Tamararo and by-election

I would like to acknowledge all of the whanau who successfully organised and ran the Kapa Haka events over the last week; the Turanganui Schools Maori Cultural Festival and the Karaitiana Tamararo Kapa Haka event. Wonderful events enjoyed by many. Tamararo was especially picturesque in the sun at Te Poho o Rawiri marae.

I’d also like to congratulate Isaac Hughes on his successful election to the Gisborne District Council. It’s an acknowledgement to your whānau and the faith you’ve gained in this community. I would also like to acknowledge those who put their names forward for the by-election. It’s not easy to put yourself out there in the public eye and I commend you for it.

Māori Ward establishment

Today, the Gisborne District Council is meeting to discuss the establishment of Maori wards. By the time you read this article, a decision either way will already be made.

As a decision maker, I don’t ever prejudge what my decision will be prior to hearing my colleagues, however, based on the papers, I will be going into this council meeting with the view of supporting the establishment of Maori wards.

The vast majority of us agree that Te Tiriti is this country’s founding document. There is a lot of varying interpretation in regards to how Te Tiriti is to be applied and what the intentions were when the document was first signed between the Crown and Māori.

Te Tiriti – Representative Democracy

Alongside of diligently reading the papers, I also like to refer to external experts when it comes to informing my views. So in regards to developing a strong view of Te Tiriti’s role in our countries constitution, I think of the words of High Court Justice Matthew Palmer; constitutional expert, and notably son of our former Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

He says:

“Because of the political nature of New Zealand’s constitution, I conclude that Māori political representation is the most significant manifestation of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand’s constitution in reality. This accords with representative democracy and parliamentary sovereignty being fundamental norms of New Zealand’s constitution. Māori political representation relies on representative democracy to access influence over the exercise of parliamentary sovereignty. Māori have managed to convert a pragmatic Pākehā initiative, the Māori seats, into a symbolic representation of their own identity and political relationship with the State. MMP has broadened that representation and given it real political power. This ensures that Māori have a voice in the constitutional dialogue in New Zealand – in the branch of government that speaks the loudest, Parliament.”

Māori representation in Local Government

Now to be clear, Justice Palmer is talking about Maori seats at a central government level. However, it follows that Local Government is a creature of statute, created by Central Government, and by that creation Local Government is also beholden to the same constitutional standard.

As one of your elected officials it is my job, on balance, to listen to the people and advocate on behalf of the people as hard as I can within the framework that central govt sets out.

The people in our community have overwhelmingly submitted in support of Maori Wards. The Central Govt framework is permissive of the establishment of Maori Wards.

The establishment of Maori Wards is the right decision to make today.

In closing I want to thank our Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon, for his strong support to all councils who are establishing or investigating Maori Wards. Such a strong statement made by our former Mayor. Ngā mihi.

I look forward to later on this week helping welcome HMNZS Manawanui to our city, which is her new port.

Keep an eye out for the cool navy ship.

As always, it’s a privilege to do this work on behalf of you Te Tairawhiti.

Footnote: This was written in the Gisborne Herald in Nov 2020 as part of the What’s going on in Council series.

Update: Gisborne District Council unanimously agreed to implement a Māori ward for Tairāwhiti. Read my rationale for NOT standing in the Māori Ward here!