Packed meeting bursts into applause as Far North council votes for Māori wards

By Te Ao - Māori News

The Far North District Council will have a Māori ward in time for the 2022 local body elections after councillors at a special meeting yesterday voted in favour of the move. 

The meeting was forced by councillor Moko Tepaniawho wanted the council to reconsider its decision in October to let voters decide in a poll next year.

The final vote was won by seven votes to three, and was met with resounding applause by Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine and Ngāti Wai, who packed out the council chambers in a united show of support. 

Ngāti Hine iwi leader Waihoroi Shortland spoke at the council meeting and expressed the long, enduring efforts it had taken to get to this point in politics for whānau in the Far North.

"It's taken us 181 years to get to this day, when we all say to you' have courage and let's bring to fruition what people had envisaged in signing up to the Treaty, not the misinterpretation over these 181 years,'" he said.

"The words that were spoken on that day, by Governor William Hobson was 'He iwi tahi tātou'. Misinterpreted by all in sundry ever since to mean 'We are one people'. 

"What he said was 'Together we are one nation.' And we have not been that. From then till now.

"That's why you have to have courage to allow these wards to come to fruition."

Providing a Māori voice

Earlier this week Te Ao Tapatahi talked to Tepania, following a poll in his community that showed 408 of 500 were in favour of Māori wards in the region.

"Māori electoral seats in central government have been around for 154 years, so it's not as if this is a new whakaaro," Te Pania said.

"The Māori Representation Act was passed in 1867. And we are in 2021 now, so I think that it all speaks to the fact that having Māori representation at the table is a good thing."

Earlier this year, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta introduced the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act which requires councils to decide by May 21, 2021, if Māori wards should be established for the 2022 local government elections.