Two Māori wards suggested by Horizons Regional Council for 2022 election

The hīkoi arrives at Horizons Regional Council ahead of the Māori wards vote in May. The council has decided it will have two Māori wards for the 2022 election.
David Unwin/Stuff
The hīkoi arrives at Horizons Regional Council ahead of the Māori wards vote in May. The council has decided it will have two Māori wards for the 2022 election.

The unique status of the Whanganui River is one of the reasons why a wider Manawatū council wants to have distinct rohe for Māori-elected councillors.

Horizons Regional Council, like many others across the country, is working out how guaranteed Māori representation will work.

It voted in May to establish Māori seats, elected by those on the Māori electoral roll, in time for the 2022 local body elections.

The number of people on the Māori roll means Horizons would have two Māori-elected councillors, but the council has been working on how those people would be elected.

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Horizons Regional Council joins authorities in Palmertson North, Tararua and Waikato by introducing Māori wards for the 2022 elections.

The council, meeting via audio-visual link due to the alert level 4 lockdown, voted on Tuesday to consult on having two Māori wards with a councillor in each.

The wards, also known as constituencies, have the placeholder names Raki Māori and Tonga Māori, but councillors wanted people to suggest names.

The council also voted to maintain the same number of people in general wards, meaning there would be 14 councillors after the 2022 election.

Officers did give a suggestion on keeping the number of councillors at 12, which would have left Horowhenua with one councillor and Palmerston North with three, but that was rejected.

Cr Nicola Patrick​ said the wards were not about iwi representation, but many iwi across the north of Horizons’ rohe were linked in various ways, including their relationship with the Whanganui River.

Cr Emma Clarke​ said having two wards ensured Māori from different areas could have their unique relationships with the environment expressed at the council table.

One of those relationships was the one with the Whanganui River, which in 2017 was the first river in the world to be recognised as an indivisible and living being, giving it the legal rights a person would have, she said.

Cr Jono Naylor​ said staying at 12 made it difficult for smaller communities to have good representation.

Cr Sam Ferguson​ said having two Māori wards ensured councillors did not have to cover a massive area.

It would be difficult for a councillor in Taumaranui to travel to Levin for meetings with constituents, he said.

Cr Wiremu Te Awe Awe​ said Māori wards were nothing new, given Parliament had geographically defined Māori seats for decades.

“We know we’re not really voting for iwi representatives, but for the best person for the job.”

No matter what decision the council reaches after consultation, the Local Government Commission will need to give it the final tick as it will not meet the commission’s guidelines.

The commission prefers to have one councillor for every 10 per cent of the population, but Horizons’ areas have not matched that since 2006.

Ruapehu would be well outside that 10 per cent figure, but other suggestions in the past – such as making it one large area with Whanganui – have been declined by Horizons to enable good representation in Ruapehu.