Waikato-Tainui: Hamilton Council going backwards by rejecting Māori wards

After boasting of its great relationship with Waikato-Tainui, the Hamilton City Council says no to Māori wards.

Te Arataura chair Linda Te Aho. Source: Te Karere

By Bronson Perich

This means Hamilton voters will not have a Māori ward to vote in the upcoming 2022 local elections.

Te Arataura chair Linda Te Aho says she’s disappointed at the news.

“It is disheartening that Hamilton City Council has failed to seize this opportunity,” Te Aho says.

“Instead, the Council’s decision lacks courage and perpetuates a paradigm of exclusion.”

But the council reject the notion that they’ve rejected Māori wards.

Fears of rising division

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate says more discussion is needed before her council can establish Māori wards.

She says she felt compelled by her conscience to bring this issue to the wider community before deciding.

“I don’t believe that would have achieved the right outcome, either for Māori or for the city,” Southgate says.

She adds rushing to establish Māori seats would have divided her city.

Te Aho says the mayor acted out of political expediency, and the decision is short-sighted.

Te Tiriti

While delaying Māori seats, the Hamilton City Council say they are committed to honouring the Treaty of Waitangi.

Its Māori relations strategy, He Pou Manawa Ora aims to “build a proud and inclusive city for the wellbeing of all its people”.

But Te Aho says the rejection of Māori wards make the strategy an empty vessel.

“Māori wards must become mandatory mechanisms on all councils,” Te Aho says.

Southgate says her council remains committed to “very robust conversations".

Those conversations, she believes, will one day result in Māori wards for Hamilton.