Message to Māori Wardens
This is a message for Māori Wardens on how they are affected by the Report of the Waitangi Tribunal on the Māori Community Development Act and what, if anything, they should do. It is from Des Rātima, chair of the Takitimu District Māori Council and chair of the Council’s Warranting and Administration Committee. Des is also a member of the New Zealand Māori Council and a member of the Executive who leads Māori Wardens’ issues for the Council as a whole.
“First I acknowledge your important work in promoting law and order in our communities and the respect in which you are held. I believe the Tribunal’s report is positive and that your back-up support will improve as a result of it.
Presently you are part of the Māori Council system, a system set up to provide a measure of self-government for Māori. You are appointed by the Māori Committees representing local Māori communities and you are answerable to them through the District Māori Councils.
In recent years Te Puni Kōkiri has supplied your material needs through the Māori Wardens Project, without reference to the Council. The Waitangi Tribunal has said that that undermines the Act and Māori self-government and that the Project should be administered by Te Puni Kōkiri in association with the Council. Council sees that as a positive measure.
Further, Te Puni Kōkiri must work with the Council over the warranting of Māori Wardens. The Tribunal is critical of Te Puni Kōkiri over the delays and Council believes that by working with the Council the problem of delays in warranting can be resolved.
The same applies to those cases where Māori Wardens have been warranted through persons who are not elected members of the Council. These warrants can be rectified so that no one’s position is in doubt. The Tribunal has found that Te Puni Kōkiri must act upon the election results as notified to it by the Council and not make its own judgment on who are the Council representatives.
The Council is very pleased with these findings. The Council hopes that the many problems that you have experienced will be soon resolved in the event that the Tribunal’s recommendations are acted upon.
Some of you have asked to operate independently of the Māori Council or any other authority. The Tribunal has said that you can’t. I am sorry but it just has to be that way. An officer who is worthy of his or her uniform must always be responsible to an independent authority and not a law unto themselves.
However, the Council agrees with the Tribunal that you should be “operationally autonomous”. That means you can be told what to do but how you do it is your business. The District Council can’t be unreasonable however and in fact, has a District Council ever told you what to do? You work voluntarily and in practice the Councils seek only to assist and advise.
The question is whether in the future you should be accountable not to the Council but to some other body that represents the communities in your district. This could be an iwi authority or an urban authority. The Tribunal has suggested that the Māori Council leads a review of the Act in which that question is addressed. That is something on which the Council would like to have your views. This action is included on our work plan for 2015. The Tribunal has considered that any such review should not be before the next triennial elections which are not concluded until June next year.
Meanwhile, Council is asking the Minister for an early decision on the Tribunal’s recommendations so that you are not left wondering what is happening and we can get on with the job.
The Council has also developed a timetable in which to address with Māori Wardens and district councils your requirements in relation to uniforms, training, transport and other resources.
I wish you every success in your important work for our people.
Nga mihi aroha kia koutou katoa Nga Watene Maori