A Whanganui iwi leader and employment relations mediator has cautioned Māori considering standing for Māori wards and other local government roles to be wary of burnout or being "smashed over by the system".
Ken Mair, an employment relations mediator for nearly 40 years, says he has continually and consistently seen severe burnout among hundreds of Māori teachers, police and corrections iwi liaison officers, iwi liaison officers and others who have worked alone in entities where they are isolated, outnumbered or expected to lead and fill every Māori component or role.
"I've seen immense burnout and isolation of our people who are a minority in a majority of Pākeha.
"Their passion, their innovation is squashed by the system because the schools or the corrections or the police or other government agencies or councils have just subsumed them into the system and they've become lost – or become so unwell that they're forced out of the roles that they went in to do."
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Mair, who is also leading Whanganui treaty settlement negotiations, says he mediates situations for four or five Māori people every year who have "stood up and articulated with clarity" for Māori but have left organisations damaged or have been dismissed.
He warns those considering standing for local government to be aware of the pressures of such roles and says he's concerned that more Māori representation in existing structures will only be "enhancing and browning a system" that doesn't really want or will seek to control Māori representatives.
Ken Mair says he once stood for Parliament with no expectation of getting in but to use the platform to highlight systemic issues affecting Māori.
It had not crossed his mind to stand in local body politics, he said, but if he were to consider it, the drive would be to work collectively through a values-based approach with all sectors of the community for the betterment of the community.