Māori candidates claim local bodies lack cultural diversity

By Dean Nathan

Low Māori representation in local government means that they lack cultural diversity. It’s the perspective of the two Maori women competing for seats on the Whangarei District Council in the upcoming local body elections.

Deborah Harding says, "You've got to be able to look at what are the things that are important to the community that you are representing let alone us as Maori. So you get in there you're probably going to be a minority again, but I'm used to working in those kind of environments I'm used to working where you're the only Maori in a particular group or you're the only female Māori in a particular group."

Inland from Whangarei and down the road from the Māori community of Pipiwai lives Puti Tipene who is standing on issues such as dusty roads, fresh water and the low return she says that rural communities receive for their rates, "Starting from Tuesday I'll be knocking on the doors of Pākehā homes because it's their votes I'm seeking to get on Council so that I can represent all people."

Voters are being urged to get registered for local body elections by August 12. However, they can still cast a special vote up until the first week of October. Mrs Harding says, "We need more of our Maori people to be engaged to be enrolled to vote to stand in these type of roles. Y’know put your hand up because we've got a lot to say and councils are missing out on that cultural diversity because we're not at the table."

Meanwhile, Puti Tipene says that the issue of low Māori voter turnout is a campaign in itself, "You know our people don't vote but they're the first to moan about local governance so I'll be at the marae telling them to vote even if they support other candidates.