South Wairarapa District Council votes to establish Māori ward 

In a historic vote at today’s Council meeting, South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC) passed a resolution to establish a Māori Ward for the district.    

The move follows the recommendation of the Māori Standing Committee (MSC) that on 7 November 2023, adopted a position of strong unanimous support for a Māori ward based on feedback and consultation with marae, whanau, hapū and iwi following engagement from each of the represented iwi groups.  

The vote today was held in a busy Martinborough Waihinga Centre with the immense support of community members, iwi and hapū leaders from across the district and included mōteatea Ko Wairarapa following the MSC address to Council. The decision, with 7 Councillors voting in favour and 3 against, was greeted by applause, tears and hugs throughout the room. 

Andrea Rutene, Chair of the MSC said today council took the opportunity and power to take another step in the right direction.  

“A step to acknowledging the value of mana whenua/tangata whenua of South Wairarapa, acknowledging the distinct contribution we have to make. 

Involvement will enhance, enrich, and improve outcomes sought by the Council and desired by us all. Inclusion will better equip the council to play its part in nation-building. These things should not be left to chance.  Māori cannot independently initiate the introduction of a Māori Ward. But the Council can.” 

For Mayor Martin Connelly, this is one of the highlights of his Mayoralty.  

“Council has a legal duty to improve Māori participation in our democracy. South Wairarapa District Council paved the way years ago with the establishment of our Māori Standing Committee and now we get the opportunity to take it further with a Māori Ward, strengthening policy and decision making across Council.

This takes nothing away from anyone but provides tremendous opportunity for Māori. I’m proud of the action Council took today.” 

The aim of Māori wards is to ensure Māori are represented in local government decision making. Māori wards sit alongside general wards in a city or a district and allow voters on the Māori roll to elect a representative to their local Council.  

Council engaged with the community alongside Māori representatives from local hapū, mana whenua and Hapori Māori. The results of this engagement revealed a consensus that the establishment of a Māori Ward would be an important opportunity for Māori to be more involved in Council decision-making. Letters of support were received from Papawai Marae, Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Rangitāne o Wairarapa Inc, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki Nui-a-Rua Settlement Trust. 

South Wairarapa District Council currently has a Māori Standing Committee that advocates on behalf of and in the best interests of tāngata whenua in the district. 

The successful candidate will become one of the South Wairarapa District Councillors for the 2025 and 2028 three-year election periods. Māori wards are just one part of the representation review which next year will see SWDC consider its ward boundaries, ward names, community boards and the number of elected members.  

The decision to establish a Māori ward will not be open for submissions and it is not reversible through the upcoming representation review process. 

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