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Greater Maori representation for Hastings District Council

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

In line with its aim to engage more effectively and build relationships with tangata whenua, the Hastings District Council (HDC) has this week decided to appoint Maori representatives to its four standing committees.

The prospect of greater tangata whenua representation in council decision making, in a district where 25 per cent of the population is Maori, has been under discussion for at least two years and has been the subject of a number of workshops between councillors and the HDC’s Maori Joint Committee.

The Maori Joint Committee was established in 2005, and the current members were appointed by the council for their skills and attributes in 2016.

They were selected for their sound understanding of issues facing council, their skills, experiences and knowledge of te ao Māori (a Māori worldview), an understanding of the way council works, and representation across the geographical and hapū boundaries of council.

The decision will give these representatives voting rights at standing committee meetings only. Under Section 41 of the Local Government Act, only elected representatives may vote at the full Council meetings.

Under Schedule 7, however, council can appoint a person or persons to a committee or subcommittee if, in the opinion of the local authority, that person has the skills, attributes, or knowledge that will assist the work of a committee or subcommittee.

This process has previously been used by HDC when non-elected representatives were appointed to other standing committees such the Audit and Risk Committee and the Hearings Committee.

Although the Hastings District Council currently has five councillors who have identified as being of Maori descent, it was noted that they were elected on their wider merits, rather than on a solely Maori mandate.

There were also no guarantees what the make-up of the council would be beyond the next election cycle, and a more permanent and robust model for Maori representation was considered necessary.

Before voting, an amendment was put forward to hold a poll to garner the views of the community but the majority of councillors rejected this.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said this decision means the Council will be more inclusive and hear the voice of our iwi partners. "These representatives will bring valued skills, knowledge and experiences which will allow us to learn from the Maori worldview.

"We want a Council which is trusted by our iwi partners, our marae, our hapu and mana whenua and have a really inclusive partnership.

"After the triennial elections and any new governance arrangements moving forward, all our committee representations will be reviewed which includes engaging tangata whenua on the future role and appointing process to the Maori Joint Committee and the Maori representatives on our standing committees."

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