Māori Wards for Manawatū District

(Posted on: November 17)

The Manawatū District is to get a Māori ward at the next local body elections.

Councillors voted to establish one or more Māori Wards in the district to enable Māori the capacity to contribute to decisions made in the district.

This Council has a proud history of consulting with Māori, and were early adopters establishing Ngā Manu Tāiko (formerly the Marae Consultative committee) 25 years ago in 1992 to provide guidance to the Council.

“This is a positive step to build on our existing relationships,” says Mayor Helen Worboys, “we have obligations to maintain and improve relationships with iwi and this decision based on a recommendation from Ngā Manu Tāiko is another step to achieve this.”

Legislation to enable councils to create Māori Wards has been in place since 2001, and every six years Councils across New Zealand are required by the Local Electoral Act to undertake a review of representation for electoral purposes.

Guidance from Ngā Manu Tāiko at the last opportunity in 2011 was to continue with the committee providing guidance to the Council.

Changes to legislation have strengthened the need for Councils to consult with Māori to take into account the relationship of Māori and their culture & traditions with their ancestral land, waterways, coastal and marine environments, heritage and sacred sites (waahi tapu), valued flora and fauna and other taonga

Recent changes to the Resource Management Act have enhance opportunities for iwi input into planning and allow for new agreements between tangata whenua and local authorities called Mana Whakahono o Rohe. 

These changes are intended to facilitate improved working relationships between iwi and local authorities and enhance Māori participation in resource management processes.

The establishment of a Māori Ward in the Manawatu District would allow those who are registered on the Māori Electoral Role the opportunity to elect a person to specifically represent Māori in our governance decision making team.

Councillor Alison Short, Chairperson of Ngā Manu Tāiko , said it was time to become early adopters again.

“Manawatu District Council has stepped up to our statutory obligations to both honour the Treaty of Waitangi, and because in our most honourable intentions to foster the development of Māori capacity to contribute to decision making – it is the right thing to do.”

“A candidate who is Māori and is elected on the general role does not have the mandate to speak on behalf of the many tangata whenua in our district. A person elected for the Māori Ward can bring a Maori world view to our decision making.”

Councillor Hilary Humphrey said that this decision is an opportunity that should be embraced not feared, we have a chance to strengthen our collective wisdom and knowledge.

“I hope we all recognise that our work as a council will be strengthened by providing for greater diversity in representation around the table.”

Ngā Manu Tāiko, which is made up of  the twelve Marae that have interests in this district, signalled their desire to continue as a consultative group.

Electors of the Manawatū District Council have the right to demand a poll to countermand this decision.