Open letter in response to local iwi on the establishment of Māori wards

Tēnā koutou,

Thank you for your letter of the 19 May requesting Council make a decision on the establishment of Māori wards by 21 May. I respect your views, and praise the passion shown by those who participated in the hikoi yesterday. We hear you, and we are listening.

On a personal level, I also strongly support the concept of Māori wards, as I know other councillors do.

Council decided against the establishment of Māori wards for the 2022 elections after careful consideration. We felt that a long lead time was needed to engage with our Māori and broader community before we could make such an important decision. We recognised there was much work to do to build our partnership with whānau, hapū and iwi. We have also spent the time focusing our efforts in supporting the Māori Standing Committee to advocate for the interests of our Māori community and provide a representative Māori voice to Council. We propose to build on these efforts in our Long Term Plan by allocating specific resource to enhance Māori liaison and will work with the Māori Standing Committee on how this can best meet our community’s needs.

Thank you for making your views on the establishment of Māori wards clear to us. However, we do not have an understanding of what our wider community thinks. We need to educate and engage the whole community on what it would mean to introduce Māori wards in our district and the benefits representation on Council would bring. This all takes time, and we will be looking at doing this as soon as we can.

Unfortunately, it was simply not possible for us, given where we are on the journey, to engage meaningfully with our community in the short timeframe from March 2021, when Government transitional arrangements came into effect, and 21 May, the deadline for having the wards for the 2022 local election. Other councils are much further along their journey and the opportunity presented by the amendments to the Local Electoral Act 2001 have been taken up by those ready to do so. We look forward to working towards this goal for the 2025 elections.

We are committed to working with whānau, hapū and iwi and the wider community on the establishment of Māori wards and a report on this, with a proposed timeline, will be presented at the next Council meeting on the 2 June.

Given the public interest in this matter, we will be providing this letter to the media and publishing it on our website.

Ngā mihi,
Alex Beijen

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