King's role in abuse fight up in the air

By Yvonne Tahana

Owen Glenn won't say if Tuheitia's backing for aide changes plan

King Tuheitia's secretary, Rangi Whakaruru, lost his firearms licence after a domestic incident. Photo / Christine Cornege
King Tuheitia's secretary, Rangi Whakaruru, lost his firearms licence after a domestic incident. Photo / Christine Cornege

Owen Glenn has met King Tuheitia to talk about the billionaire's independent inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence - despite the Maori leader's backing of a close aide who has a history of abuse.

It emerged this week that the King's private secretary, Rangi Whakaruru, had his firearms licence revoked after a domestic incident at his fiancee's house in September.

Police also placed two safety orders on him which stated he must not live at the home for a set period.

Mr Whakaruru gained notoriety when he had to pull out of an anti-domestic abuse campaign after his stepdaughter revealed he had beaten her and her mother. He later admitted the allegations.

A spokesman for the King said this week: "The King's stance on domestic violence is well-known. He was made aware of the facts surrounding this incident when they occurred three months ago. He is very supportive of Rangi and his partner in their efforts to build a future together."

Sources told the Weekend Herald that the King was to have held a figurehead role in the inquiry but Mr Glenn would not be drawn on what particular role, if any, he might play.

Mr Glenn is out of the country but said in a statement: "It is not my place to comment on individuals. It is important to me that Maori are involved in the inquiry at all levels and the meeting with the King last month was the first step in that process.

"More importantly, what we should be focusing on is our appalling statistics of child abuse and domestic violence ... "

Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare said questions had to be asked about what accountability process the Kingitanga leader might employ around Mr Whakaruru, if he was to be involved in the inquiry.

Transparency and honesty were needed. "(The King) shouldn't be excluded from the process by default of having someone on his staff, but it's about how he manages that person and holding that staff member accountable with regard to his behaviour. That would be the key points we are looking for," Ms Henare said.

"We would want to see that happening and I'm sure the Glenn inquiry would want to see that happening - that the person whom they're asking to be part of their inquiry is taking domestic violence seriously and taking child abuse seriously and understands the complexity of that and has a standard of practice that they would hold."

Mr Whakaruru did not return calls and the media spokesman for the office of the King, Kirk MacGibbon, refused to submit the Weekend Herald's questions to him, saying it was "muckraking" journalism.

Meanwhile, the instability in Waikato Tainui continues today as the tribal parliament, Te Kauhanganui, meets to debate a move to have its executive board stood down.

Kauhanganui members have received papers questioning the constitutional correctness of that motion. Tuku Morgan's bid to be the new parliamentary chairman could also be voted on today.

The King has spoken of how he would have dissolved tribal institutions years ago because of infighting if he had had the power to do so.

- NZ Herald

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