Whakatau 2023 | Māori Ward

Auckland councillors call on Māori to get more involved in local body politics

The Auckland councillors who led a proposal to establish Māori wards hope a recent vote against the move will motivate Māori to get more involved in local body politics.

The council voted against the Māori ward proposal last week, with nine in favour and 11 opposed, while Mayor Wayne Brown abstained.

Manukau Ward Councillor Alf Filipaina and Whau Ward Councillor Kerrin Leoni told Mihingarangi Forbes on RNZ’s Mata podcast they were beyond disappointed in the outcome.

“I’m pissed off basically, because the people who voted against, before they voted against it, said, ‘I support Māori wards, but we need a lot more work,’” Filipaina said. “How many years do we have to wait? It’s been six already. So, no, I was pissed off it happened.”

A statement issued by the Auckland Council’s governing body said 11,825 individuals, 43 organisations and 17 Māori entities provided feedback and 68 percent of individual submissions opposed the proposal.

Filipaina said the figures issued by the council did not accurately reflect the number of individuals who were collectively represented in submissions from Māori entities.

“Those councillors chose to look at those organisations and the mana whenua as one submission - if you look at the submissions, Waipareira, Tiakitai, Waiohua, Hoani Waititi, Potaka marae, the number of people supporting those submissions outnumbered the individuals that said ‘no’.

“They just wanted to pick and choose, they just wanted to justify their decision.”

Leoni told Forbes she was shocked to realise councillors representing Waitākere and Manurewa-Papakura voted against the proposal.

“The two wards which have got a higher Māori population, which were West Auckland and South Auckland, their councillors didn’t vote in support. Daniel Newman and unfortunately Ken Turner, so when we see the population of Māori there, it should reflect, like the local boards because they all support it.”

Auckland Council manager of governance services Rose Leonard says the council made a significant effort to capture Māori views and preferences.

“We canvassed the range of options that were possible under current legislation, and some that require legislative change. The difficulty is to find a solution that everyone agrees on for the process of how we can implement this effectively.”

Leoni said the outcome had clearly demonstrated some councillors see progressive movement as a threat and have held their seats too long.

“For some people it’s a lifetime career, they don’t want to give up having that power and passing that on or looking at progressive ways to bring in new councillors.”

Filipaina said the mayor’s decision to abstain was frustrating, and as a leader he should have stepped up and participated in the process.

“I’m definitely disappointed in the mayor and he knows that, because he should’ve put the line in the sand.”

In a statement, Brown said the council had not yet found the right solution for Māori representation, and he wanted to see more work done on alternative options for this, other than the ‘parliamentary’ and royal commission models proposed during consultation.

“This doesn’t mean Auckland Council says ‘no’ to Māori wards. We want to get this right from the start to ensure we are creating a legacy everyone in our city can be proud of.

“There are problems with current Auckland Council representations wider than just Māori seats and these all need to be considered once the new government engages with Auckland over a proposed city deal.”

Several councils across the country have implemented Māori wards, with some celebrating one year since being sworn in recently.

Leoni said she hoped this situation would serve as motivation for more Māori to stand in local body elections and get involved in local body politics.

She said the council needed to do better and work harder at engaging more effectively and authentically with Māori communities across Tāmaki Makaurau, moving forward.