Waikato-Tainui shocked by Hamilton Council decision against Māori wards

By Te Ao - Māori News

Waikato-Tainui is disappointed at the resolution by the Hamilton City Council today blocking an option for Māori wards at the next local body elections.

The resolution to provide the creation of Māori wards in the region was lost 8-4 today. The council has instead chosen to spend a three-year conversation to consider it further.

Te Arataura chair Linda Te Aho says the local government decision is short-sighted and driven by political expediency.

“It is disheartening that Hamilton City Council has failed to seize this opportunity to embrace diversity and inclusion for more robust and sustainable decision-making that reflects our community. Instead, the council’s decision lacks courage and perpetuates a paradigm of exclusion.

"The inclusion of Māori in all levels of decision-making was an opportunity for councils to be bold, to act honourably and in accordance with the provisions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi."

Council response

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate says while some good work had been done, she acknowledged the council had much more to do in improving meaningful participation for Māori across the city.

"But I could not, in all conscience, introduce Māori wards without having consulted with the wider community," she says.

"I don’t believe that would have achieved the right outcome, either for Māori or for the city. I am concerned a rushed process would divide our city, not enrich it."

"Today’s decision commits the council to continuing a very robust conversation, which I believe will culminate in Māori wards in the near future. In the meantime, we can do a lot more across all areas of the council to increase and improve Māori participation and we will be a better city for it."

Earlier this year, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta removed legislative barriers to create Māori wards.

The introduction of the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act requires councils to decide by May 21, 2021, if Māori wards should be established for the 2022 local government elections.

The Hamilton City Council has just released He Manawa Pou Ora, which is a framework that is said to be underpinned by the Treaty of Waitangi and sets a platform on its journey toward creating a more socially, economically and environmentally diverse city.