Wellington mana whenua council reps gain voting rights and six figure pay packets

By Te Ao - Māori News

Mana whenua representatives in Wellington will be paid $111,225 a year and will have full voting rights on nearly all council committees and subcommittees under a proposed arrangement.

This comes after a council meeting this morning saw eight councillors out of 14 vote in support of the new proposal.

Currently, representatives from Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Ngāti Toa Rangatira are members of the strategy and policy committee, and the annual/long term plan committee but receive no remuneration and have no voting rights.

The proposed change will come into effect from July 1, 2021, and mana whenua representatives will sit on all council committees and subcommittees, except for the CEO performance review committee.

Recommendations for the proposal were successfully introduced last year by Councillor Jill Day of Ngāti Tuwharetoa.

Councillor Day says she and Councillor Tamatha Paul are the only two Māori on the council and are often looked to for a Māori perspective.

“I want to strengthen relationships between Māori and the council, so together we can improve community wellbeing," she says.

“Wellingtonians have embraced Te Reo Māori in record numbers and I anticipate they will be proud their council is taking our responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi seriously.”

Under the proposed change, each mana whenua representative will be paid the equivalent to the salary paid to city councillors.

Mana whenua will also decide which representatives will attend committee meetings.

Move applauded

Ngāti Toa Rangatira representative Naomi Solomon says this will establish an opportunity for iwi to work in partnership with Wellington City Council in a more meaningful way.

"Te Tiriti recognises the right of iwi participation and this is supported at an international level by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," she says.

Solomon says mana whenua perspectives are required to give a balanced and effective impact on the laws of Aotearoa, such as the Resource Management Act and Local Government Act.

"Having representation that includes voting rights and remuneration actually aids in our ability to discharge our obligations as mana whenua.

"We are at a place in our journey as a nation where it's time for this to happen."

Wellington City Council is not the first council to have made such moves. Rotorua Lakes Council already has iwi representatives on a few committees, with full voting rights, and the equivalent remuneration as for an elected member.

Hamilton City Council has an agreement with Waikato-Tainui and Te Rūnanga o Kirikiriroa, with representatives sitting on all committees, and receiving an annual fee of $110,000 per appointee per committee.

Wellington Māori wards

The council has also taken a first step toward establishing a Māori ward, in time for the next election.

"A Māori ward in itself is not the only tool we should be using to engage with Māori," councillor Jill Day said. "We need to be using multiple tools.

"We need to be creative, and we also need to not accept the status quo, so we do need to challenge and we do need to change and [to] be expecting our systems to become more inclusive.

"Our past has been that Māori have been legislatively excluded from decision-making, which they were actually promised the right to be a part of."