Maori wardens big winners

By Merania Karauria

The audience packed into the Wanganui Girls College hall on Saturday night were primed by country crooner Dennis Marsh, and crew member PJ from the Far North - who instructed those who chewed gum to put it in the bin.

"And if the camera focuses on you, don't hide because you'll look dumb on television."

The contestants for It's in the Bag, with co-comperes Stacey Morrison and Pio Terei, were whittled down to six and taken backstage where they were given the drill of what to expect.

Contestant Marion Haar from Gonville said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and she was not going to be upstaged by nerves.

Once on stage, Pio Terei asked about her singing background and what was in her repertoire.

Ms Haar answered Summertime and despite her protest that she would not sing, she was persuaded to, and her rendition was warmly appreciated by all. She insisted on the kete not the money, and came away with an electric keyboard.

And if the audience thought they were going along to be entertained, they soon found out they had to perform to keep the buzz alive; this is television and the two-and-a-half hour show on Saturday night will be edited to a 30-minute segment to be screened on Maori Television after April.

The koha entry fee that raised more than $400 went to Whanganui Maori Wardens who will use it to buy petrol vouchers for their volunteer members.

The wardens, who enjoyed the show, love what they do.

Te Reo Hemi, a former head of the Maori department at Wanganui Collegiate, has been a member since 1984.

"We all come from a life-skills background, and we are all full-time but we don't get paid."

The wardens were formed at the end of World War II to look after the returning Maori soldiers.

With "Aroha ki te tangata" (love for the people) as their slogan, Mr Hemi says they never strike antagonism from their own people.

"We might get a bit of lip but we think being Maori makes a difference."

He says their approach is that of a parent and the kids respond. "Who better to look after ourselves but our own."

Maori wardens are nominated by their marae which also supports the application. Several character references are required and the application goes to the Aotea District Maori Council. The applicant must also appear before the Wanganui District Council to say why they want to become a warden.

The wardens work most days, Friday and Saturday nights, at funerals, marches and assist on the streets.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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