16 Apr 2015

Grassroots Wairarapa Māori oppose supercity

8:18 pm on 16 April 2015

Despite a Wairarapa iwi authority favouring the Wellington supercity proposal, Māori further down the ranks are not so keen.

Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa recently told Radio New Zealand it is not against the plan as long as the iwi voice is not diminished.

But some tāngata whenua say they would prefer that the whole of Wairarapa becomes a unitary authority - separate from Wellington.

A plan by the Local Government Commission to merge all nine councils from Wellington to Kāpiti Coast and Wairarapa has drawn a mixed reaction from tāngata whenua in Wairarapa.

The Chair of Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, PJ Devonshire, has told Te Manu Korihi that his rūnanga would prefer to deal with one governing body for the greater Wellington region, but individual iwi members are concerned.

The Mayor of Carterton, John Booth, who opposes the plan, said at a hui of the South Wairarapa Māori Standing Committee it was very clear that everyone there was against it.

"It was very interesting, at one end you've got the top people saying that they want to be part of the supercity, but down through the ranks a lot of them are saying they don't.

"That Māori Standing Committee in South Wairarapa - I was there when they spoke to the Local Government Commission and they were absolutely ardently against it."

The Mayor of South Wairarapa, Adrienne Staples, said that was the same message she had heard from local hapū in her district.

"As far as I'm concerned our iwi do not support the supercity proposal.

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples.

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples. Photo: Supplied: nbr.co.nz

"Obviously, they want the best for the Wairarapa and my understanding is that they would want to be able to be in charge of their own destiny as well, and yes, my understanding is that they do not support the supercity proposal."

A member of the South Wairarapa Māori Standing Committee, who represents Hau Ariki Marae, Johnny Shaw, said personally he opposed a supercity council, but 50 percent of marae members were for it.

"I am against it because I agree with [another member of the committee] Johni Rutene that we could get sucked up in a vacuum of identities we don't know.

"And we could lose our voting power, we could be overruled on lots of issues that actually concern the Wairarapa but are actually made in Wellington."

Mr Shaw was asked by Te Manu Korihi what other members of Hau Ariki Marae thought of the supercity plan.

"It's pretty much a 50/50 split, we got half that are for and half that are against and we both respect each other's decisions."

Another member of the committee, who lives in Pirinoa and represents Kohunui Marae, Terry Te Maari, said he supported the three district mayors' submission to join all of the three councils together to form a Wairarapa unitary authority separate from Wellington.

Kohunui Marae (centre) near Pirinoa.

Kohunui Marae (centre) near Pirinoa. Photo: Supplied: teara.govt.nz

"The relationship that we have now is more feasible and is still feasible with a unitary authority if we go on our own, but if we lose it and become part of the supercity, then I think that relationship will definitely be lost somehow."

The mayors of both Carterton and South Wairarapa said they have a positive relationship with tāngata whenua and it was important that the latter have a strong voice in decision-making.

The Masterton mayor could not be reached for comment.

Hearings on the draft proposal for a Wellington supercity are still being held.

The Local Government Commission will decide whether to issue a final decision about the middle of the year.

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