BATTLE ARMOUR: Hinerangi Goodman rallies her supporters at the community meeting held at the Murupara Motor Camp on Wednesday evening. Photo Charlotte Jones

HINERANGI Goodman is launching a legal battle to reclaim her seat on the Whakatane District Council.

Mrs Goodman, along with 40 supporters, made the decision at a public meeting held at the Murupara Motor Camp on Wednesday night.

The decision comes following what has been described by many as an election debacle.

Mrs Goodman was elected and sworn in following a random chance election but was then ousted after a vote recount in which she lost to returning councillor Alison Silcock by one vote.

Mrs Goodman told her supporters at the meeting that she refused to take the result lying down.

“The last few days have been a blur,” she said.

“I feel beat up and worn out, but I still have the energy to keep going and fight this battle.

Mrs Goodman said since it was announced that she had lost to Mrs Silcock, council staff had emailed her about bowing out gracefully.

She said staff had asked her for advice on how to enact a tikanga Maori way of rescinding her vow to the district and leaving the council with her mana intact.

“I was sworn in, I made an oath before God,” she said. “Council are in a tough situation; they have no way to undo my vow to allow Alison (Silcock) to be sworn in and now they’re asking me to make one up for me. As far as I know there is no tikanga for this even if I wanted to help them do it.”

Mrs Goodman said if she had known Mrs Silcock had requested a recount at the time of the powhiri she would not have taken part.

However, she said she was now looking to the future and what she could do it ensure she kept her seat on the council.

Those at the meeting were asked what they thought of the situation and what they thought should be the next step forward. “I can’t do it without my people,” said Mrs Goodman.

A kaumatua, introduced as Koro Jack, said the fact that Mrs Goodman was sworn in at a powhiri and then asked to leave “touched a nerve” and trampled on the mana of all the people of Murupara.

A woman in the crowd said the election had been so “shambolic”; it should be declared null and void and a by-election held.

Another said the council only approached Mrs Goodman about a tikanga Maori way of leaving her seat to make itself look good.

There were several calls to take the fight to court as well as make Murupara its own district council.

Mrs Goodman’s campaign partner Shonelle Wana told the crowd that if they were to challenge the election, 10 ten electors needed to bring a petition highlighting an irregularity.

Mrs Wana said supporters had two weeks to launch the legal fight, which she expected to cost thousands of dollars.

A man in the crowd said he had been unable to vote as there had been no special voting papers available.

Mrs Wana said this had been a common complaint and it could be a viable way to challenge the election results, but that people would need to be extremely accurate with the dates and times they attempted to vote.

Mrs Goodman said she was a pensioner and couldn’t afford to launch the legal fight herself so would be approaching Ngati Whare, Ngati Manawa and Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua for financial help, and launching a Givealittle crowdfunding page.

“Council is just following the legislation and they are now caught between a rock and a hard place and are hoping we are too poor to afford this, and we’ll just go away,” she said.

“I will not be an amiable token Maori. I used to be a journalist and I believe in tell everything, tell it all.”

The public meeting ended with the crowd resolving to fight the election results and associated legislation in court, to invite Mrs Silcock and the rest of council to Murupara to speak with them, organise a hikoi and to protest in person at the next council meeting on November 13.

Whakatane mayor Judy Turner said the council has been in close contact with Mrs Goodman throughout the election process and had been acutely aware of the challenges the process had presented for both candidates, their whanau and supporters as well as the impact on the community.

Mrs Turner said the council had taken guidance from Mrs Goodman in terms of her exit and had acted on the wishes of Mrs Goodman.

She said the council did not need Mrs Goodman to agree to step down.

“Once the outcome of the judicial recount was determined by a district court judge, Alison Silcock was declared as being elected to council,” she said.

Deputy electoral officer Janie Storey said special votes were logged against the voting paper on what was known as a counterfoil sheet and logs showed that special votes were still available.

“To our knowledge, no complaints have been received on this matter,” said Ms Storey.

The Murupara-Galatea Ward election timeline

October 18, tie announced between returning councillor Alison Silcock and Hinerangi Goodman for the Murupara-Galatea Ward

October 18, Hinerangi Goodman declared winner after her name was drawn from a hat

October 22, Result publicly announced via notice in the Whakatane Beacon

October 24, Alison Silcock requests a vote recount at the Whakatane District Court

October 25, Hinerangi Goodman sworn in as the councillor for Murupara-Galatea Ward at Whakatane District Council

October 31, Whakatane District Council adopts annual report as per legislative requirements

October 31, Alison Silcock announced the winner by one vote following a recount of votes