'Archaic' powers frustrate Maori wardens

By Yvonne Tahana

Maori Wardens share a joke. Photo / NZPA
Maori Wardens share a joke. Photo / NZPA

Maori affairs reporter Maori warden volunteers have threatened to hand in their warrants unless the law governing their association is reformed - a drastic move throwing the future of the organisation in doubt.

Association president Gloria Hughes called powers under the Maori Community Development Act "archaic" last year when it emerged that wardens had the powers to remove a Maori from a bar or tell bar staff to stop serving them alcohol.

The act which dates back to 1962 hasn't kept pace with what wardens actually do in the community today such as monitor truancy, public patrols, security, youth and court work. Government consultation is looming on changes to the law, however Ms Hughes believes the major problem is clear.

Wardens are extremely frustrated they still operate under the New Zealand Maori Council, she said. Before the Maori Affairs Minister approves wardens' warrants a district body of the council must sign them off. Ms Hughes said the council was "dysfunctional" and in areas where it doesn't operate strongly, wardens' work languishes.

In Christchurch before the February earthquake the wardens' numbers had been reduced drastically because no new warrants had been signed off in a decade.

Marching on Parliament is just "korero" (talk) at this stage but it's an option members have been considering, Ms Hughes said.

Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples has been supportive in the past of an autonomous association but the association believes he is moving too slow. Dr Sharples did not respond to comment last night.

"They [the council] are reluctant to give up their control and what we're saying is 'no - we don't need you'," Ms Hughes said.

"If [law change] is not done in a way that the wardens can have their own autonomy away from the control of the New Zealand Maori Council - then [wardens] don't see a way forward. They'll march to Parliament, give back the resources and warrants.

"I've always said taihoa, taihoa, there's a process but we're sick and tired of waiting because we're the ones affected."

It is unclear who at the New Zealand Maori Council speaks on its behalf, but deputy chairman Richard Orzecki did not return calls yesterday.

- NZ Herald

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