Maori seat supporters retreat to sacred mountain
Morning vigils have been taking place on the summit of Mt Eden this week by supporters of Maori seats on the proposed Auckland Council.
The vigil coincided with the start of select committee hearings on the supercity plans, with Maori representation on the new council among the issues being raised.
Starting with a morning blessing, up to 35 earlyrisers have been converging on the summit, where they share stories and learn about Auckland’s history.
Organiser Helen Te Hira says the idea to gather on one of Auckland’s most iconic spots is a simple and effective way to keep attention on the issue that Maori want to be properly represented.
“In times of stress our ancestors would always retreat to their sacred mountains. This is one of those significant times where people are looking for a way to express how they’re feeling.”
Ms Te Hira says the select committee accepted an invitation from pan-tribal organisation Ihi, to attend this morning’s final vigil.
Future gatherings are also tentatively planned.
Ihi was formed in April in response to the government’s refusal to take up the royal commission’s regional governance recommendation to have three Maori seats on the new council.
Its representatives work throughout the Auckland region conducting forums and workshops for those who want to learn about New Zealand’s democratic processes and the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Queen St hikoi, which was initiated by Ngati Whatua elders, was organised by Ihi.
“We want to do something practical to keep highlighting the issues around the push for Maori seats.
“Right now we are really focusing on educating families about how to write submissions,” she says.
This week the select committee has been based in Parnell but will travel to the North Shore, Waitakere, Manukau and Waiheke Island over the next fortnight.
It will listen to more than 780 oral submissions and report back to Parliament with its findings in September.
A sub-committee of the Auckland Governance Legislation is also taking hearings to marae across the city as well as Great Barrier Island.
Associate Minister of Local Government John Carter says he is pleased with the quality of the submissions.
“This has been an exciting process with good positive public participation through the public meetings and submissions process.
“Aucklanders are seeing history being made, and participating in it.”
He says although a Royal Commission is another way to provide public participation in policy development, only irresponsible elected representatives would implement its recommendations without further thought.
“The select committee system allows citizens to talk directly to some of those who will take the final decisions on important matters.”
More than 2400 submissions were received for the second reading of the bill dedicated to Auckland’s governance with another chance to have input on a third reading either later this year or early next year.