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Ed Sheeran

Time for two suns on Whakatane council
Photo: Whakatane District Council Facebook.

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An advocate for better Māori representation in local government says Māori wards in Whakatane have been a long time coming.

The Whakatane District Council has set itself a tight timetable for creating a Māori ward in time for next year’s local government election, with a workshop for councillors next week, followed by consultation with local iwi, wider talks with the community, and a final decision at the end of April.

Toni Boynton, who initiated a petition which led to a law change removing the risk of such decisions being overturned by referendum, says the National Party’s opposition to the law change might spark some resistance.

In making a submission to the council on the latest move, she unfurled a replica of the flag flown by her great-great-grandfather Rua Kenana at Maungapohatu.

"That flag has stitched onto it 'Kōtahi te ture o ngā iwi a Rua' and that relates to the conversation he had with (then prime minister) Joseph Ward in Whakatane in 1908 when he spoke in regard to Māori governance. Joseph Ward said 'you can't have two suns in the sky,' and our koroua replied 'In your sky, the sun only shines on Pākehā,'" Ms Boynton says.

Going by the population in the district on the Māori roll, Whakatane could have three of its 10 seats as Māori wards.

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