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Wellington City Council Votes To Include Mana Whenua At The Meeting Table

Waiata, hongi, hugs and kisses followed today’s Wellington City Council vote to add mana whenua representation to Council committees later this year, with representatives both having a vote and being paid.

The Council voted 11-3 to enable one representative each from Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Ngāti Toa Rangatira to sit on each Council committee and subcommittee and have voting rights, from 1 July.

The arrangement would not extend to the Council’s CEO Performance Review Committee, the city’s two community boards or District Licencing Committee.

The recommendation stems from a notice of motion successfully introduced by Councillor Jill Day (Ngāti Tuwharetoa) last year.

Mayor Andy Foster told today’s meeting he had been challenged by the representation proposal, given the democratic principle of one person, one vote and concern it had not been subject to full community consultation.

“However, I think we should give this a go. We should reach out in the spirit of partnership and say we want to work together. I hope that in 18 months’ time we can say this is good for mana whenua and good for Wellington, and that’s good for all of us.

Cr Day acknowledged Mayor Foster “for taking a really brave step” in voting for mana whenua representation. She told the meeting “this is the right thing to do.”

She also pointed out that 29 April is the anniversary of the day in 1840 when Titiri o Waitangi was signed by mana whenua in Wellington. “It feels like we’re doing a circle back to honour what was agreed during that signing.”

Earlier, Ngāti Toa Rangatira Chief Executive Helmut Modlik told the meeting the vote was “historic”.

He outlined the impact of colonialism on Ngāti Toa and said it is “not a good story” but added: “We’re at a point in history where there’s a degree of honesty about that past.

“I want to be a witness to an increasingly emergent determination by New Zealanders to do better for our children and our mokopuna than was done in the past.”

He said the mana whenua representation arrangements would enable senior Ngāti Toa representatives to make themselves available as equals for decision-making aimed at “improving the lives of us all”. He described it as “good thinking”.

John Coffey, Chair of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, told the meeting the Council and Taranaki Whānui have shared goals. “What you want as a council for the people of Wellington is the same as what we’re looking for.

He said it makes absolute sense for mana whenua to be at the Council table. “You will not succeed without us, and we will not succeed without you. It is as simple as that.”

Mana whenua will each be paid $111,225 a year – the equivalent to the salary paid to city councillors. Mana whenua will decide which representatives would attend which committee meetings.

Cr Day earlier noted the Council has long had Māori representation and input in matters of local governance. Wellington City Council was the first local authority to establish a Māori Committee, in 1989.

The Council also has memoranda of understanding with Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira. Each memorandum provides for a “strategic relationship between parties and the opportunity for iwi to contribute to Council decision-making and be a provider of leadership with Council for the City”.

Last month, following another notice of motion from Cr Day, the Strategy and Policy Committee resolved in principle to establish Māori wards in Wellington City at the next local body elections at the end of 2022, subject to consideration of feedback from the community. Targeted engagement is being undertaken with Māori and mana whenua, and feedback received from other members of the community before a final determination is made.

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