The establishment of a Māori Ward in Whakatāne moved one step closer today as voters marched to the Whakatāne District Council to cast their vote.
The march was endorsed by former mayor of New Plymouth, Andrew Judd.
The message is to have Māori representation in local government, but according to the former mayor of New Plymouth that is easier said than done.
“Fair to say there are still division, there is still a lot of doubt around- uncertainty around- what a Māori Ward means," says Judd, "The upshot is it is a seat at the table for Māori”.
In 2017, elected members to the Whakatāne District Council voted in favour of a resolution that would enable the establishment of Māori wards.
According to deputy mayor Judy Turner, the message from iwi in her district is that "this is an opportunity that they want".
“We need to be looking at all the reasons why people wouldn't bother to participate and, amongst Māori, I think it's that sense that we aren't well represented at the table”.
Whakatāne joins Kaikōura, Western Bay of Plenty, Manawatū and Palmerston North in the referendum asking people in their district on whether they should increase Māori representation.
Rita Tupe of Waiohau says, “I'm supporting this because we as Māori have fallen behind”.
Jackie Te Amo-Te Kurapa of Ruatāhuna says, “This is looking at independence and governorship in order for Māori to have a say on local government on the future of our children”.
Voters have until 12pm on the 19th of May to cast their vote on whether to establish a Māori Ward.