Māori ward councillors now 20% of Northland lineup

By Contributor
New Whangārei councillor Phoenix Ruka is one of Northland's nine first-time Māori ward councillors. Photo / Local Democracy Reporting

By Susan Botting, Local Democracy Reporter Northland

Northland democracy has taken a major step forward with the election of nine new Māori ward councillors in the 2022 local government elections.

The new councillors will make up 20% of the region’s political leadership across Far North District Council, Kaipara District Council, Whangārei District Council and Northland Regional Council.

Northland was the first region in New Zealand to have all its four councils with Māori electoral areas, and remains one of only two of its kind along with Taranaki. Its four councils are among 35 across New Zealand with Māori wards or constituencies from the 2022 local elections.

Kaipara District Council (KDC)’s Te Moananui o Kaipara Māori Ward had New Zealand’s strongest Māori ward candidate competition with five candidates seeking its single seat. The ward’s 1841 electors voted in their new representatives with a 23.1% voter turnout, as of Friday 7 October.

Far North District Council (FNDC)’s Ngā Tai o Tokerau Māori Ward attracted New Zealand’s second-strongest candidate competition with 18 candidates vying for four seats.

Whangārei District Council (WDC)’s Whangārei District Māori Ward attracted five candidates for its two seats. Northland Regional Council (NRC) attracted four candidates for its two seats.

In the Far North, Hilda Halkyard-Harawira, who is married to activist Hone Harawira, is one of FNDC’s four new Ngā Tai o Tokerau Māori Ward councillors. This is along with 2019-2022 FNDC councillor Moko Tepania who this year also stood unsuccessfully for Mayor – based on Saturday’s provisional results. Former MP Shane Jones’ son Penetaui Kleskovic is a third new representative in the ward, along with Tāmati Rākena.

The FNDC Ngā Tai o Tokerau Māori Ward’s 13,614 electors voted in their representatives in a 24.4% voting return by Friday 7 October – the highest of the region’s four Māori electoral areas.

The KDC Te Moananui o Kaipara sees the election of Pera Paniora. The ward’s 1,841 electors voted in their representatives in a 21.1% voting return by Friday 7 October.

The WDC Whangārei District Māori Ward has two new councillors – Deb Harding and Phoenix Ruka. The ward’s 9,721 electors voted in their representatives in an 18.5% voting return by Friday 7 October – the lowest of the region’s four Māori electoral areas.

Meanwhile NRC’s Te Raki Māori Constituency will be represented by Tui Shortland and Peter-Lucas Jones. The constituency’s 25,174 electors voted in their representatives in a 22% voting return by Friday 7 October.

There were 32 Northlanders contesting the region’s four Māori electoral areas seats.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) says Māori wards and constituencies provide a way for Māori to contribute to decision-making and have representation at council. People elected onto Māori wards and constituencies will represent Māori communities for fair and effective community representation.

LGNZ says the establishment of Māori wards or constituencies is one way for councils to honour the principle of partnership committed to in Te Tiriti o Waitangi because they guarantee that Māori will be represented at council.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.