Songs, speeches and moments of raw emotion filled Nelson City Council’s chamber on Thursday, as Councillors voted to establish a Māori ward in time for the 2022 Local Government elections.

Mayor Rachel Reese said the decisions were a stride forward for fair and effective representation that is inclusive of Māori communities within Nelson Whakatū.
“It has taken many, many years to get to this day. We may be a little city in Te Tauihu, the Top of the South, but everyone has their part to play, and we have to step forward when the opportunity is there.”
Mayor Reese spoke in favour of the proposal and recalled a conversation with her father just before he passed.
“He told me, there are things you have to put right.
“Today, we put things right.”
Ngāti Kuia Chairperson Waihaere Mason spoke in support of establishing a Māori ward, commenting that it was a monumental moment in our history and explaining why having a seat at Council was so significant for the iwi of Te Tauihu.
“I have a simple whakatauki; I look, I see, but if I do, I understand. How can iwi understand the complicated business of councils and government if we are not part of that scene? We will only learn if we are part of the decision-making process.”
Council’s kaumātua Melanie McGregor said she did not expect to see this decision in her lifetime.
“I have shed some tears over the words spoken here today,” she said. “This has been a flawed system for us in Aotearoa since the beginning of time.”
Nelson City Council attempted to set up a Māori ward in 2012. However, after five per cent of electors requested a public ballot, which resulted in strong and at times divisive debate, the ward proposal was voted down.
Setting up general wards did not face the same hurdle.
Mayor Reese thanked Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta for amending the Local Government Act to remove the public ballot mechanism so swiftly.
“She is a champion for partnership, for inclusion, and she is very clearly a champion for a better future for local government. I want to thank her for acting so quickly to address what was a wrong in legislation.”
Prior to changes to the Local Government Act, Council voted not to establish a ward, this was supported by Te Tauihu iwi due to the discriminatory nature of the process.
Once the decision was made, everyone in the chamber sang the iconic New Zealand waiata Tūtira mai ngā iwi in support of this momentous occasion.
The waiata directly translates as “standing together in unity to support the decision”, one that is inclusive of Māori on Council and further supports partnership aspirations in Whakatū/Nelson.