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Masterton District Council will establish at least one Māori ward for the 2022 local authority elections, after a proposal to establish Māori wards was passed by 10 votes to one at an extraordinary council meeting today.

Mayor Lyn Patterson hailed the decision as a triumph for democracy and representation.

“This is real progress in improving representation for tangata whenua. I am delighted with the level of support for the proposal from councillors, which reflects the desire to ensure Māori have a strong voice around the council table.

“This is a historic day to celebrate.”

The move to establish Māori wards has support from all four local iwi entities – Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki Nui ā Rua Trust, Rangitāne o Wairarapa, and Rangitāne Tū Mai Rā Trust. Iwi representatives attended today’s meeting to show their support for this historic decision.

The decision triggers a representation review, which will determine the number of elected members on the Council, and how many Māori wards are established.

Under the Local Electoral Act, if a Māori ward is established at least one general ward must also be established.

Using a formula determined by the Commission, if the number of Councillors remains at 10, and up to five councillors are elected ‘at large’, this would allow one councillor to be elected from a Māori ward. Two Maori wards would be possible if the Council had 13 or more councillors.

The Council will develop an initial representation proposal by 8 September, and publicly consult for a period of not less than a month. The Council will then consider the public feedback before developing a final proposal, which has an appeals process, with the Local Government Commission making the final decisions. The representation review cannot reverse the decision taken today to have Maori wards for the 2022 local authority elections.

The member elected from a Māori ward does not have to be affiliated to any iwi and does not have to be enrolled on the Māori electoral roll. An elected Maori ward representative is not mandated to speak on behalf of iwi.

Once elected they will have the same duties as all other elected members – to act in the best interests of the district.

Currently the Council has two appointed iwi representatives to maintain the strategic alliance and working relationship between the iwi and Council set out in Memoranda of Understanding. Iwi representatives have voting rights on our committees and a voice at the Council table.

“Māori wards and alternative representation models such our iwi appointments are different mechanisms for different purposes – but they are complementary and can operate together,” Lyn said.

“Both reflect our community and strengthen the community’s opportunity to participate in Council decision-making. As I said today, this is only the start of more equitable representation and partnership.

“The LTP engagement with iwi has clearly shown us that there is a strong desire for more partnership working between iwi and the Council across all issues and opportunities we face for the betterment of the communities we serve.”