Out of the ashes hope will arise: Māori wards in Hamilton

By Herewini Waikato

More than 200 concerned people from around the Waikato attended Hamilton City Council’s special meeting held to look again at Māori wards last night.

The council first listened to the public and then the 12 councillors voted.

Members of the public spoke from the heart, talking about Te Tiriti, racism, council responsibilities and mana. 

Māngai Kaunihera Te Pora Thompson said the original rejection of Māori wards was “confronting on April 1 because it was something that should have been done and we just heard Timi Maipi say the Queen came and made the apology way back in 1995, so why are we even discussing it?”

 All 12 councillors had the opportunity to speak and 10 of them then voted to revoke the council’s April 1 decision that would have left Māori wards off the table until 2025.

Among the speakers were deputy mayor Geoff Taylor and councillor Rob Pascoe who both voted against revoking the decision.

'Make our voices heard'

Prominent Māori leader Lady Tureiti Moxon said she was thrilled with the votes.

“Now is the time to strengthen and uplift the betterment for all.”

Now the council has opened a three-week community conversation before its final decision is made on May 19. 

Timi Maipi was in the council chambers sharing his concerns and he is adamant Māori be careful.

He doubts there will be a change.

“We have to be careful about what is going on here and keep our eye on the ball. It is about change and the only way we can make change is to make our voices heard.”

Mayor Paula Southgate said the next three weeks were about having a courageous community conversation about inclusion and says she stands ready to inform and give understanding to why these Wards are important and important to Māori.

'Courageous conversations'

“We will go out to the wider community. We will talk about this, why it is important and why it is important to Māori, so taking in the wider community views.”

Southgate said this was an important decision, “so I do want to have courageous conversations with the wider community”

Formal submissions on Māori wards for Kirikiriroa have started and can be found on the Hamilton City Council webpage. They close on May 10.

The final decision on Māori wards in Hamilton will be made on Wednesday, May 19.