Wellington mayor accused of delaying tactics over mana whenua voting rights

Wellington mayor Andy Foster has been accused of delaying tactics over a vote for mana whenua representatives to sit on all council committees and subcommittees with full voting rights.

Currently, representatives of Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust and Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira Incorporated are members of two council committees.

While they have a seat at the table and can discuss and debate matters, they do not have the right to vote and are not remunerated.

Councillors today voted in favour of changing that by giving mana whenua voting rights with annual remuneration of $111,225 for each iwi, effective from July this year.

It passed narrowly, with councillors Diane Calvert, Sean Rush, Malcolm Sparrow, Simon Woolf, Nicola Young and Foster all voting against it.

Deputy mayor Sarah Free was away.

Māori partnerships portfolio leader councillor Jill Day said it was a historic day.

Foster enraged some of his colleagues with an unsuccessful amendment to agree on the idea in principle, but to allow for public feedback on it at the same time as the Māori ward proposal.

He said elected members and iwi representatives would be making decisions for the whole community so the public should get to have a say.

Foster suggested the two iwi representatives were akin to having two additional councillors.

Day pushed back on the mayor’s amendment, arguing voting rights and remuneration was not a substantial change, but about equity.

Councillor Jenny Condie agreed and said it was a minor change to an existing arrangement.

“These two seats at our table already exist but they exist in a way that is quite unjust,” Condie said.

Condie said the amendment was a “delaying tactic” that would cause more hurt.

Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons said the mayor’s proposed amendment was a disappointing process delay and warned he could land on the wrong side of history.

Fitzsimons said it wasn’t that she was scared to ask the community about mana whenua voting rights, but that she was embarrassed to.

“We shouldn’t be asking the community whether we should uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

Foster argued it was not a delay because feedback would be reported back to the council by May 13, alongside the Māori ward.

“I thought it was at least worth trying,” he said.

Councillor Rebecca Matthews was also against the amendment.

She said being a councillor was by and large a white privilege.

“It’s also a privilege that has been granted to us by taking from other people and taking from mana whenua. It’s based on violence and theft and a systematic programme of moving people out and disempowering them.”

Port Nicholson Block Settlement trustee Huia Puketapu told the mayor: “Mana whenua should not have to defend their right to sit at this table.”

How mana whenua representation will work:

Two iwi representatives will sit on all council committees and subcommittees with full voting rights, excluding the CEO Performance Review Committee.

They will be from Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Ngāti Toa Rangatira.

The respective iwis will be paid an annual fee equivalent to the remuneration of a full-time elected member, which is currently $111,225.

The remuneration has been worked out through the calculation that if a single representative were to sit on all committees and subcommittees they would have a similar workload to an elected member.

Mana whenua have indicated they may nominate one representative to sit on all committees or different representatives to sit on committees relevant to their individual skill set.

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