And do you know where your Regional Councillors stand on the issue?
On Wednesday (Feb 24th), the HB Regional Council pulled back from its previous position on dedicated Maori seats, which was to conduct a region-wide non-binding poll on the matter in conjunction with the October 2022 local body elections.
With the Government advancing legislation that would put the kabosh on binding polls to affirm (or not) councils’ decisions to create Maori wards, HBRC decided informally to abandon its poll, then officially ratified that consensus at its Council meeting.
Instead, between now and May 21st (when a decision must be made if dedicated seats are to be created for the 2022 election), the Regional Council decided to ‘pretend’ consult with the Hawke’s Bay community on this fundamental governance question.
The proposal just adopted Wednesday by HBRC commits the Council to: “Undertake community engagement and consultation on a proposal to establish one or more constituencies, including public submissions, to enable a substantive decision on whether to establish those constituencies before 21 May 2021.”
There was even talk of squeezing in hearings before the Council.
So why do I term this a ‘pretend’ consultation?
Because four of nine councillors have already indicated their unwavering support for Maori seats – Rex Graham, Rick Barker, Martin Williams and Charles Lambert. No amount of ‘consultation’ is going to sway their views.
The other five councillors have not made their final call – Hinewai Ormsby, Neil Kirton, Jerf van Beek, Craig Foss and Will Foley.
You can read here the views of most of these councillors as given to BayBuzz earlier this month. Then place your bets on the outcome.
Today’s action means that the ‘committed four’ have not yet secured the magic fifth vote. And on the other hand the ‘hesitant five’ are not (yet?) prepared to reject the proposition.
This division reflects how vexing and multi-dimensional this issue really is … and why the public fully deserves to be heard.
Today, each of the Councillors has personal views. But not one of the nine has a mandate to say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Mike Paku, one of two Maori non-voting representatives on the Council, lamented that in passing the ‘consultation’ resolution the Councillors were not voicing their own “guidance” on how they felt the matter should be resolved. And indeed, there was no substantive discussion of the issue at all. Clearly in their ‘informal’ discussions the party line had been clearly drawn.
However, unable to restrain himself, Councillor Barker – absolutely the most zealous supporter of Maori seats – spoke to explain exactly what that party line was (I paraphrase):
If we’re going to pretend to consult, each of us must pretend to have no view.