19 Nov 2014

Mayor defends vote against Māori ward

7:43 am on 19 November 2014

A collective of iwi and hapū have criticised a decision by the Tauranga City Council to vote against the creation of a Māori ward in the 2016 election.

Matire Duncan

Matire Duncan says the mayor has his blinkers on. Photo: SUPPLIED

The council rejected the idea, voting 9 - 0 against. Mayor Stuart Crosby has defended the move, saying the North Island city is not yet ready to accept separate Māori representation.

The Māori Collective, which represents 16 iwi and hapū including Te Arawa, said Mr Crosby had blinkers on and the council's decision was motivated by fear and a lack of understanding.

Deputy chair Matire Duncan believed the vote should not have taken place and more education is needed to understand Māori and their world view.

Ms Duncan said councillors are threatened by the idea because Māori could switch their vote to the one that caters for tangata whenua and rejected Mr Crosby' claim its introduction would cause division between Māori and Pākehā.

"The mayor has had his blinkers on. I think there's been a lot of division in this city for a long long time - he just hasn't been in the places where he'd ever see it.

"It's not a new thing for Tauranga Māori to want to have a stronger voice. And one thing about this is it's not going to go away, it's going to keep coming back. So they have to at least start thinking about the future of the rest of Māoridom."

Ms Duncan said it was unbelievable that the council had voted when they had not even had enough time to analyse the situation and examine it properly.

She said the outcome had caused a lot of pain and anger for Māori. "There is resistance by people to the idea of a Māori seat and that is because they are not aware of the real issues. They don't understand Māori and their actions are due to fear."

Māori ward would be damaging - mayor

The mayor says people's ignorance could lead to division if a Māori ward was established. Stuart Crosby believed it would undo a lot of the good will and work that had already been done.

Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby.

Stuart Crosby said he thought long and hard before making the decision. Photo: SUPPLIED

Mr Crosby admitted he had mixed feelings about voting against a Māori ward and thought long and hard before making a decision.

"Ultimately, what determined my vote was the damage - and I think it would be real damage - that this decision would have made at this point in time.

"My personal view is that in due course there should and will be direct Māori representation around our council table. A number of Treaty settlements are taking place alongside existing co-management and governance arrangements that ensure Māori have a voice in the creation of council policy."

But Mr Crosby believed the council now needed to be more proactive and more could have been done before the vote took place.

"We have a wide range of issues we're dealing with at the moment and possibly in hindsight we could've engaged with our community earlier. There are unfortunately legislative time frames for this and a decision had to be made by the 23rd of November."

The mayor said one of his concerns was that establishing a Māori seat in the current environment where people are still learning about New Zealand's history would be a retrograde step.

"Particularly around Tauranga and how our history formed our city. We are still addressing issues of 150 years ago today. I confront it virtually on a weekly basis. We have just started a journey of potential local government reform where the issue of Māori representation around the governance table may also come to the fore.

"One of the difficulties with this whole process is there's actually not enough time to go out and engage properly with the community, so they do actually understand and have an ability to weigh up all the issues and make an on-balance decision whether they support or don't support direct Māori representation on Tauranga City Council.

"I must also say that that could be the fault of council as well, not providing that time and not providing that information."

The Māori Collective, which is opposing the council's decision not to bring in a Māori ward, is considering whether to lobby the council to conduct a poll to find out what the community thinks about a dedicated seat.

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