Council votes to establish Māori wards
“Mā te huruhuru ka rere te manu” - Adorn a bird with feathers and it will take flight
Western Bay of Plenty District Council will have Māori wards for the 2025 and 2028 local body elections after councillors decided its establishment in an Extraordinary Meeting.
Māori wards establish areas where only those on the Māori electoral roll can vote for Māori ward candidates. They sit alongside the general wards covering the entire District and will elevate Māori voices.
The vote took place in front of a public gallery packed with tangata whenua, who celebrated the decision with cheers and waiata. Earlier in the meeting, various speeches from the Western Bay of Plenty community, both in favour of and against establishment, were heard.
Mayor James Denyer says this marks a huge milestone for the Western Bay of Plenty District, adding that it is important Council represents the District’s Māori community thoroughly.
“It will lead to better, more inclusive decision-making. This decision also aligns with one of our strategic priorities of building authentic Te Tiriti-based relationships.
“We are pleased to take this step today and join the 35 other Councils around Aotearoa New Zealand in establishing Māori wards.”
Council last voted on whether to establish Māori wards in 2017. At the time, the public could request a poll on the matter and voted against the establishment.
However, new central government legislation means the process to establish Māori wards is the same as general wards, so this decision now squarely sits with Council.
“We will still be talking to our community about what this decision will look like in reality next year. We’ll present some options about the number of wards and seats for our Western Bay of Plenty whānau to consider,” adds Mayor James.
“The time is right for us to see if things can be done in a better way. We all want to make our community better, and working together to make better decisions with different perspectives will help us to be a stronger Council, for our community.”
Every six years, Council must look at its make-up and how it represents our Māori community. This decision can be reconsidered in 2029.