After a tense debate lasting more than an hour, Carterton District Council [CDC] voted against establishing a Māori ward at its council meeting yesterday.
When the first of two votes on the issue was tied, there was dismay among those who supported the ward being established.
“For me, to try and explain this to my kids tonight, it’s horrific,” said Councillor Lou Newman, who was close to tears.
“I don’t know how to explain it to my kids that we couldn’t get this over the line. I can’t get my head around it.”
Mayor Ron Mark took the vote twice, with the first tied four in favour and four against.
Those councillors in favour were Robyn Cherry-Campbell, Lou Newman, Brian Deller, and Deputy Mayor Dale Williams, while those against were Steve Cretney, Steve Gallon, Grace Ayling, and Steve Lawrence.
The second time the vote failed, with five against the ward [Cretney, Gallon, Ayling, Lawrence, and Williams] and three in favour [Cherry-Campbell, Newman, and Deller].
Mark abstained on both occasions.
A report to the meeting noted there had been consensus from mana whenua at a hui that establishing the ward would be an important opportunity for Māori to be more involved in council decision-making.
Those voting against said they were uncomfortable with the range of consultation that had taken place, because not all members of the district had been included in the process.
Concerns were also expressed that having a Māori ward could be divisive.
“One of the concerns I have is the way it will divide our town. I am concerned how I fulfil my role as an elected representative, elected to council, if I don’t feel that I am here to represent everyone,” Councillor Grace Ayling said.
“I don’t know then how I can fulfil my role in a fair unbiased way and not walk down the street and see people I represent and people I don’t represent.”
Currently, the council has two non-voting representatives from Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae, one of whom is former Māori Party MP Marama Fox.
“They [local Māori] feel disengaged from this [council] process. They come to us,” Fox said.
“We don’t feel like there is representation for us around this table unless we are here. I’m sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable, but that’s our reality of equity in this town. And that we have to stand up and ask and educate and try and demonstrate.
“It doesn’t matter that we had an apology by the Crown for these crimes against our people,” she said.
“We have been trying to get a voice for our people. And right now, I feel like if you vote this down, what a waste of time.”
After the vote, Mark said he did not see it as the end of the matter.
“Māori representation is an issue that’s got to be discussed and debated at a wider level, and the contributions that iwi have made at this table have been significant,” he said.
“Not just this table, in the working groups and in the committees. I want it recognised that Carterton does more in those spaces than other councils far larger than it.”
The last time a representation review was completed the Māori electoral population was not high enough to establish a Māori Ward in Carterton.
With the population numbers now high enough, CDC was able to formally consider establishing one Māori Ward.
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