IT is time to heal the wounds and for the Invercargill City Council to face its obligations with iwi, Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt says.
At a meeting of the performance, policy and partnership committee yesterday, after heated debate, councillors approved the establishment of mana whenua roles in council committees.
The decision, which still needs to be confirmed in the next full council meeting, meant each runanga and Te Runanga o Awarua have its own representative with voting rights on the council’s performance, policy and partnerships committee and infrastructural services committee.
Legal counsel Michael Morris also recommended the council offer an advisory role on the Bluff Community Board for Te Runanga o Awarua and to consult Maata Waka and any other Maori voices about those roles.
Despite councillors adopting Mr Morris’ recommendations, not all agreed.
Deputy mayor Nobby Clark showed his opposition and proposed an amendment asking to leave the discussion on the table to be resolved next term, after the election next year.
Among his explanations, he said it was the wrong time to consider this, as the Government was undertaking a local government review and the public should be consulted on the matter.
He said Ngai Tahu recently declined to have four seats at the Southland mayoral forum or have a Maori ward within the council.
“Both of these rejections, in my view, reflects that Ngai Tahu is no longer seeking to be a minority role on any group and, to me, this would include this council.”
It was appropriate to wait to see what local government would look like, he said.
Cr Peter Kett said the timeframe was too short.
Sir Tim said it was time for council to face the issue and do it as quickly as it could.
He said in the past he was against the Treaty of Waitangi and called it a fraud, but believed it was not an option now, to create those roles in the council.
“I know it [the relationship] has faults, but it hasn’t been broken and I think this an excellent opportunity to say wounds from the past’.”
Sir Tim was proud the council was taking this step, he said.
Cr Lesley Soper agreed with the mayor’s conciliatory words, dismissing Cr Clark’s comments, saying people could find many reasons for delaying something.
She believed he misrepresented Ngai Tahu leadership and said no-one at the council’s table could speak on Ngai Tahu’s behalf.
Cr Soper urged her fellow councillors to be brave.
“It is the right time to do the right thing. This, for me, is one of those times.
“It is time that we actually acknowledge that we are a bicultural nation… whose indigenous people were promised unique rights through a treaty partnership and we haven’t got there yet.”
The amendment was voted against with exception of Crs Allan Arnold and Clark, while the recommendation to create the mana whenua roles was approved by all committee members, with the exception of Cr Clark.