A step forward in democratic equity at regional councils

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Tears of joy came from Gisborne District Council deputy mayor Josh Wharehinga, following the news that 5%-ratepayer initiated petitions forcing ratepayer polls on Māori wards have been revoked.

“I had to read the announcement twice so that I knew it was right, and then the tears started flowing because it had been achieved," Wharehinga says.

"I'm ecstatic that the law is being corrected in relation to Māori wards.”

Gisborne District councillors voted unanimously for Maori wards, and that was also an emotional occasion for Wharehinga.

“Tears flowed in there. Tears flowed at home as well when I read the announcement. This is an important topic for all of us of the East Coast. I'm a father with children and grandchildren of Te Tairāwhiti, this is something special for them and me.”

Josh Wharehinga isn't one to shy away from posting his thoughts on Facebook, and often gets unsavoury responses from those who don't share his views.

“There are many racist people in the Hobson's Pledge community who send me silly messages, nasty messages, but I'm strong-minded,” he says.

Wharehinga says he wasn't aware of the vast number of racist people in the region.

“Before the Māori ward topic I thought their community was small. There are a number of racist people in Te Tairāwhiti so I'm sad for them but I'm happy for my people.”

Now the council is to work on establishing the Māori wards.