Over the weekend I had the privilege to attend two awesome events.

Firstly, the book release for the Reo Māori translation for our own Witi Ihimaera’s book, Bulibasha. Titled Puripāha, the translated version was created also by one of our own, Ruth Smith. The cover art was created by yet another of our own, Erena Koopu. The launch was a beautiful acknowledgement of ‘words’. Those present acknowledged Matua Witi and his wonderful words that created the book. Matua Witi then acknowledged Ruth’s words as a beautiful translation of his book, emphasising that ‘these words are hers.’ Ruth in turn acknowledged her teachers, kaiako, kura, kaumatua and her parents and emphasised that these were ‘our words’ and that those existed in her because of those who taught her. An absolutely beautiful statement. A wonderful event and a brilliant translation of an equally brilliant book.

Secondly, I had the honour of attending Eid, the celebration for our Muslim community in breaking their month long fast, called Ramadan. I felt a sense of awe being able to witness the saying of prayers so closely, it’s the same sense of awe I feel when our Māori Ministers conduct karakia on the marae. Similar to the marae, I had the same sense of awe consuming all of the wonderful food at Eid also! Another wonderful event that demonstrates how truly diverse our community is. Eid Mubarak.

This week in council we have the Audit and Risk meeting on Wednesday and the public Hearings for the Gisborne District Council’s Gambling venue policy on Thursday.

I want to expand on the Hearing.

For the uninitiated, a hearing is the face to face opportunity for those who have submitted to be able to speak to their submissions. Whether the submissions are spoken to or not, all submissions will be regarded equally.

The Gambling Act compels councils to have to a regional policy on where and how many gambling venues and machines our region can have. Legally, councils have to review this policy every three years.

So how does the council determine how many? The Act lays out the framework regarding how we can decide the number. The Act asks councils to consult on choosing either no cap, a district cap or a sinking lid on the numbers of machines and venues. No cap means, there is no limit on how many machines or venues. A district cap is an agreed number that is the top limit on how many machines or venues we have. Sinking lid is a cap that drops as the number of machines or venues go down.

These are the three choices council’s need to consult with the community on. Council’s can’t make a cap that is lower than the amount of machines currently in region. That is not provided for in the Act.

So how does the council determine where? The Act provides guidance ensuring the territorial authority gives regard to ‘the location of kindergartens, early childhood centres, schools, places of worship, and other community facilities’ and ‘the characteristics of the district and parts of the district’ in determining location. The application of this part of the Act applies to new and relocating venues only so the location does not affect currently established machine numbers or venues.

The council’s current 2019 policy has a sinking lid cap for the number of machines and venues, the wording of which remains unchanged in the draft 2022 policy in front of the hearing committee on Thursday.

The Hearings panel of Cr Seymour, Cr Foster and myself will meet to hear the supporters and the objectors and will be tasked to make a decision based on all the evidence and information provided to us.

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