Gisborne councillors clarify roles in iwi-council partnership committee

Gisborne District Council Māori ward councillors Aubrey Ria (left), Rhonda Tibble, Nick Tupara, Rawinia Parata and Ani Pahuru-Huriwai. Tibble, Parata and Pahuru-Huriwai were nominated among the five councillors to go on the Local Leadership Board at a council meeting last week. There was a majority vote in favour of all five. The other two are Debbie Gregory and Andy Cranston. Photo / NZ Herald / Josie McClutchie

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Māori ward councillors have reminded colleagues they are representatives of the Gisborne District Council and not iwi when it comes to discussions about who will be appointed to the local leadership body (LLB) committee.

This came about after councillor Rob Telfar said he was keen for the LLB to be enacted but was concerned about the public perception of the make-up of the committee.

“Saying this is made up of six iwi reps and six councillor reps, I don’t want this committee to be looked at by the community and people say ‘hang on a minute, there are nine iwi reps’,” he said.

“I am just putting this out there that’s potentially what we will have come back to us as councillors. I don’t want to put anything in the way of this committee to work at its full potential.”

The LLB is a result of the Ngāi Tāmanuhiri Claim Settlement Act 2012 - a forum for Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Rongowhakaata and Gisborne District Council (GDC) to work together on significant issues.

This committee has been 12 years in the making and is made up of Mayor Rehette Stoltz, five councillors and six members of the three iwi.

A report was presented at a council meeting on Thursday that explained the LLB and that the three iwi had named their representatives.

They are Pauline Hill and Melanie Tarsau from Ngāi Tāmanuhiri; Connie Maynard and Marsha Wyllie from Rongowhakaata; and Pehimana Brown and Willie Te Aho from Te Aitanga a Mahaki.

Councillor Larry Foster asked what power the committee had over policy and the direction of things the council did.

Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said Section 46 of the act outlined the powers.

This include being able to gather and disseminate information and hold meetings; develop policies and strategies to address any significant issues; monitor, evaluate and review those policies and strategies; promote the integrated and co-ordinated management of the natural and physical resources within the LLB area; provide information to assist with the preparation of council policy documents; provide advice to council on district plan implementation; and to monitor that the LLB’s purpose is being achieved and take any other action that is relevant to achieving that purpose.

Deputy mayor Josh Wharehinga moved the recommendations that the council confirm its LLB appointments and the chief executive notify the Solicitor-General of the appointments.

Wharehinga said he was excited for this to get up and running after years of being appointed to it and never getting it off the ground.

“We are expecting this committee to hit the ground running in terms of conversations to be able to bring back some fruitful things in the region to move us forward.”

He nominated councillors Debbie Gregory, Ani Pahuru-Huriwai, Andy Cranston, Rawinia Parata and Rhonda Tibble.

Councillor Aubrey Ria and Nick Tupara seconded the motion.

After those recommendations, other councillors shared their desire to be on it.

Tony Robinson said he had a massive desire to be on the LLB and thought his skills were best suited.

Councillors Foster and Alder asked to be nominated to the LLB.

Rob Telfer raised concerns about the representation on the Local Leadership Body. Photo / NZ Herald / Paul Rickard

Councillor Gregory asked what councillor Telfer meant about his statement and a conflict of interest in the LLB.

“I’m speaking probably to Crs Pahuru-Huriwai, Tibble and Parata, who’s not here. Do you see any conflict there or any issues?” she asked.

Pahuru-Huriwai said she did not see any issues with conflicts of interest.

“I am here at the table sworn in as a councillor and the iwi representatives at the table are there in their own right as iwi representatives. They see us as councillors, Māori ward councillors, and because we are Māori ward councillors, there is a certain expectation on us to participate in the LLB,” Pahuru-Huriwai said.

She asked about what concerns other councillors had.

“What are the things you fear from putting this and having us at the table? My plea to you councillor Telfer, and others being questioned by the general public about this body, is that we are there as councillors to take this kaupapa forward.”

Councillor Tupara said it was timely to have this kind of discussion about the Māori wards and their purpose.

“Māori wards are here and they are Māori and they are councillors, and all their actions at this table are here as a benefit to our community.”

He said if there was an issue with “iwi conflict”, then everything he did could be seen as that.

“I sit here as the Māori ward councillor, not an iwi or hapū thing. I am here because the community decided we would have Māori wards on council.

“To say they are Māori and so are on the same waka is insulting.

“You will find they bring their own kaupapa, their own take (purpose) to the committee for discussion. They will struggle even against iwi down the road, but to assume that all those iwi are Māori and all the Māori ward councillors must be iwi is frankly insulting to a community here like Tairāwhiti.”

Councillor Tibble said the LLB would ensure the council upheld its statutory obligations to the Treaty of Waitangi.

“This speaks directly to the concern you have councillor Telfer about backlash - white backlash - about there being more Māori on this particular committee.

“The concerns brought forward from the backlash and the capability and capacity is to point at the diminished understanding of what we are actually trying to achieve here.

“That understanding comes from an ill-informed view of what this is achieving,” she said.

Councillor Tibble said other councillors needed to look at this with a different lens and not view this as Māori and Pākehā, and remove the fear that Māori were getting more and Pākehā were getting less.

Councillor Aubrey Ria thanked Telfer for asking the question which gave space for this conversation to happen.

She perceived her own conflict of interest as she was paid by GDC as a councillor and also by Te Aitanga a Māhaki as their environmental project manager.

“But if I was to put my name down, I am a representative of the council, and at numerous hui we have said we are not here to represent iwi, we are not mandated by iwi but voted into the council.”

Telfer responded by saying he wanted to make it clear because “we have got media here and where I am coming from is about if you’re going to have these committees, you have to be confident in an environment where they can work and succeed, and it was around making sure they are”.

All councillors supported Wharehinga’s motion except Teddy Thompson, Foster, Telfar and Alder.

Councillor Parata was absent.

Matai O’Connor, Ngāti Porou, has been a journalist for five years and Kaupapa Māori reporter at the Gisborne Herald for two years.

- NZ Herald

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