For the first time in Te Tauihu, the top of the South Island, Māori wards have been established in both Nelson and Marlborough this local body election.
Both councils made the landmark decision to establish Māori wards for the first time last year. It means those on the Māori roll can vote for one candidate in their respective regions. There are 1624 on the Māori roll in Nelson and 1732 in Marlborough.
Whakatū man Kahu PakiPaki said he wasn’t initially interested in putting himself forward to be a Nelson city councillor but his community thought otherwise.
A business owner and Māori carver, PakiPaki has a degree in political science and governance and currently works as development manager for Wakatu Incorporation.
“I got involved because I thought I was reasonably qualified enough to be able to support the candidate that was going to be nominated by iwi.
“The tables kind of got a bit flipped on me, which was a bit of fun and they decided that I would be the better candidate.”
If it wasn’t for the Māori ward seat he wouldn’t have considered running for local government, he said.
“It’s a great little opportunity for us to start to win that trust again, to get Māori voting, to get them to participate and to have re-establishment of their mana and the tino rangatiratanga that goes along with that.”
Also in Whakatū, Bernie Goldsmith has put her hat in the ring.
She runs a social enterprise taxi business, supporting women to gain their drivers licenses and for the last six months had been working on the decommissioning of the Tui oil field off the Taranaki coast.
“The reason I’m standing is because a Māori woman hasn’t been elected to Nelson City Council in 145 years, so if I’m elected, it will be the first time.”
Goldsmith was proud and honoured to be in the running for the first ever Māori ward seat, which she said was changing how people thought about voting. She also stood for Nelson City Council in the 2019 local body elections.
“My goal, if I’m elected is to flip all those who identify as Māori from the general roll onto the Māori roll and if we can do that, we know where those people are and how we can service their needs.”
In Marlborough, Picton business owner Tony MacDonald is on the board of Te Rūnanga Rangitāne o Wairau and has coached and mentored youth for many years.
“I want to bring to the table someone who is passionate about being Māori and passionate about being a Marlburian and being a voice for Māori and Marlburians as a whole, but for me it’s about making sure Māori are heard at the table.”
He was in the Marlborough District Council chambers last year when the decision was made to introduce a Māori ward to the region.
“For me that was a great step forward for everybody, the unity in the room for Māori and non-Māori was electric, it was really cool.”
Waikawa Marae manager Allanah Burgess is also running in the new Māori ward in Marlborough for the first time.
“I moved home with my two young tamariki just prior to the first lockdown, just to come home and park my feet in the whenua here and I haven’t left, I’ve kind of found my place.
Burgess worked as a teacher overseas and has also worked for Ngāi Tahu, helping people to trace their whakapapa.
She wanted to continue fostering a strong connection between cultures.
“Not only is it evident in the community that it is time for Māori representation, but also in my own personal journey it is time for me to really step up and start advocating for my community.”
She said having a seat at the table was an opportunity for Māori to be seen, heard, and listened to.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz