Tauranga is being given a cultural tickle-up but its indigenous critic is just one tiny voice

How well tuned in is he?

Pat Spellman…how well tuned in is he?

The Tauranga City Council is being accused of not working hard enough to promote its Maori identity.

Exactly what it is supposed to do to reflect this identify is anyone’s guess.

But the council is bound to be given plenty of ideas on the matter because according to Radio NZ:

The council is asking for public submissions for its draft public art policy to enhance the environment and to reflect the city’s character and identity.

The news items tells us:

Maori art is seen in the city, including the Matariki pou on the waterfront and the pou at Pukehinahina (Gate Pa).


There can be no complaints about Maori art being ignored, therefore.

The council has said there was no Maori element in the plan, but it is keen to hear from the public.

This isn’t good enough for a bloke by name of Pat Spellman, whose picture and political campaigning suggest he is an indigenous person even though he does not have an obviously Maori name.

He wants both Te Reo and English signage in Tauranga and complains that the council is not showing any genuine commitment.

He said the council needed to start incorporating Maori culture into the city’s identity.

Mr Spellman said the council had failed to take that step and would hide it under the camouflage that it had invited public submissions – but at the same time, he said, it was not highlighting the fact that Tauranga was a proud city with a strong Maori heritage.

But this heritage was not strong enough to ensure the Tauranga City Council resisted proposals for the establishment of a separate Maori seat on the council.

Mayor Stuart Crobsy led the charge when he recommended that no Maori ward be established for the 2016 election.

He gained the unanimous support of other councillors.

A splendid argument for democrats such as Alf was expressed by Councillor Catherine Stewart who said people should be voted into the council on their own merits.

Others agreed.

Councillor Gail McIntosh said “we have to govern on what is best for all of the community”.

She said “we don’t like the flavour of what is being said in letters to the editor”.

“Let’s stick to one person, one vote, no matter who they are.”

Some outfit called the Tauranga Moana Tangata Whenua Collective was among those seeking “better representation” on the council by proposing creating a city-wide Maori Ward.

This was supported by Matire Duncan, deputy chairwoman of a collective of Tauranga iwi and hapu.

Fears that giving Maori their own seat on the council could be interpreted as “separatist, racist and apartheid driven” were dismissed as myths, she said.

So one place at the council table should be reserved for people of one ethnic persuasion – right?

But while the person who sat there would have to meet certain racial criteria to be eligible, this would not be separatist or racist?


For what it’s worth, Tauranga has a population of 114,789. The Maori population is 18,678 – or 16 per cent.

But this Maori figure overstates things a tad because:

The Maori population is the Maori ethnic group usually resident population count. It includes those people who stated Maori as being either their only ethnic group or one of several ethnic groups

So how much weight does Pat Spellman carry when he calls for a stronger commitment to recognising the culture of a 16 per cent portion of the population?

Not much.

He stood for election to Parliament last September.

Tauranga identity Pat Spellman will run as the Waiariki Candidate for the NZ Independent Coalition in this year’s elections.

Mr Spellman says he wanted to become more of a voice for key sectors of the community, and “to give a sense of vibrancy and youth perspective to an otherwise dated election campaign.” He says his focus will be seeking to instil a youthful take on politics and offer a voice for the community.

He attracted 301 votes out of 21,797 cast in the Waiariki electorate.

‘Nuff said.


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