Regional councillors – Maori consultation “window dressing”

ACTION NEEDED: Maori constituency councillors called for more than just "pretty words" when it came to consulting with Maori at a regional council meeting held via Zoom and live streamed to YouTube.

CONCERN was raised at today’s extraordinary Bay of Plenty Regional Council meeting that Maori consultation was “window dressing” and “nice words” with no meaningful action.
Maori constituency councillors, Matemoana McDonald, Toi Kai Rakau Iti and Te Taru White emphatically told staff more needed to be done to ensure meaningful Maori consultation and participation in council planning.
The regional council had met virtually to discuss its economic recovery plan to Covid-19.
The report to the regional council from general manager strategy and science Namouta Poutasi outlined the expected impacts of Covid-19 on industry in the Bay of Plenty, the essential services regional council was still providing and how the regional council could drive economic stimulus to increase employment.
Ms Poutasi said tourism, forestry, accomodation, food and beverage and iwi organisations and land trusts were most likely to be negatively impacted by Covid-19.
She said Treasury had predicted unemployment to rise to between 13 and 26 percent. A large number of those affected would be Maori.
She said within the next six months it would be key for the regional council to begin its Crown Infrastructure Projects which had been submitted for Government funding, its potential Regional Green Works, regional transport projects and Maori economic development to keep as many people employed as possible.
The regional council could then build on this initial work with more aspirational projects.
However, a line in Ms Poutasi’s report stating: “Council and staff recognise and are cognisant of not adding undue pressure through consultation and engagement processes, particularly at a time when the limited resources of iwi-Maori are further drawn on by COVID-19 response and recovery” was described as “patronising” by Kohi constituency councillor Toi Kai Rakau Iti.
Mr Iti said he was aware the report was prepared in “short order” but he felt paragraphs concerning Maori participation were “window dressing”.
“The words are there but to be honest our track record involving Maori isn’t fantastic,” he said.
“Yes, they are also running checkpoints and delivery food but I have spoken to iwi leadership and they want to participate.
“This reads to me as patronising.”
Mr Iti said the Maori constituency councillors had a duty to advocate for Maori.
He said he wanted to see action not “pretty words”.
Mr Iti called for a change to the report’s recommendations.
He asked that “iwi partners” be removed from the recommendation stating:”agrees to seek expressions of interest from iwi partners and community stakeholders on other Green Projects that could be considered for central government funding and regional delivery” and that a new recommendation be created stating staff will seek advice from constituency councillors on how to engage with iwi on the regional recovery.
Mauao constituency councillor Matemoana McDonald said neither she, nor any other Maori constituency councillor had been contacted by staff during the lockdown on how to engage with iwi on the regional recovery as they said they would.
“If we correct the report it starts to correct the way that we act and work together moving forward,” she said.
All councillors voted to change and move the recommendations.