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Summary of day one, NCC Māori ward submissions hearing

Published: 19 October 2021

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This Monday, Napier City Council began Māori wards submission hearings. All those who verbally presented their submissions spoke in favour of Māori wards. For those of you who may have missed the hearings, here is a summary.

Day one of the two-day hearings on Māori Wards heard views from a range of voices including Chad Tareha a direct descendant of Tareha Te Moananui the first Māori to speak at Parliament. Chair of Ngāti Pārau Hapū Trust, Chad Tareha sits on the Napier City Council Māori Committee, Ngā Mānukanuka o te Iwi.

Tareha told the Napier Council that having a councillor who is elected directly by the Māori electoral roll will ensure a specifically Māori perspective is present in voting in local decision making. He warned of the risks of voting No on the debate, which will take place on Wednesday after deliberations. “The risk of a No vote is Council can’t do much without Māori”

“Please vote Yes for Māori wards and guaranteed Māori representation. Please vote Yes to correcting some of those historical injustices. Please vote Yes for upholding the priniciples of Te Tiriti o te Waitangi.”

Tareha closed with a whakatauaki from notable academic the late Te Wharehuia Milroy: “Tūwhitia te hopo, mairangatia te angitū – Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

In his submission, Mark Cleary, former principal and history teacher, described a picture of systematic loss of land and a place at the governance table

“(There are) numerous compelling historic, democratic, socioeconomic and environmental reasons why a Yes vote is your only possible option,” he told the Council.

Cleary reminded the Council that throughout history the Crown and local government has abysmally failed to honour the Treaty.

“Māori have been systematically stripped of their land and denied opportunities to share in economic prosperity,” he told the Council. “If we are to flourish and grow in the ways you detail in our Long Term Plan, inclusion and genuine power sharing is essential.”

Four students from Taradale High School spoke about Māori wards going some way towards addressing the difference between equality and equity.

Jack Evans, who spoke as part of the group, said that remedying the disparity in decision making was important for future generations.

“As the youth, we will be dealing with the repercussions of a lack of representation,” Evans said. “If we don’t put this in place now we’re kicking the can down the road for future generations to deal with.”

Napier Council did receive disapproval from some speakers for not moving sooner on Māori wards. Shayne Walker challenged their “lack of appetite” for establishing them in time for the 2022 elections.

“The opportunity costs of not having these wards or this representation at your table from 2022 to 2025 is irreversible,” Walker said. “If you look at ... the irreversible impacts and decisions you’ve had to grapple with, these will not just be isolated to the past two years but will also be faced by Council representatives out to 2025.”

Walker also told the Council they would have benefitted from having a Māori voice at the table if they’d “had the desire and drive to establish them.” He called Napier Council an “outlier”. “All around you your peers have established Māori wards”.

He also threw down a challenge to those who may run in any future Māori wards. “Our whānau are going to have high expectations of these Māori wards seats to do a great job and you can guarantee there’s no hiding from the marae and the opportunity and the invitations to represent these Māori communities appropriately, in fact it could even be harder.”

Walker spoke of the need to ensure representation was at the top level of decision making, “If you’re not at the table and inside the tent making doesn’t quite provide the opportunities to influence the appropriate decisions that are needed for our community.”

Paul Bailey spoke on the importance of looking beyond the statistics of the consultation to the content of the submissions. “I was especially taken with the way the focus has been taken away from the pure numbers to placing the emphasis on the content and themes of the submissions.”

When asked about the benefits of Māori wards to non-Māori, Bailey said, “The key benefit is having the Māori world view better discussed and part of the decision-making process.”

Christina Harrison closed out the first day of Māori wards hearings. She acknowledged the weight of the debate: “I understand this is a hearty topic, I understand where the ‘Āe’ and the ‘Kāo’ come from, I understand we must let go of the live united, to live in harmony, to work together as one.”

Harrison also described her reaction to hearing others speak to their submissions

“I fell into tears of joy,” she said. “Not only for the kaupapa but listening to everyone’s korero from all walks, all iwi...I just sat there in awe.”

Harrison finished her submission by singing a waiata composed by her ancestor Wi Te Tau Huata, ‘Tūtira Mai’ with most in the Chamber joining in.

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