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Te Kōtui Reo Taumata Send Final Plea To Manawatū District Council Leaders

Te Kōtui Reo Taumata, a representative collective of 12 marae across the Manawatū District met at the Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngāti Kauwhata headquarters to make a last-ditch plea to Manawatū District Council Leaders, Mayor Helen Worboys and Deputy Mayor Michael Ford, to reconsider their position on deferring Māori wards until 2022 and to reaffirm their position that now was the time for change.

During the hui, Professor Meihana Durie, Spokesperson for Te Kōtui Reo Taumata, made reference to the historic hikoi held last week: “You will have seen the pain, in our people carried during the hikoi. This is an opportunity to make a courageous decision to establish Māori Wards in 2022 rather than 2025. We look at other councils voting yes and we worry that most councils except Manawatū, are now advancing their Treaty of Waitangi obligations”.

Dr Areti Metuamate another attendee at the hui said: “One of the things that has struck me about this process is a real sense of sadness about the state of affairs in our region. I know we have good people who have long represented us who are Pākehā that have been good allies of our iwi. He urged both Mayors to be “principled in their approach and consider the future partnership with Iwi”. He was “deeply saddened that their rights as mana whenua may be eroded because there is a lack of understanding and awareness about our role and contribution as Iwi to the community”.

Mayor Helen Worboys and Deputy Mayor Michael Ford maintained their position that despite the value of Iwi to Council they felt their hands were tied and believe they needed more time to educate the community. Dr Veronica Tawhai, Māori Constitutional Reform expert added further advice saying, “Certainly citizenship education on these matters is desperately needed. However the significant progress made in Māori-Crown relations to date has never been based on public education or readiness”. “We would not have the Waitangi Tribunal, Treaty of Waitangi settlements, joint management agreements, or a range of other positive initiatives if we had waited for the wider public to be educated on these matters first. Yet, these have proved essential to the positive development of our country locally and nationally”.

Te Kōtui Reo Taumata agree that education is required but ought not to be a prerequisite of this decision, they are also concerned that now without the direct support of Iwi and a lack of internal cultural capacity Council will struggle to address significant disparities for Māori and make informed decisions on these matters.

To maintain momentum on the issue, local constituent Alison Beth has set up a petition to be presented at a special council meeting where the vote on Māori wards will take place Thursday 20th May 8.30am at the Manawatū Council.


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