The Wairoa District Council has voted in favour of including the question at this year's local body elections of whether a Māori ward should be established. If it goes ahead, it will be a first for the region.
The township of Wairoa will be asked this year to vote on whether or not they want a new Māori ward.
According to Kiwa Hammond from the Wairoa Māori Standing Committee, “The Wairoa Council came to us asking what we thought of including the question at the local body elections about whether they wanted a Māori ward or not.”
Wairoa Mayor, Craig Little said, “That's why we put it out to the community that's the best way of a democracy, let them decide for us rather than 6 or 7 people around a table thinking they know what the community wants.”
Two questions will be asked, for or against, all part of a poll for the community to answer.
“The problem if you have Māori wards in a place like Wairoa as soon as they come on the council to represent the whole community, they don't really represent what they're on there for, if you know what I mean, the Māori standing committee in Wairoa are doing some great things,” says Little.
“They're only an advisory group that so that the job that they can do isn't it, I think we need to have someone in there with a bit more teeth,” says community member, Alice Wairau.
60% of the 8000 people who live in Wairoa are Māori, the third highest population of Māori nationwide.
“At the moment, I think the Māori are sitting in the European seats and so obeying the European laws. To me if you have a separate Māori council they can implement Māori customs,” says Rill Meihana from Ngāti Kahungunu.