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Kawerau Votes For Māori Wards

Kawerau District Council has voted to set-up Māori Wards for the next two local elections.


165 people had their say on the wards - with 69 responses from hard copy.


50 came from social media, 43 from the Council's website and 3 responses via email


91 opposed the wards, 66 supported them while eight neither favored or opposed the wards.


Opponents said the representation is there while supporters argued, the wards guarantee representation on the council.


One person who opposed the wards, believed it would mean fewer options for voters.


Those on the fence believe the representation is already there and that if it ain't broke don't fix.


Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau Hauora co-chair Hone Te Rire told a packed council chambers, Kawerau must bring in the wards.


Te Rire said what's good for Kawerau will be good for Māori and vice versa.


Local resident Jenny Reynolds said there's been Maori representation councillor ranks for years.


Reynolds urged the council to stick to the status quo and to revisit the issue before the 2028 election.


Louise Hiwarau told councillors to "have the kaha to vote for change."


"Take the full step to help Māori realise their full potential."


Heather Kuka said while her origin lies in Scotland, she's committed to realising the aspirations and well-being of Kawerau.


Kuka said she supports the wards "even if stablishing these wards means that my personal voting options are limited."


Huia McLean said having the wards would be a good thing, adding that "we've got a changing landscape."


Councillors had a chance to speak before the vote, starting with Deputy Mayor Aaron Rangihika.


The public must respect the decision of what councillors voted, Rangihika said.


It's not easy to vote on things like Maori wards, Councillor Carolyn Ion said.


Councillor Berice Julian praised the community for getting involved.


Councillor Rex Savage wondered about how the Wards shape, the council's future make-up.


"Considering we do have considerable Māori on the electoral team," Savage said.


The wards would guarantee future Maori representation on the council table, Councillor Warwick Godfery said.


"Let's make hay while the sun is shining," Godfery said.


Councillor Sela Kingi said, we're all in this together.


Kingi said Kawerau "can explore the most effective ways to work together."


She said they can "highlight what is needed in order for us to make sure the voice of a small local council is not lost."


First-term Councillor Rowena Andrews said being a person of trust was one reason why she ran for Council last year.


Andrews said the vote "was a prime situation, where it allowed them to come speak to me, so I can bring it to the table here."


Another first-time Councillor Justin Ross said, it was a hard decision to make.


A lot of people can say that we've got great representation within our team at the moment, Ross said.


"But then we can also flip it on the other side, what if that doesn't happen?"


Mayor Faylene Tunui was the last elected member to speak.


She thanked the community and submitters for sharing their views and for presenting their feedback to Councillors.


“We are governed by systems that determine these electoral processes, but it is people who look after people and we have seen that honoured today by the community and our team of elected members," Mayor Tunui said.


Mayor Tunui said they make the decisions to lay the foundations for tomorrow.


All but one voted for the motion to set up the wards.


A representation review will be held next year to determine what the Council make-up looks like.


It includes the number of Māori and General wards, and how many councillors come from these wards.


It follows Ōpōtiki District Council's decision this week to establish the wards.


Kawerau's vote means the Eastern Bay will have Māori wards at the next local election.



Public Interest Journalism funded through New Zealand On Air.

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