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Decision soon on Māori ward in SW

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] is moving quickly towards making a decision about having a Māori ward.

The council’s Māori Standing Committee [MSC] is expected to take a view on the question early next month.

The MSC resolved at its meeting on Tuesday evening to take a formal position on the issue ahead of next month’s council meeting on November 22.

The committee unanimously resolved to receive a representation review report tabled at the meeting, and hold an extraordinary meeting on November 7 to adopt a position on Māori Wards.

The MSC’s views are expected to be firmed up ahead of a substantive decision by the full council at its November meeting.

SWDC councillor Pip Maynard said holding a dedicated meeting to discuss the issue was an opportunity for the MSC to consider arguments for and against having a ward.

The report noted a number of hui had already been held across the district, including at Hau Ariki Marae, the Waihenga Centre in Martinborough, Pae tū Mōkai o Tauira, and Papawai Marae.

“A mailout was sent in September to all those on the Māori electoral roll in South Wairarapa with further information on what a Māori ward is and how it will affect them,” the report said.

“We have also invited those on the Māori Electoral roll to a hui at Papawai … and/or the Māori Standing Committee meeting.”

The issue of establishing a Māori ward in South Wairarapa has a contentious history, with protesters briefly occupying SWDC offices just over two years ago when the council decided not to consider the matter.

At the time, dozens of Wairarapa activists, who were calling for a decision on a Māori ward in the district, were fronted by the then SWDC chief executive Harry Wilson at the council chambers.

The peaceful protest, in May 2021, prompted about 20 local campaigners to join forces for a march around Martinborough.

The action came after a rare joint press release from all four Wairarapa iwi entities that blasted SWDC for failing to consider introducing Māori seats ahead of a deadline and claimed the stance “contravenes the provisions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.

The report to the MSC on Tuesday noted the representation review timing now aligns well with the council’s long-term planning timeframe – set for early to mid next year. -NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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