A large group of protesters marched through the streets of Whakatāne yesterday to show their support for the establishment of a Maori Ward for their council.

Hīkoi organiser Jackie Te Kurapa says the walk was pursuing long distance goals and making them a reality.

“Ko te ito ki ahau nei he whakaohooho i te hunga kai roto i te Moananui a Toi kia pōti āe mō tēnei kaupapa i te mea kai te hiahia mātou kia noho mai he Māori ki runga i te kaunihera nei.”

Te Kurapa also says the Bay of Plenty residents got together for an hīkoi along the main road of Whakatāne so they can hear why residents should vote yes.

“Ko te Māori anō kai te noho ki tēnei rohe nō reira e tika me noho tahi tātou ki te whakawhiti kōrero me ngā whakaaro e anga whakamua ai tātou.”

And at the head of this mob leading the hīkoi is former New Plymouth Mayor, Andrew Judd.

He has advocated for this issue for a long time and stepped down from his position at his council over this issue.

He says he’s aware of the benefits of having Māori and Pākehā working together in partnership.

“Having come through as a councillor and a Mayor, I have seen Māori culture and the benefits that can bring to the table. Councils are not just about roads and rates; it’s about us as people and growing communities together. We can only do that if we work together. We can only do that if Māori is at the table with us.”

The Mayor of Whakatāne was the first to cast a vote supporting the setup of a Māori Ward and the aim to have this issue considered countrywide.