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Iwi says ‘treat us as full partners’

Rongowhakaata want to be treated as full partners with Gisborne District Council, not just stakeholders.

Speaking at the hearings of submissions on the council’s 2018-28 long term plan, iwi representatives Moera Brown and LeRoy Pardoe said the long-term plan provided the framework for more commitment from the council but the iwi had been frustrated.

Mrs Brown said there were obligations to engage with iwi under local government legislation and Resource Management Act, and there were a whole lot of mechanisms for that in terms of the long-term plan.

“One of the simple things is to engage with our people in the marae space,” she said.

For the past two or three years the trust had tried to engage in meaningful partnership and participation but that had been somewhat wanting from the council perspective.

“Our concern from the perspective of the long-term plan is that the ideas and concepts are in your plan but we would like to see some fruition in terms of getting things done.”

One example was the provincial growth fund and the opportunity for the council, business and iwi to participate in lobbying the government to deal with some of the regional projects.

They would like to see the start and continuation of engagement rather than getting some engagement and then being forgotten when progress was made.

The long-term plan provided the opportunity to engage not just with Rongowhakaata, but other mana whenua and iwi to progress all the community.

“Our experience has been that the council has tended to start an initial engagement because we are making the most noise, but we tend to drop off and go our own pathways once we have dealt with the issue that is confronting both of us.

“Our submission really is that there is opportunity for participation iwi-wide that could assist this community.

LeRoy Pardoe said what the iwi was seeking was a relationship with the council based on the Treaty principles of participation, protection and partnership.

Rongowhakaata had dealings with individual councillors which, by and large, were positive. But the individuals’ motivations were not converted into those of the overall council, hence the desire for a direct partnership arrangement with the council.

“For every step forward we tend to take two steps back,” he said.

Recently they were seeing the council and its subsidiaries engaging Maori contractors on design work in lieu of engaging Rongowhakaata.

The most classic recent example of this was Eastland Group’s plans for the airport terminal.

“We get the 50 cents worth of engagement and drawing some nice designs, but the $10 programme we are excluded from,” he said.

“This is something that has been repeated over and over again. We have come to the council, we have sought to be heard, we have sought to interact with the subsidiaries.

“Really it is about partnership.

“The intention has always been to be a part of the council and we are still having to front up as stakeholders..

There had been submissions about the Awapuni Stadium and Watson Park. Again, they should be involved as partners.

But when it came to partnerships it was a bit hard not to be feeling like Beth Heke in Once Were Warriors.

They were continuously fronting, attempting to be reasonable and engaging, but were were constantly either sidelined or put off.

“Whatever it is, it is really not working for us.

“In terms of the long-term plan, we are keen to participate, to join the council with developing these initiatives, but as a partner rather than a stakeholder.”