National | Local

Rotorua Lakes District Council adopts Māori wards

The Rotorua Lakes Council has voted in favour of establishing a Māori ward.

The vote was not classed as a unanimous decision, as councillor Tania Tapsell was the only one to vote against it.

Councillor Reynold Macpherson walked off in protest after he was asked to withdraw from his statement, expressing opposition to the council, by Mayor Steve Chadwick.

Because he did not announce his vote, he was not counted in the overall vote when councillors were asked to raise their hands whether they were in favour or not.

Council manahautū Māori Gina Rangi presented councillors with three options - to not adopt Māori wards, to adopt them, or adopt them and begin a broader review of governance arrangements. The council voted in favour of the third option, although councillor Raj Kumar was in support of the second option.

A representation review, with full public engagement, would also be conducted to determine representation arrangements, as well as a wider review of the council's governance framework.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said the decision "means everything".

"It means the word of our people has been heard.

"We're simply the mangai, the spokesperson, the doorway to our people. The partnership is actually with our people. When they said they wanted wards, that's what we have delivered to them, and I'm very proud of that."

He said he had no problem with some of the opposition to Māori wards expressed by some councillors and respected their opinions.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she would have liked the vote to be unanimous but she'd known it wouldn't be.

"That's democracy.

"For me, it is about the next step, about what we take out to our wider community.

"We've still got a step ahead of us there."

She said there would be questions about how Māori wards would look, how many there would be and if it would limit those on the Māori roll on who they could vote for, but those questions would be explored and answered through community consultation.