The years surrounding the Queen’s Wharf design competition were one of political upheaval and turmoil in Auckland. One incident in 2011 demonstrated a major point of contention at the core of New Zealand politics: Maori representation of both people and ways of knowing in governing and institutional bodies. The incident occurred during a Super City council meeting when one council member—specifically a member of the Independent Maori Statutory Board—invoked the lack of consultation of a taniwha, Horotiu, on the proposed Auckland infrastructure project as a way to push back against the development that cut through Horotiu’s territory. What this event demonstrated is New Zealand’s failure to be a successfully bicultural state. Most of Auckland’s governing systems are based around non-Maori and settler colonial ways of knowing and operating, making Maori representation more than just a questions of body count. By indigenizing Auckland governing systems, Auckland itself could also, by extension, begin to indigenize, furthering New Zealand’s goal of successful and true biculturalism.

This incident could not have occurred without some key historical happenings, however.

In November 2010, Auckland’s seven separate district and regional councils merged into one “Super City” council. After a continuous fight for representation in Auckland governmental positions, the Independent Maori Statutory Board was included on the Super City council. They were to represent Mana Whenua (which are Maori-kin groups ancestrally tied to a territory of which they also hold authority) in order to advise on “the management and stewardship of physical and natural resources.” However, the inclusion of the Independent Maori Statutory Board was widely accepted as a tokenistic gesture.

By Tara Colson Leaning