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LGNZ Establishes Te Āhuru Mōwai, A New Programme To Support Māori Elected Members

LGNZ is putting in place a much-needed support system for Māori elected members who are elected in this year’s local body elections.

With 32 councils across the country implementing Māori wards this year, more than 50 new Māori ward councillors will be joining the ranks of elected members.

“Te Āhuru Mōwai – A Safe Haven is a tuakana-teina support programme. It will provide a culturally safe and confident space for Māori elected members to support and learn from each other through whanaungatanga and wānanga,” says Bonita Bigham, Chair of LGNZ’s Te Maruata, the national collective of Māori elected to local government or appointed to governance roles by iwi.

“The programme will help elected members share knowledge, challenges and any lessons learnt together,” says LGNZ CE, Susan Freeman-Greene.

“Of the current mayors, councillors and other elected members, only 13.5% are Māori.

“To make Aotearoa the most inclusive and active democracy, we need our council tables to reflect the communities they represent.

“Te Āhuru Mōwai is part of a wider programme of work to increase diversity in elected members. We want Māori elected members to feel supported throughout their journey in office so we retain Māori in local government,” Susan Freeman-Greene said.

“This is a really important initiative because we hear time and time again that the current environment is not conducive to enabling Māori elected members to thrive,” says Bonita Bigham.

“The programme is based on the Te Ao Māori teaching and learning concept about the relationship between tuakana and teina, older and younger siblings or cousins.

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“In this instance, people may not be older in age, but could be seeking advice when you know someone has experience in a certain area or space. Typically, the tuakana share their experiences and knowledge.

“The tuakana is a support person and adviser for the teina and the teina gives the tuakana a chance to learn new perspectives and meet new people. Te Āhuru Mōwai is not just limited to one-to-one mentoring as greater support can be found in the strength of the collective whānui.

“Likewise new elected and appointed Māori members will also bring particular skills and expertise with them that already-established local government members may benefit from, such as knowledge of iwi and hapū stories, networks and connections, existing models of co-design and co-governance to draw from.

“LGNZ is also currently developing a sector-wide Māori strategy which this programme will be part of. The strategy’s priorities will ensure that we are creating positive and enduring change for Māori elected members, staff and communities within the local government environment,” Bonita Bigham said.

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