Pair making positive change

Published date11 August 2022
Publication titleSouthland Express
Evelyn Cook, of Waihopai Runaka, and Pania Coote, of Te Runanga o Awarua, were appointed to the roles in October last year after council’s resolution to establish two seats on its committees — a significant and historic decision as it came 150 years after the local body was established in 1871

While both women acknowledged this was the first step in a long journey between council and mana whenua, they were pleased and proud of what they were able to achieve within the organisation.

‘‘It is the beginning of something. Like anything that is the first time, there are unforeseen things that we will still need to work out,’’ Ms Cook said.

‘‘But I believe there have been parts where our voices have been beneficial. We have a different perspective of the world in terms of not just being iwi but from our life experiences and we bring that into the debate. I really felt that we made meaningful contributions.’’

Ms Coote agreed and said overall they were ‘‘well-welcomed’’ within the council, especially by the staff.

‘‘From engineers to reception staff, flowing through to contractors... I feel there is a commitment to fill their obligations around that partnership and to Maori actually being part of the decision making.’’

She felt this effort, along with the positive feedback they had received from the community, had helped the council to make significant changes within the organisation.

But it had not been without challenges. While there were many achievements which they felt heartened by, there were also things they had to learn during this period, for example, the Three Waters reforms.

Ms Cook said the proposed reforms had steered emotions throughout Southland and New Zealand.

Many believed the reforms should not apply to the city as it had good infrastructure — however, they believed the collective approach would be beneficial...

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