Council votes for Māori Ward

Published on 09 November 2023

Mayor Guppy.jpg

In a historic vote, elected members voted six to five in favour of the creation of a Māori Ward.

The aim of Māori Wards is to ensure Māori are represented in local government decision making. Electors enrolled on the Māori electoral roll will vote for candidates standing for the Māori Ward.

A Māori Ward councillor would have a particular responsibility to represent people of Māori descent, but also make a declaration, once elected, to act in the best interests of the city as a whole.

UHCC’s public engagement began through a survey on 1 September for one month. Council also engaged in person with the community, and mana whenua.

Engagement with mana whenua included hui and kōrero with Wellington Tenths Trust, Te Runanga o Te Atiawa, Port Nicholson Settlement Trust, and Te Runanga O Ngāti Toa Rangatira.

52 percent of respondents voted against the establishment of Māori Wards, while almost 47 percent were in favour and 1 percent were unsure.

Mayor Guppy says representatives from Te Atiawa expressed some concern over the establishment of a Māori Ward.

“It was suggested that a Māori Ward councillor may not be mana whenua. Similar sentiments around the role of mana whenua being paramount were expressed by Ngāti Toa, Tenths Trust and Port Nicholson Settlement Trust,” he says.

“It was also suggested that Councils should maintain a different and specific relationship with mana whenua, irrespective of whether Māori Wards were established or not.”

However, Mayor Guppy says there was support of the establishment of a Māori Ward if Council thought it would increase Māori representation.

Prior to the vote, former St. Patrick's College Silverstream student Jonathan Bentley-Cribb (Ngāti Kauwhata) spoke on the higher suicide rate and lower life expectancy, voter turnout and levels of wealth among Māori.

The 18-year-old supported the establishment of a Māori Ward and voting against the status quo.

“Not many young people engage with local government because it’s unclear what's at stake for them,” he says.

“I'm passionate about indigenous rights, which is why I decided to interact with the council on the issue of Māori Wards.”

The vote to establish a Māori Ward is part of UHCC’s Representation Review, which ensures communities in Upper Hutt are fairly and effectively represented at Council.