21 Oct 2017

Napier council Māori seat roundly rejected

3:40 pm on 21 October 2017

The Napier City Council has decided not to go ahead with a proposal to introduce a Māori ward for the city.

28072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Napier City Council.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Twenty percent of the city's population are Māori, but the current councillor, Api Tapine, is the only Māori ever to be elected to the council.

However, council officers recommended against the idea when an online survey undertaken by the council showed nearly three-quarters of respondents thought a Māori ward would be divisive.

But a Napier kaumatua, Eric Niania, voted in favour of the Māori seat and said the council had a responsibility under the Treaty of Waitangi to ensure Māori always had a voice at the table.

"We're not Switzerland, we're not England, we've got two groups of people here under the Treaty of Waitangi so I'm inclusive of the make up of all the people in this district, [and] this ward."

He said a Māori ward would ensure different cultural views were present when important council decisions were made.

"I would like representation of all people to be included. The cultural aspect is important but it's not just one-sided - you'll still have the Pākehā side as well."

Napier City mayor Bill Dalton said he was not surprised by the result.

"I'm not even surprised that the vote is evenly split amongst Māori because there are some people that believe strongly that this would give Māori a strong voice around the table and there are other people that believe that there's plenty of opportunities for Māori in general seats.

"We've got our first Māori elected to the council in this term ... I mean, it's just democracy in action isn't it?"

He said the people of Napier had made it very clear that a Māori ward was not something they wanted.

The current make up of the council consists of 12 councillors from four wards, and a mayor.

The only councils in New Zealand that have implemented a Māori ward are Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Waikato Regional Council.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs