Invercargill City Council’s first mana whenua-appointed roles have been filled, with nominees to take part in an historic first committee meeting of the Infrastructural Committee on 5 October, 2021.
Pania Coote of Te Runanga o Awarua and Evelyn Cook of Waihōpai Rūnaka will be appointed members of the Performance, Policy and Partnerships and Infrastructural Services Committees following Council’s resolution to establish two seats on its Committees, one each for Te Runanga o Awarua and Waihōpai Rūnaka, in July.
Rūnaka were invited to name their representatives, who would have full voting and speaking rights at the Committee meetings and who would also be able to attend and speak at all Council meetings, but without voting rights.
Ms Coote is a Justice of the Peace and holds a Masters in Social Work and Community Development from the University of Otago.
“This is a great honour to represent mana whenua at the Council table, working together with Māori to build stronger communities and to achieve better outcomes for all,” Ms Coote said.
Ms Coote has held several national governance roles – including chair of the National Screening Advisory Committee for the Ministry of Health, Hei Ahuru Mowai (National Māori Cancer Leadership Group) and Hui E! Community Aotearoa. Ms Coote has also been a member of the Bluff Community Board from 2007-2013.
Waihōpai Rūnaka have nominated Evelyn Cook as their representative.
“I feel honoured to represent my whānau, and rūnaka in this way, something my grandfather would never have envisaged of for any of his mokopuna,” Ms Cook said.
Ms Cook is the Waihōpai Rūnaka alternate representative to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, a member of Waihōpai Rūnaka executive, and kā Rūnaka representative at Emergency Management Southland and Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust, SMAG representative on Te Awhi Rito and a member on the museum governance group.
Invercargill City Councillor and Performance, Policy and Partnership chair Darren Ludlow said the decision to have mana whenua representation at the table was a step towards recognising the significance of the relationship between Iwi and Council.
“The best way our community can understand the desires, objectives and values Iwi have is to hear from them directly, from mandated voices,” he said.
“It’s an exciting time and I’m looking forward to hearing from and working with the representatives.”
This is the first time in 150 years of Local Government in Invercargill that mana whenua will have formal roles at Council and involvement in Council decision making.
Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley said this was a significant moment for Council.
“Not only are we adding to our store of knowledge and perspective, we are aligning with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and our own Long-term Plan.”
There will be a formal welcome to the Council Building and Chamber for the two mana whenua Representatives before the Committee meeting at 3pm.