QUESTIONS have been raised as to why the Whakatane District Council held its swearing-in ceremony knowing its election results were uncertain.
The “bruised and battered” Hinerangi Goodman was sworn in at the ceremony on October 25, despite Alison Silcock lodging a request for a recount of votes the day before in the Whakatane District Court.
Mrs Goodman said for her to go through the ceremony and then be ousted trampled on her mana and broke Maori tikanga.
“This is a big insult to the people who voted for me and my own people who came down and took part in the powhiri at council,” said Mrs Goodman.
“The significance of that ceremony … it means everything is good, sealed and done. It really cuts across all boundaries of our culture, our tikanga.
“This whole thing exposes the weakness of legislation which governs local government and for Maori even more so. It insults the very processes of tikanga that they asked us to perform.”
The two other district councils in the Eastern Bay, Opotiki and Kawerau, both held their swearing-in ceremonies a week after the Whakatane council and there has been criticism that Whakatane was too quick to sign its councillors in.
Whakatane Mayor Judy Turner said the council had to swear the councillors in when it did as there was a legislative requirement for all councils to adopt their annual report by October 31.
“It was necessary to have the council sworn in ahead of this date given the substantial change in the make-up of our council and to be able to brief elected members and give them some assurance of the robust and lengthy process that council had gone through to develop its annual report 2018/19,” said Mrs Turner.
“It is not uncommon for a new council to adopt the previous year’s annual report, given the legislative timeframes that guide this.
“Many councils across the country found themselves in this position but without the added election result complexity.”
It is understood the office of the auditor-general was also understaffed at the time so was late approving the report for the council, which was not given an extension.
Mrs Turner also said the council decided to swear councillors in despite the uncertainty around the Murupara-Galatea Ward as it had been given advice that the recount process could take up to three weeks depending on the availability of a district court judge, which the council had no control over.
When asked if Mrs Goodman was made aware that a recount had been called for before the swearing-in ceremony, Mrs Turner said the recount application was a district court judicial process that sat outside the council’s authority or realm of influence.
Mrs Goodman has assured the council and the community that this is not the last they will see of her.
“I’m tired, worn out and beat up, but this is not the end,” she said.
“We are looking at several avenues of action. I will not take this lying down.”
Despite being disappointed at the result, Mrs Goodman is philosophical about the outcome and said perhaps she was meant to be making change outside of council rather than at the table.
She said the New Zealand Maori Council was now involved and she was working to ensure this situation didn’t affect another Maori candidate.
Mrs Goodman was the first Maori woman to represent the ward.
“We need to think about the whole process and what can be done better,” she said.
“It’s about rising up or shutting up and we’re rising.
“There is work to be done and this is a time to quieten down, reflect and see what needs to be done to change the legislation.
“If an injunction does happen it needs to happen now.”