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‘We want to see equity’

Petition aims to present forum for better understanding.

A petition has been launched by pakeha in Gisborne to counter the petition circulating against the establishment of Maori wards in the Gisborne District Council.

Aimee Milne and Maree Conaglen first established a Facebook page “Pakeha support for Maori wards — Turanganui-a-Kiwa Gisborne” for anyone who wanted to share information and have discussions about everything to do with Maori wards.

They say their Facebook page is designed for pakeha and anyone who “actively opposes racism in Turanganui-a-Kiwa, systemic and otherwise”.

“We want to see equity. We tautoko (support) Maori wards to represent all of us at a local government level and believe power should be shared equally with our Treaty partners,” the Facebook page says.

“This is a safe space for pakeha and anyone who wants to learn. Respectful questions are welcomed. This is a learning space to better understand systemic racism and take action against it.”

After setting up the page, Aimee Milne also put up a petition on ActionStation, an independent community campaigning organisation that focuses on people- powered change, for people to pledge their support for Maori wards and join a movement for change in the community.

“Sign this petition to show the Gisborne District Council and councils nationwide that we support the establishment of Maori wards and value our relationship with Maori,” the petition's website says.

Ms Milne established the petition and Facebook page because she was concerned some pakeha would want to sign “the racist petition” which is circulating to block Maori representation.

“I felt there needed to be an alternative pakeha voice and a space for education on this issue,” Ms Milne said.

“We acknowledge the hard mahi (work) of tangata whenua and locals who have been fighting for the establishment of Maori wards. We hope this petition can tautoko te mahi and let you know we are with you.

“This is not a typical petition. It is a pledge of commitment to support the establishment of Maori wards. It is designed to raise awareness and to show aroha for our community,” Ms Milne said.

Maree Conaglen is promoting the petition because she believes Maori wards should be a part of the structure of local councils.

“The current situation where Maori wards can be petitioned to be removed is not fair and is racist. This should not be allowed,” she said.

“The Labour Government has promised to change this, but because things take time to become law, we need to be ready if this decision goes to a referendum.

“People need to educate themselves on this issue and educate their friends and whanau. The petition is a way of educating people about this issue and a way of demonstrating pakeha support for this kaupapa.”

Ms Conaglen is going to set up near the Farmers' Market on Saturdays to collect signatures from those who want to pledge to support the establishment of Maori wards.

To sign the petition go to https://tinyurl.com/y5avhvas and if interested in the Facebook page go to https://tinyurl.com/y6eunram

In the past week bright pink flyers sponsored by lobby group Hobson's Pledge have appeared in Gisborne letterboxes.

These petitioners are trying to collect 1635 signatures by February 21 to overturn the vote in favour of Maori wards and trigger a binding poll which would cost $65,000.

The binding poll provision has been called “racist” by East Coast MP Kiri Allan and Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta has vowed to change the legislation to remove the polling requirement.

Only three of New Zealand's 78 local authorities have Maori wards — Wairoa District Council, Bay of Plenty and Waikato regional councils — despite local authorities being able to establish Maori wards since 2002.

Eight of New Zealand's last nine citizen-initiatied polls have overturned these council decisions.

  1. Richard Goldthorpe, Auckland says:

    Māori wards are a way of ensuring that every community is heard rather than majority rule through only geographic electorates. They are pro-democratic and operate on a one-person-one-vote principle using the Māori roll. They strengthen our democracy and honour the partnership of our founding document. So great to see the Gisborne council leading the way!

  2. Barry McLernon, Taranaki says:

    Tautoko this kaupapa. Great to see Pākehā moving to counter unfair, racist power relations in Aotearoa – whether in legislation or to challenge groups that want to maintain positions of dominance. By supporting Maori representation on local council, Pākehā can begin to respect their Treaty partners and start on the journey to recognising the tino rangatiratanga of tangata whenua. Tēnā kōrua Aimee and Maree