• Māori Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillor speaks out: “I could not just fall in line”

Māori Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillor speaks out: “I could not just fall in line”

A Māori Hawke’s Bay Regional councillor has spoken out about the backlash directed at her after she voted against approving the establishment of Māori constituencies.

Speaking exclusively to Hawke’s Bay App, Hinewai Ormsby says she stands by her decision to let the community decide and put it to a referendum at the next election in what she has labelled a “rushed” process.

The division which this issue has created has only worsened since the extraordinary HBRC meeting on Wednesday the 18th of November, which saw tensions flare with tears and walk-outs.

Chairman Rex Graham has issued a statement calling for calm, while Ngāti Kahungunu iwi chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana released a missive aimed at the council.

The first meeting following the decision saw members of the public gallery shout ‘kupapa’ – which refers to a Māori man who fought on the British side in the New Zealand Wars of the nineteenth century.

At last week’s meeting, four councillors including chairman Rex Graham, deputy chair Rick Barker, and Charles Lambert, who is Māori, argued for the council to approve the establishment of one or two Māori constituencies to allow for the election of two representatives for the HBRC from the 2022 triennial elections.

If a majority had voted in favour for the original motion, a public notice would have issued, and the public would have had a right to demand a poll on the matter.

But the majority voted for Ormsby’s motion which was seconded by Cr Neil Kirton.

Ormsby told Hawke’s Bay App this Kaupapa came up “quite unexpectedly” and was “triggered by non-Māori”.

“If it was triggered by Māori they would have, and I would expect them to talk to the people about it. They would have talked to other hapu, they would have gone to other marae, they would have had that conversation and got consensus to spark it because that’s how Te Ao Māori works.

“You don’t go and take your own Kaupapa on yourself unless you’ve got the support of others because they deem that this is the collective goal forward.”

The fact that it was first introduced to councillors in an “informal conversation” three weeks before it was tabled, meant that they were unable to do this, Ormsby says.

Two weeks later, she says councillors were brought together again where they discussed the issue again but “it mainly looked at dates and costs but there was no real guts around what this actually means for the community”.

“As soon as I saw the timelines I thought there is no way we can go out and consult and engage. In Māori tikanga you whakawhiti kōrero which means you have discussion, you have debate, to get consensus within your people and we have not had that.”

“And any other tangata whenua who has spoken out so disappointingly against what I believe to be is right and true I ask them and I challenge them who have you talked to in Te Ao Māori… and in two weeks you can’t tell me that you’ve talked to hapu to get consensus.”

Ormsby said she “felt absolutely sick” leading up to the meeting.

“I did have concerns the three days leading up to the meeting where I signalled the inadequacies of information, that the process is not good, we haven’t given due diligence to the engagement and consultation as we should, and that we shouldn’t continue… and that fell on deaf ears.

“I absolutely knew this is going to hurt Māori, this is going to hurt pakeha because we haven’t consulted and it’s going to be a big surprise for our community but there was no due process to be fair, to consult, to engage, to educate our public.”

She said it was “really important” for her to get her motion across the line as it was built on consultation.

“I knew it would hurt someone, but I could not just fall in line because I actually didn’t believe in the democratic process of how this went for Māori and non-Māori.

Ormsby says she has received backlash personally and publicly from community leaders, “certain tangata whenua” and members of the Māori committee.

“I understand that they’re hurt but their reaction is totally inappropriate [and] totally uncalled for.”

“I’ve been targeted because it was my motion to engage and consult properly and so you could call it bullying but I’m the target because I didn’t fall in line with what they expected.”

She says the public who turned up on the day had an expectation that they were going to get Māori seats.

“I feel for them and that upsets me that they came expecting something, being told that they were going to get something, put everything on the line with that hope when actually that was not what was proposed for the day and there were options on the day to go a certain way but they were told we are going to get this.”

She says there is now “ignoring [and] discomfort” within the council, and a “culture of dismissal of other councillors’ views and perspectives”.

“We have had to use a lot of energy on something that shouldn’t have happened.”

“It’s fractured,” she says.

“There is a loss of faith and hope of how this has all been executed and why. The honeymoon is over and it’s just revealing certain councillors’ interests, intentions above and beyond the welfare of the fair and democratic natures of the chambers.”

“This can be a lesson that no representative should decide something so crucially important to the foundation of our constitution and the right of the people without talking to the people because the consequences are that we hurt people and that it divides people and that’s what’s happened.”

However, Ormsby says they now have to “step forward” and have “robust engagement and consultation to talk about what is a healthy treaty partnership that not only addresses the governance but goes from top to bottom of an organisation”.

Graham said they “had a process and it was not rushed”.

“We consulted tangata whenua through the Tai Whenua and PSG representatives.

“They unanimously agreed to support the resolution to have Māori wards and were prepared to risk the call for a poll from 5 per cent of the voters.”

He said council will now “support” the resolution that passed.

Ngahiwi Tomoana declined to comment when approached by Hawke's Bay App.