Taranaki community debates Māori Ward on New Plymouth council

By Ripeka Timutimu

Political commentator Willie Jackson says New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd won't see another term in office because he's chosen to back a Māori ward on his council.

Around 500 people packed out the TSB Showplace in New Plymouth where the likes of Metiria Turei and Winston Peters debated the issue that's polarised a community.

Last night Māori and Pākehā sat side-by-side, but their views couldn't have been more different.

The issue of a Māori ward on the New Plymouth council has split the community of Taranaki.

Current Mayor Andrew Judd has laid down the challenge to his councillors, but could become a martyr for the issue.

“You be under no illusions tonight, Andrew Judd will not serve another term as the new Plymouth mayor. It’s sad but it’s true,” says Willie Jackson.

According to Judd, “Keeping silent on polarising issues, as hard as it is we have to talk about it. That’s how we move forward together.”

However it could be a long journey forward, as some even took insult to speakers who chose to speak entirely in Māori.

Tonga Karena says ignorance is very prevalent here, and education is the answer.

One of the opposition, Hugh Johnson, says he has close to 2800 petition signatures.

According to law, this would be enough to force the council to hold a referendum on the issue.

So it looks as though it's up to the Taranaki public to decide whether or not Māori will get any seat at the council table.