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Council split on iwi voting rights

By Don Farmer

[email protected]

An attempt to strip away voting rights from two iwi representatives on Masterton District Council committees narrowly failed yesterday when the newly elected council met for the first time.

Only the vote of Mayor Lyn Patterson broke a 5-5 deadlock and ensured iwi reps Ra Smith (Kahungunu ki Wairarapa) and Mihirangi Hollings (Rangitane o Wairarapa) would not only be able to speak but to vote on decisions made at two standing committees, to which they were appointed earlier this year.

Although both are entitled to speak at full council meetings the law forbids them from being able to cast a vote.

Three of four newly elected, first-time councillors were against the pair retaining any voting rights, and one of those, councillor John Dalziell, actually moved the amendment seeking to have voting rights taken away from the appointees.

Mr Dalziell said during the course of the election campaign the issue of allowing appointees to vote had topped the list of voter dissatisfaction.

He said whereas allowing non-elected members to speak at meetings could add value and intellect to a debate, the issue of voting rights “is not so clear cut” and could undermine the very bastion of democracy.

He was supported by councillor Bex Johnson who said in her experience the voting rights issue was also the most contentious of the election campaign.

“No one I spoke to during the campaign was in favour and felt voting rights should apply only to those elected,” she said.

Fellow first-term councillor Frazer Mailman also spoke of voter dissatisfaction.

The trio of new councillors opposed to allowing the continuation of voting rights for iwi were joined by councillors Gary Caffell and Brent Goodwin.

Mr Caffell sought, as he had during the previous council term, to delay matters until all councillors and especially the new ones had time to fully absorb “the voting rights situation”.

He said the rushed debate last term meant “we never got down to tin tacks” before a decision was hastily made.

The long-standing appointment of Phil Jones to chair the council’s Audit and Risk Committee was a different matter, Mr Caffell said.

“Audit and Risk looks at finance and budgetary matters but the two committees the iwi reps are on takes in everything the council does.

“The entire business of council, they get a chance to have a say in everything but it’s voting rights which is the sticking point,” he said.

Councillor Jonathan Hooker rejected Mr Dalziell’s amendment to take away voting rights for the iwi reps who are appointees to the Infrastructural Services Committee and the Community Wellbeing Committee, saying by allowing them to contribute by speaking and voting made for “better decision-making for Masterton”.

Referring to the publicity given to the issue Mr Hooker said it was “dangerous to run a town on the number of column inches appearing in the newspaper”.

Councillor Chris Peterson called it a “sad day” to even be contemplating changing what was now in place, and which had been a decision that put Masterton “on the right side of history”.

New councillor Deb Davidson, who is herself Maori, said the issue only seemed to have arrived when it came to iwi appointments.

She said inviting iwi reps to speak without having a vote was “just tokenism”.

“The council, by appointing iwi reps, had made history… a history we should be proud of.”

Deputy Mayor Graham McClymont and councillor Simon O’Donoghue also rejected stripping away the right for the iwi reps to vote at the committee meeting, as did mayor Lyn Patterson

“Asking the iwi reps to sit round the committee table and speak but not vote is like me giving my two-year-old grandson an ice cream to look at but not to eat,” Mrs Patterson said.

Those who voted to retain voting rights were Deb Davidson, Jonathan Hooker, Graham McClymont, Simon O’Donoghue, Lyn Patterson and Chris Peterson.

Against were: Gary Caffell, John Dalziell, Brent Goodwin, Bex Johnson and Frazer Mailman.


  1. The comments and thinly veiled threats that continue to spew forth about this issue (a non-issue actually) indicate at best a chronic, blinkered ignorance of history and at worst a subconscious race hatred. Can we all please move onwards and upwards and at the very least give our iwi reps a chance and let them be until such time that pakeha domination of all our media, politics, commerce and governance can be seen to have changed forever. Kia kaha Maori ma, there will be no backing down!

  2. I’d like to congratulate the successful councillors who were democratically elected by gaining enough votes and commiserate with those who didn’t gain enough but you put yourselves out there and you ALL gained more votes than the co-opted token reps. – like, 5 each and the mayor’s casting vote ! Democracy failed there.

  3. Happy and hearty congratulations to our democratically elected masterton District Council for managing to win voting rights for our two iwi representataives. this was achieved by a democratic vote, sadly a narrow one, but progress can take longer than many of us would like.
    It is to be hoped that in the light of due process being followed and democracy working for iwi for a change, our Council will now be able to get on with the job they were democratically elected to do and iwi reps will be given all the respect and support they have democratically earned. Let us also hope that dissenting councillors will learn to make a determined and democratic effort to embrace and absorb some beautiful, uplifting tikanga Maori for the democratic good of us all.
    Democratically Your’s
    Mick Ludden

  4. I have to say this makes me very uncomfortable as well.

    I’m all for Iwi consultation but undemocratically appointed people given voting rights just doesn’t sit right.
    How do we hold them to account if we disagree with them?

    I feel like this is something that should have had a referendum for.

    I feel a lot more comfortable with Maori seats than I do appointed positions with voting rights. At least with Maori seats there is an opportunity for them to be removed if people are no happy.

    I have a lot of respect for mayor Patterson but on this one she has it wrong.

  5. Mastertonians will remember the names of those who trampled on our democracy – and those who tried in vain to uphold it.

    The deputy mayor has told his fellow traitors “not to be afraid of a Pakeha backlash”. I think they should be very afraid.

    It’s not just Pakeha they have betrayed, but all citizens who treasure the concept of democracy, including many honest Maori.

    Poll after poll reveal that 80% of New Zealanders do not want a bar of racist representation – especially at a time when the cowardly Key government is looking to give tribal separatists control of our drinking water – 70% of our bodies.

    This arrogant man says his anti-democracy gang will be on the right side of history. He forgets the power of social media.

    By the time citizen journalists are finished exposing the treachery of Mayor Patterson, Deputy Mayor McClymont and Councillors Peterson, Hooker, Davidson and O’Donoghue, politically they are likely to be history.

    • John Ansell, add me to the list of “Paheka backlash” people.

      But perhaps not the kind you were imagining.

      I’m hugely heartened by the stance of Mayor Patterson, Deputy Mayor McClymont and Councillors Peterson, Hooker, Davidson and O’Donoghue.

      As far as “racist representation”, that sounds just like people who complain about Maori TV saying “Where’s the Pakeha TV station??”… missing the fact that by default most stations ARE Pakeha TV.

      You just had Nigel Latta talking in Masterton about how as a kid, he grew up in a town that actively campaigned against decriminalising homosexuality, and allowing Maori to be educated. Maybe it’s time to take a cue from his comments.

      No voting rights is just tokenism, and that gets us all nowhere fast.

      Well done on getting the decision right, even if it was only by a narrow margin.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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