25 Sep 2014

Councillors motivated by fear - mayor

7:03 pm on 25 September 2014

New Plymouth's mayor says district councillors who voted against a Māori ward were coming from a place of fear, and Māori have an equal right to be represented.

The decision by the New Plymouth District Council was narrowly passed by seven votes to six, but one councillor, John McLeod, was so angry that he resigned in protest.

New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd.

Andrew Judd. Photo: SUPPLIED

Mr Judd says Māori have an equal right to be represented and those who oppose the move are motivated by a default reaction of fear, anger and defensiveness.

He said some councillors who voted against it at the time described the decision as separatism and very divisive, but missed the point as to why the guaranteed ward is necessary.

New Zealanders live in a multicultural society, he said, but Aotearoa is a bicultural nation and there must be a space and voice for tāngata whenua on all councils.

The mayor said he used to share the same concerns as those councillors who opposed the creation of a Māori ward, but once he went onto a marae and listened to iwi he realised how wrong his point of view was.

"It's important to think about tomorrow, our children and our grandchildren and honour the fact that we are a bicultural country. That was what we are founded on. Let's make sure in our time we correct the wrongs, this has been too long coming, but nothing but positive things can come from this.

"I'm stoked the Māori Party has endorsed what the council has done which reinforces that the message is out there and that's where we need to head.

"The response to the creation of the Māori has been largely positive, but I have received hate mail and lost some close friends over the decision to establish iwi representation on the New Plymouth District Council," he said.

"An ugly side of some New Zealanders has become apparent via the messages I've received such as, 'Shame on you, you white Nazi', and some other crazy abuse. I believe the abuse is a way for people to deflect the debate who are feeling fearful of the change.

"The decision for a Māori ward goes beyond politics and is about working and understanding each other in a bicultural context and it's incumbent on me as a leader in the community to put past wrongs right."

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