History made as new council sworn in
First Māori ward councillor one of five new members to be welcomed
II am here to represent a Māori voice, and that is me, I am here ready to do that.
t was a day of firsts on Tuesday when the mayor and councillors were formally sworn into office during a ceremony held in Stratford District Council’s chambers. The afternoon began with an emotional pōwhiri, with representatives from Whakaahurangi Marae, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine, Ngāti Maru, local schools, community members and whānau in attendance.
Stratford’s first Māori ward councillor, Clive Tongaawhikau, the chairman of Araukuku hapū, was one of the five new elected members to be sworn in alongside the seven returning councillors.
Wearing the cloak of Araukuku hapū during the ceremony, Clive said his wife Wharekuka, their children and many whānau and friends were present for the historical moment.
Clive and Wharekuka teach kapa haka at many local schools, and students from Taranaki Diocesan School for Girls, Stratford High School, Spotswood College and New Plymouth Girls’ High staged with waiata and haka performances.
During the pōwhiri, speakers warned Clive his would not always be an easy role. Rukutai Wātene (Ngāti Ruanui) told him there would be fights, but they would be fights with pens, not fists.
Clive said he was ready for whatever challenges the role came with.
“I am here to represent a Māori voice, and that is me, I am here ready to do that.”
There might be challenges ahead, but Clive would never be left to stand alone to face them, said Herewini Nō pera from Whakaahurangi Marae.
Stratford District Mayor Neil Volzke, re-elected unopposed to return for his fifth term, was the first elected member to be sworn into office. He was sworn in by Stratford District Council chief executive Sven Hanne and presented with his mayoral chains by his wife Debbie.
Neil then invited each of the 11 councillors to come forward to make and sign their declaration. The declaration can be made in either English or te reo Māori, with Clive and fellow new councillor Ellen Hall choosing to make theirs in te reo Māori.
The other new councillors at the table are Annette Dudley, Mathew Watt and Steve Beck. They join reelected councillors Min Mckay, John Sandford, Jono Erwood, Grant Boyde, Amanda Harris and Vaughan Jones.
— Disclaimer: Editor Ilona Hanne is married to the chief executive of Stratford District Council