ICC makes history with marae meeting

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    Marcia Teau-Thomson welcomes deputy mayor Toni Biddle at the marae with a traditional hongi. Photo: Luisa Girao

    INVERCARGILL City Council made history this week when it became the first council in New Zealand to hold its new-term meeting at a marae, Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt says.

    Deputy Mayor Toni Biddle, who is Maori, suggested to her fellow councillors the meeting be held at the Murihiku Marae in Invercargill because it showed iwi the council valued their relationship.

    She was emotional when iwi asked her to use its korowai (cloak) during the powhiri (welcome). “It is quite a significant request. I felt really honoured.”

    Invercargill Ngai Tahu kaumatua Michael Skerrett welcomed everyone and said it was “not before time”. .

    “It was really extraordinary to have everyone there for the inaugural meeting of the new council,” he said.

    The mayor and 12 councillors along with family, friends, and the public attended the meeting for the official swearing in of the mayor and councillors.

    Sir Tim said it was an opportunity to show the community councillors left all election and past dramas behind and were ready to start something new.

    “This meeting is symbolic of the unity we want to achieve. There is a lot of fracture, beliefs and different politics… but we need to work together as a team to solve the challenges ahead of us.” Councillors had the chance to air their views and goals in their speeches.

    The city block redevelopment, the Southland Museum and the Southern Institute of Technology were hot topics.

    Sir Tim agreed it was a crucial time for the council and said it needed to make the hard decisions.

    He also said Invercargill was the only council in New Zealand to have its first new-term meeting at a marae.

    “It is very special. We are celebrating our success and the new beginning for people in this region.”

    Invercargill Ngai Tahukaumatua Michael Skerrett welcomed everyone at the Marae before the inaugural council meeting.
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