Marae defends eviction of couple

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 09:05 19/06/2014

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The Omaka Marae committee has spoken for the first time about the decision behind the controversial eviction of Doug and Ina Cunniffe from a marae flat.

A statement from the committee, issued by marae manager Kiley Nepia, says it was speaking because the tenancy wrangle was starting to overshadow the positive programmes delivered at the marae.

The 90-day eviction notice had been served after Doug Cunniffe interfered with marae business, which was "inconsistent with the values and principles the committee was trying to foster at the marae", the statement says.

The committee had attempted, many times, to discuss tenancy issues with Cunniffe, but was unable to make any progress, it says.

During mediation it was proposed that the Omaka Marae committee would cancel the 90-day eviction notice if the Cunniffes agreed to take down their online petition, make a formal apology to the committee in the Marlborough Express, and once Doug Cunniffe promised to stop interfering in marae business."We were of the opinion that the wording in the apology was such that it was not really an apology at all," the statement says.

"As far as we were concerned the mana of the marae and its members had been affected and in order to restore that mana the committee was seeking through a kaupapa Maori restorative process a verbal apology from Doug Cunniffe to the [affected] parties."

The committee says it believed the matter had been resolved, but the Cunniffes withdrew an offer last Friday .

It believed the Cunniffes were not interested in resolving the issue or the wellbeing of the marae, the statement says.

"It is unfortunate that this issue has attracted so much attention. A lot of this has to do with the way which certain concepts have been used, and manipulated. In this particular instance ‘kaumatua' has been used inappropriately.

"Kaumatua are a respected and valued part of our marae community. Omaka Marae committee defines a kaumatua as a person who helps to culturally sustain the marae, who is active on the marae, who plays various cultural roles and helps to nurture and guide the next generation on marae etiquette. To this extent Doug Cunniffe is not considered to be kaumatua of Omaka Marae, he is a marae tenant."

The committee says it believed it had tried its best to resolve the issue in a mana enhancing way.

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- The Marlborough Express

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