Mood swing favours Ma¯ori wards in city

The Tribune (NZ) - - CONVERSATIONS - JA­NINE RANKIN

OPIN­ION: Palmer­ston North City Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to set up Ma¯ori wards to guar­an­tee Ma¯ori seats at the coun­cil elec­tion has been called coura­geous.

The de­scrip­tion comes from for­mer New Ply­mouth mayor An­drew Judd, who was dis­traught by the anger and op­po­si­tion the pro­posal pro­voked two years ago in Taranaki.

Palmer­ston North mayor Grant Smith has de­scribed it as ‘‘brave enough’’.

And it was in­ter­est­ing that the coun­cil­lors went against the weight of num­bers in reach­ing their de­ci­sion, hav­ing read sub­mis­sions that were two-thirds op­posed and one third in favour.

So here’s a lit­tle more back­ground on how they ex­plained them­selves.

Firstly, there is a group of im­mi­grants on our coun­cil, who had lit­tle trou­ble get­ting them­selves elected in city-wide elec­tions with no wards, and who seemed al­most be­wil­dered that there was need for de­bate.

They in­clude Rachel Bowen, Brent Barrett and Lorna John­son.

Bowen said what made up her mind was Ma¯ori telling the coun­cil it was what they wanted.

‘‘This is not a per­fect so­lu­tion. There are ways we could fi­nesse this, but these are the tools we have be­fore us.’’

Barrett said he firmly sup­ported the pro­posal.

‘‘It is nat­u­ral and nec­es­sary to have Ma¯ori rep­re­sen­ta­tion with a vote, not just a voice.’’

John­son said she had read all of the sub­mis­sions twice and was con­vinced it was the way to go to en­sure Ma¯ori rep­re­sen­ta­tion 20 years since the last Ma¯ori sat at the coun­cil table.

‘‘We may be very well mean­ing as coun­cil­lors and think we can rep­re­sent Ma¯ori views, but we can­not do that.’’

So what do we know about those who op­posed the move?

Bruno Pe­tre­nas and Adrian Broad did not elab­o­rate.

Karen Nay­lor’s ex­pla­na­tion of her stand on ‘‘a very chal­leng­ing is­sue’’ ap­peared twofold.

‘‘Based on the cur­rent feedback, I have a ques­tion mark about whether our com­mu­nity is ready for us to take this step.’’

She said she had made a com­mit­ment to lis­ten to what the com­mu­nity was say­ing, whether she agreed or not.

She also queried whether it was the best or only way for the coun­cil to bet­ter en­gage with Ma¯ori.

Leonie Hapeta, whose hus­band is Ma¯ori, said she had not slept well com­ing to her de­ci­sion to go with the bulk of sub­mis­sions and vote against the move.

‘‘I re­ally want to see Ran­gita¯ne around the coun­cil table, but I’m not sure I want aMa¯ori ward.’’

Then there were those who had changed their minds since the last time a vote was taken six years ago.

Jim Jefferies gave some of the credit to his grand­chil­dren, who he said had a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of New Zealand’s his­tory and her­itage than he did.

The bal­ance of his rea­son­ing was about hav­ing had more con­tact with Ma¯ori peo­ple than in the past and be­ing able to learn, ‘‘even at my age’’. Vaughan Den­ni­son is a puz­zle. He has aMa¯ori wife, his chil­dren have been ed­u­cated in Ma¯ori im­mer­sion schools and he does have some Ma¯ori her­itage him­self.

But un­til now, he has voted against Ma¯ori wards.

‘‘There have been op­pos­ing voices. I have heard those and have shared those views in the past.’’

But he said the time had come to take ac­tion to do some­thing about the dis­ad­van­tages Ma¯ori en­dured, which was re­flected in statis­tics on health, poverty and crime, and recog­nise the value of Ma¯ori cul­ture in mak­ing New Zealand’s iden­tity unique.

Lew Find­lay said his mind was made up by lis­ten­ing to those who spoke to their sub­mis­sions, with the ma­jor­ity of those who at­tended to talk to coun­cil­lors sup­port­ing the change.

The clincher was Wiremu Te Awe Awe point­ing to the coun­cil’s own coat of arms, clearly rep­re­sent­ing two peo­ple, and ask­ing: ‘‘Where is the other half’’.

And so the coun­cil­lors voted, 11-4 in favour of set­ting up a Ma¯ori ward.

The de­ci­sion has been ad­ver­tised and the pub­lic in­formed of their right to gather sig­na­tures for a pe­ti­tion call­ing for a $100,000 poll to po­ten­tially over­turn the pro­posal.

If there is no pe­ti­tion, or there is a poll in favour of wards, we would be the first reg­u­lar city coun­cil to guar­an­tee Ma¯ori a seat or seats at the coun­cil table.

HAVE YOUR SAY

The Tri­bune wel­comes let­ters. They should not ex­ceed 250 words and must carry a gen­uine name, home ad­dress and day­time phone num­ber. Let­ters may be edited, abridged or omit­ted with­out ex­pla­na­tion. They can be emailed to tri­bune@msl.co.nz or posted to PO Box 3, Palmer­ston North to be re­ceived by 4pm on the Thurs­day prior to pub­li­ca­tion.

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