I set out on a simple mission recently. I was looking for the email addresses of the Chairpersons of the Maori Committees that advise the Hastings, Napier and Regional Councils.

If you visit the homepages of these Councils’ websites, there is no mention of Maori representation or issues. You might as well be looking for Greeks or Mongolians.

So I tried the “Search” function of the first site I happened to be on — Napier City Council — and entered the word “Maori”. Here’s the result I got …

Not a Keyword
Sorry, the Keyword ‘Maori’ is not a keyword in the website. Please make sure you have spelt the keyword correctly.

Hmmm!

So I did a little experiment (after checking my spelling) to see just how difficult it might be to find out anything about Maori involvement with the three Councils and the District Health Board.

First I tried the Search function at HBRC and Hastings. Unlike Napier, both served up multiple listings and links. And using “Maori” to Search the DHB site indeed surfaces plenty of information specifically directed at Maori needs and interests — DHB is the hands-down winner in this regard.

Then I tried to find reference to the formal Maori Committees that advise each Council … specifically looking for access to meeting agendas and meeting minutes. Napier and HBRC provide both items going back several meetings. Hastings provides meeting agendas, but I was unable to locate any minutes.
And I must say, if you don’t know these committees exist in the first place, none of the sites make them terribly visible.

Finally, I tried to find contact information for the members of the Maori Committees. All three Councils identify the members, but only Hastings provides email addresses for them. Napier and HBRC provide no contact info for these individuals. I guess they aren’t really meant to be contacted.

I didn’t fare better with the DHB. Although I did locate a “Maori Relationship Board” with identified members, there was no contact info for these individuals … nor was there any documentation of the Board’s activities. If the Board does anything, you wouldn’t know it from the DHB website.

All in all, Maori interests don’t receive much attention on Council websites (as noted, a bit more on the DHB site). Maybe the assumption is simply that Maori don’t have computers or online access. Or that they have no interest — or no unique interest — in Council affairs.

But, Maori do have a unique interest and role. At a time when Maori themselves seem to be debating how they should engage Councils, and advocates of amalgamation are debating dedicated seats for Maori, the issue of the “Maori-friendliness” of Council websites might deserve a bit of attention.

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