The Nelson City Council has voted to establish a Māori ward in time for the 2022 local body elections.
Nelson's Mayor, Rachel Reese, has said that this decision has been a long-awaited step forward in the right direction for fair and inclusive Māori representation in the community within Nelson Whakatū.
“It has taken many, many years to get to this day. We may be a little city in Te Tauihu, the Top of the South but everyone has their part to play, and we have to step forward when the opportunity is there.”
Ngāti Kuia chair Waihaere Mason says this is a momentous occasion and having a seat on the council is significant for the iwi of Te Tauihu.
“I have a simple whakatauki; I look, I see, but if I do, I understand. How can iwi understand the complicated business of councils and government if we are not part of that scene? We will only learn if we are part of the decision-making process.”
Nelson City Council attempted to create a Māori ward in 2012 but a ratepayer petition forced a public vote. After a divisive debate, it was voted down.
Mayor Reese thanked Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta for amending the Local Government Act to remove the public ballot mechanism so swiftly.
“She is a champion for partnership, for inclusion, and she is very clearly a champion for a better future for local government. I want to thank her for acting so quickly to address what was wrong in legislation.”