We are here today as Treaty partner, that is our point of distinction from other constituents and your stakeholders. Yes, we are massive ratepayers who pay millions of dollars of rates from the Base, Centreplace, our hotels, our housing developments, and so on. Ruakura and other construction projects are coming on that will breathe life into this city. Our balance sheets are intrinsically interlinked. But we are much more than that. We are a partner to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, this country’s founding document. It is our land that this city is built on.
As Waikato-Tainui we are also here as a JMA Partner, under our River settlement legislation, we fought for the right to compel councils to regularly meet with us, to appoint Maatauranga Maaori commissioners, to ensure we receive notice of resource consents and plan changes. We fought to have the rights of our river put first, after decades of short sighted, siloed council decisions that led to the degradation of our tupuna awa. Ewan, you asked what partnership looks like. It doesn’t look like this. It starts to look like partnership when Maatauranga Maaori voices are being heard at staff level, on committees, on hearings panels, and at the council table, the ultimate decision-making forum. Inclusion at all levels of decision-making goes some way for the council to act honourably and in accordance with the provisions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Maaori wards have been in place at Waikato Regional Council for some years, and the sky has not fallen in. We must be heard, and seen, and seen to be heard. Maaori might start to become more interested in local government. Vote yes to partnership.
Maangai Maaori are not a substitute for wards. When we established Maangai Maaori together, it was a compromise, we all knew that pushing for wards then would lead to a referendum and a waste of time, energy, and resource. Yes, Maangai bring exceptional skills and experience, but that was a step towards establishing wards. We urge the Council to retain these positions and to vote yes to wards. It is time. There are no more excuses.
I want to address a point raised during the public forum. The establishment of wards is not special undemocratic privilege. It is a form of affirmative action that addresses some of the unjust and discriminatory impacts of Crown actions and omissions, acknowledged and apologised for in our Treaty Settlement documents. Wards do not take away anyone’s rights. They provide an important opportunity for us to have a stronger voice in discussion and decisions that affect us, and our taonga. We celebrate the removal of legislative provisions (that were racist) that have allowed a small percentage of the general public to deny us from having guaranteed representation in local government as tangata whenua, a minority in our land.
Councils all around us are voting yes. Wards are well on the way to becoming the norm. Tauranga, Taranaki, Taupō, Matamata. It would be such as embarrassment to us and our Minister if we are the rohe who votes no. Surely, we want to go down in history as having voted yes to diversity, to inclusivity, yes to partnership.
And so, we support the motion for revocation and for councillors who are unsure, to come out to us for more discussion about why establishing wards is positive and future focussed, an enabler of diversity in decision-making that is more reflective of the community, and an enabler for more robust and sustainable decisions for the benefit of all peoples.
In 1973, I am told, Te Arikinui, Dame Te Ataairangikaahu, gifted her waka, Te Winika to the city as a symbol of partnership. We have been waiting ever since. It is time. Taatou katoa ki te hoe.
Linda Te Aho
CHAIR, TE ARATAURA