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New Tiriti committee to improve Maori input

Media release
15 November 2005

New Tiriti committee to improve Maori input

Manukau City Council recently voted to create a Tiriti o Waitangi standing committee to have input on matters relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and advise on decisions that impact on the social and economic wellbeing of Maori.

Sixteen other councils around New Zealand have similar committees.

Mayor Sir Barry Curtis says he is concerned at misleading statements made to the media about the committee and its future role. “It is being portrayed by critics as some kind of wild, out-there experiment but in fact we are merely doing what many other councils have also done. It is not a Maori committee – it is a Treaty-focused committee.”

The committee will not be made up of Maori exclusively, as it will include councillors as well as representatives from iwi. It will have recommendatory powers only, unlike other standing committees. Its recommendations will be put before the full Council meeting each month for a final decision.

Sir Barry says, “Maori are the tangata whenua and it has long been established they have a special and unique place in New Zealand life, as does the Treaty. We have obligations to include them in our policy development and decision-making processes and this is reinforced in numerous laws and pieces of legislation, in particular the Local Government Act.”

The Act says a local authority must “establish and maintain processes to provide opportunities for Maori to contribute to the decision-making processes of the local authority”. It also outlines obligations on local authorities to report in the LTCCP and Annual Plan on steps taken to include Maori in decision-making processes.

“It seems to me that some people are refusing to accept this legislative process has been happening. Well, it’s not going to go away.”

Sir Barry says, “I am also concerned at a claim that the committee is a step towards “apartheid”.

“It is bizarre to call this a “race-based” decision. There is no justification whatsoever for a comparison with the former South Africa. Mechanisms that give indigenous people a voice in a structured democratic process are part of the fabric of modern life in an enlightened society.

“The Council has for many years worked on establishing and maintaining a strong relationship with local Mana Whenua because they have a legitimate perspective on many matters, including environmental issues. But this connection did not include the majority of Maori in Manukau, who aren’t Mana Whenua. Their voice needs to be heard.

“The standing committee is a sensible way of allowing input from and improving our relationship with the whole of the Maori community in a structured way.

“Also, there will now be more transparency and that is a good thing. The public will be able to attend all committee meetings, whereas they couldn’t’ attend our meetings with iwi in the past, and the agendas will be published.”

ENDS

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