Ngati Toa elders have hit out at Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett, saying he is selling the city short and losing the iwi's respect.
In a presentation to Porirua City Council at a meeting last night, kaumatua Thom Kenny said the council had not been operating with proper tikanga (protocol) when it came to Ngati Toa issues.
"We have a dysfunctional council led by a dysfunctional mayor," he said. "We want a better Porirua for our mokopuna but you are selling us short, Mr Mayor. We are hurting and we will not hurt any more."
Mr Kenny was supported by more than a dozen Ngati Toa members who attended the meeting to raise concerns over the treatment of deputy mayor Liz Kelly - a Ngati Toa member - at a Te Komiti meeting last month.
During a discussion about the Porirua Whanau Centre, of which Ms Kelly is chief executive, Mr Leggett told his deputy to shut her mouth, as she had stepped back from the debate because of her conflict of interest.
The comment came after weeks of rising tensions between Ms Kelly and other councillors over controversial changes in the Whanau Centre's governance, and a public spat over the funding for community health festival Creekfest.
Ms Kelly and Mr Leggett had each questioned the other's motivations for supporting the festival after its funding was cut, with Ms Kelly saying the mayor was trying to undermine her efforts in running the event.
Ms Kelly had also been criticised by councillors for missing six out of 10 council meetings since December, with the council refusing to accept her apologies at an extraordinary meeting last month because of her repeated absences.
Mr Kenny said the mayor's treatment of Ms Kelly at the February 14 meeting was disappointing for someone in his position. "It was for the better to let sleeping dogs lie instead of interfering with our business and stirring up the hornet's nest," he said. "We want our mayor to really earn our respect, because it is not given lightly."
Ms Kelly was their proper representative on the council, and the disrespect towards her meant Ngati Toa would "come in force" on any issues that affected the iwi.
"If there is a problem with Ngati Toa, then you should come to Ngati Toa. We are now a very wealthy iwi, and you need to consider that."
Mr Kenny invited Mr Leggett and the rest of the council to a hui with kaumatua and iwi representatives to discuss the problem.
After the meeting, Mr Leggett told The Dominion Post he would happily attend. "I regret what I said in this instance, and I accept it wasn't becoming of a mayor. It's a good lesson for me to hold my tongue in the future."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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