Emotions ran high as Marlborough district councillors voted to establish a Māori ward for the next election.
Tears ran as the Marlborough District Council made the landmark decision to create a Mori ward on Friday.
Twelve councillors voted in favour of establishing a Mori ward councillor position at an extraordinary meeting at the Marlborough Events Centre on Friday morning. One voted against and one did not show up for the vote.
Haka erupted from mana whenua following the decision. Councillors stood and responded with Te Aroha, a waiata about peace and love, and the audience joined in.
The decision meant Marlborough will have one Mori ward councillor position from next years election. The Mori ward councillor could be voted in by people living anywhere in the region, as happens with the mayor, so long as those people were from the regions Mori electoral population.
Audience members wait anxiously to see whether the Marlborough District Council creates a Mori ward.
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Those that voted for a Mori ward candidate would be unable to vote for candidates standing for a general ward.
It took councillors just half an hour to reach a verdict.
Marlborough Mayor John Leggett moved to create a Mori ward in the region, which Deptuy Mayor Nadine Taylor backed with great pleasure.
Taylor said those seated around the council table needed to look like and reflect all of Marlboroughs demographics.
Just over 15 per cent of the region’s population identified as Mori, compared to about 17 per cent nationally. None of Marlboroughs 14 elected officials were mana whenua.
Although many of us try and talk with iwi … we dont necessarily bring te ao Mori world views to the table.
Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor votes in support of a Mori ward.
Councillors Cynthia Brooks, Mark Peters, Barbara Faulls, David Oddie and Brian Dawson each highlighted the current lack of Mori input during council meetings, with four of the council’s five iwi positions remaining unfulfilled.
Dawson said the views of the councils only iwi representative, Richard Hunter, had been critical and it was important the council lifted this with a Mori ward.
Brooks and Faulls agreed, and encouraged the Te Tauihu (top of the south) chairs in attendance to fill the four vacant positions. Peters said he would also like to see more Mori stand for general ward councillor positions.
It would be wonderful to see more than one iwi representative on the council through the creation of this ward, but this ward is a good starting point, Peters said.
Councillor Francis Maher threw in his support, saying it was time to shake off the remnants of the colonial days.
Councillor Gerald Hope battled tears during his vote.
Today is about truth … My message to all of us today is that our daughters would expect us to do what is right.
Councillor Gerald Hope tears up during discussions.
Councillor Jamie Arbuckle was the sole opponent to the new ward, arguing it was a mistake to vote on the topic without the Government having run proper consultation.
Arbuckle also said Mori could already be elected to the council table by standing for and winning a general ward.
I believe we just need to strengthen our current situation.
Ngti Apa ki te R T cultural advisor Kiley Nepia congratulated the council following the vote and haka.
What a great day this is, he said.
Te Rnanga o Ngti Kuia chair Waihaere Mason said he thought Fridays decision was a momentous moment.
For the first time iwi will be in a proactive, rather than reactive, position. We will be contributing to krero (discussions), which is far better than listening, he said.
Te tiawa o Te Waka-a-Mui chair Rachael Hte said it was a step towards what true partnership looked like.
Councillor Jamie Arbuckle says he will not support the establishment of a Mori ward in Marlborough.
Te Rnanga a Rangitne o Wairau general manager Corey Hebberd said in a statement the decision showed the councils commitment to ensure Mori were represented.
We particularly acknowledge the leadership of Mayor Leggett in supporting this decision. We also acknowledge our people who have fought hard for this provision, to be represented and to be heard at council level, he said.
The Government gave local authorities until last November to decide whether to run Mori wards in next year’s elections, but pushed that out until May 21 after changing racist laws. The changes prevented the public from overruling councils that wanted to create a Mori ward.
Previously, if more than 5 per cent of voters signed a petition against a Mori ward it went out to the public, with the verdict being final. This did not apply to general wards.
The council decided not to introduce Mori wards before the old deadline in November last year, under the region’s latest review of its representation arrangements, saying no interest had been lodged from iwi or the wider public.
But it gave the issue a second shake after the law change.
Twelve for, one against. Marlborough will get a Mori ward.
The chairs of Te Tauihus (top of the south) eight iwi told the council ahead of the vote they each supported Mori wards at the Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman councils.
Three of New Zealands 78 councils have Mori wards; Wairoa District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Waikato Regional Council. Many had voted to have Mori wards in next year’s elections following the law change.
The Nelson City Council decided last week to set up a Mori Ward. The Tasman District Council had voted to defer its decision until closer to the 2025 local election.
Mori wards were being considered in Marlborough alongside its review of representation, which aimed to ensure changes to the region’s population and demographics were reflected in its elected members.
The council has until the end of September this year to decide as part of the review if the region should continue to be represented by three wards Wairau-Awatere, Blenheim and the Marlborough Sounds and if the number of councillors elected to the wards should change.
It plans to consult the public for at least a month.