewai was the highest polling candidate. She worked for every vote. She has the confidence of her constituency.

Mauri Ora Hinewai! Kia kaha.

Denis O’Reilly

Pa Waiohiki


Join the Conversation


  1. As a proud Pakeha of Aotearoa NZ I endorse the comments made in this article re the stance taken by Hinewai Ormsby. Dialogue and discussion is the way forward, and I enjoyed the way that referendums in 2020 were a powerful tool to create ongoing and informative discussions where many of us learnt more, and some changed our minds. I look forward to healthy robust debates on the issue of Maori seats on the HBDC and I will be listening closely to everything Hinewai Ormsby says on this topic. She impressed me as a thoughtful, knowledgeable and inspiring young woman, with a clear vision as to how we can come closer to becoming a bilingual and bicultural people.

  2. The people of Hawkes Bay are lucky to have a Councillor of Hinewai’s calibre. These are not easy decisions but having public discussion and decision making on such an important issue is the right call. Nine councillors making such a decision alone with out any mandate from the people is bad process.

  3. I never would have thought I would agree with Denis O’ Reilly but on this issue I do.
    Councilors are elected to represent ALL ratepayers, not only a vociferous minority who proclaim “ special representation.”
    I too voted for Ormsby, not because of the color of her skin but because I believed she would do a great job representing us all in the governance of the HBRC.
    Self appointed separatists have no place in a democratically elect council.

  4. I think it is sad that Māori have been pitted against one another re this important issue and as a pakehā just wish more of us were open to the benefits of greater Māori representation. I for one believe the tangata whēnua have so much to offer in terms of creating fairer, inclusive communities and a healthier environment if they were given more influence and resources. I respect Hinewai’s position but also understand the frustration many Māori must feel after 160 years still struggling for the partnerships and justice that they were promised under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It is the age old issue of divide and rule. Time more pakehā learned what is really involved in honouring Te Tiriti to support Māori aspirations.

  5. The juvenile outburst by Ngahiwi Tomoana, chairman of Kahungungu, when things didn’t go his way far outweighs the reasoned approach by Hinewai Ormsby..throwing your toys out of the cot achieves nothing; reasoned consensus does…softly,softly, catchee monkee??

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *