Halfway through government’s month-long nationwide consultation process on the review of the Māori Community Development Act, the vast majority of those speaking at the consultation hui have argued to keep the Act and for Māori Wardens to remain with the NZ Māori Council.
“Council is heartened by the groundswell of support for the Council, for the role it plays in protecting the rights and interests of all Māori and for the Māori Community Development Act which gives Council its statutory powers”, say Council co-chairs Mānu Paul and Sir Edward Taihakurei Durie.
Given that Council and the Wardens were not involved in the planning for these hui and were refused a place at the table, this is a significant vote of confidence for the New Zealand Māori Council. The theme that has dominated the hui has been that any reforms must be carried by the Council and Māori Wardens themselves. Council thinks it is likely that the legislation passed in 1962 needs amendment but the objectives defined in the Māori Community Development Act are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.
At the hui Māori Wardens have made a clear commitment to the Council, to remaining with the Council structure and being accountable to their communities. The commitment was unanimous in the first five hui in Kaitāia, Kaikohe, Whāngarei, Auckland and South Auckland where over half of all Wardens are based. The Crown and TPK have been criticised for withholding the Wardens funding from the Wardens. Many speakers noted that the funds are controlled by TPK and that most Wardens have not seen a cent. A further criticism is that Council has never been adequately funded to fulfil its role under the Act. Many noted that the Council’s funding of around $180,000 has been kept the same for the past 20 years.
The majority of speakers who made submissions on the role of the Community Officers, wanted their role restored. Speakers rejected the claims made by TPK that the role of the Community Officers had been picked up by iwi providers, whānau ora and other agencies.
Speaker after speaker took issue with this statement. Māori are very aware of what happened to Community Officers when their accountability was taken over by the Crown. Not only did that move take away the ability that communities had to hold the officers accountable, but it also allowed the Crown to do abolish these roles. The Crown has already started the process of moving Māori Wardens away from accountability to their communities by holding back funding set aside for the Wardens and attempting tō redefine their role.
For further information contact: Rāhui Kātene 021 981 116 or rahui.kātene@gmail Karen Waterreus 021 934 906 or firstname.lastname@example.org