Manawatū District Council came to a virtual standstill today as councillors and staff faced more than 150 tangata whenua demanding one thing: a Māori ward.
In a 6-4 vote two weeks ago, the council deferred considering a Māori constituency until 2024, putting paid to the hopes of local marae, hapū and iwi for a Māori seat in time for next year’s local body elections.
But following protests, petitions, a 500-strong hīkoi through Feilding and the complete withdrawal of tangata whenua support for the council, four councillors brought a notice of motion to revoke the 6 May decision.
A long line of marae, hapū and iwi representatives put their case to the council – then the vote, resulting in an 8-3 decision in favour of introducing one or more Māori wards next year.
Ngāti Kauwhata rangatahi rōpū leader Taiana Metuamate was elated.
“Absolutely ecstatic, I’m over the moon – two weeks ago we were all in this exact same lobby crying our eyes out, our rangatahi beside us as well, us comforting them, they didn’t understand why they would say no – but now it’s just abundance of joy.”
Mayor Helen Worboys was one of those who changed her vote in favour of the new ward or wards. She said it had been a tough two weeks, but the council had already begun work on repairing its relationship with tangata whenua and would need to bring the rest of the community along with the decision.
“I still believe that we have a responsibility between iwi and council to come together and work with our community to get them onside, to understand the importance of a Māori ward and what this means.”
At least 23 councils around the country have met the government’s May 21 deadline for a decision to bring in Māori wards in 2022.
Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air.