Law for Maori wardens 'a bit racist', Key says

03:56, Aug 10 2011
Maori warden
Clarity sought: The Green Party wants police to clarify what role Maori wardens will play during the Rugby World Cup.

The Greens are calling on police to clarify whether Maori wardens will specifically target drunken Maori during the Rugby World Cup.

Police are looking at using Maori wardens on streets throughout the country during the Rugby World Cup.

They are regularly used throughout New Zealand to monitor cultural events and assist police.

The law which established the wardens dates back to 1962 and contains a provision enabling them to order bars to stop serving "drunk and quarrelsome" Maori.

Today, MPs on all sides of the political spectrum acknowledged it was out of date. Parliament is currently reviewing the law which was last year considered by the Maori Affairs Select Committee.

Committee member and National MP Tau Henare said the law was archaic and an embarrassment. The select committee recommended the provision be wiped from the statute books in a report in December 2010.

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"It wasn't urgent, it most probably is now, that we take it off the books. Can you imagine a day before the World Cup final and a Portuguese man, who may look like a Maori, is turfed out of the pub."

Prime Minister John Key said only drunks and under-aged people should be thrown out of bars. The 1962 law was antiquated and "felt a bit" racist.

"If someone's removed from a bar it should be because they're under-aged or they're intoxicated, ethnicity's got nothing to do with it."

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said Maori wardens did a fantastic job. "Our people really respond to them because they are so respectful."

However police needed to admit if they wanted to use Maori wardens during the Rugby World Cup to target Maori. "That is a problem, and they need to clarify whether that's the case, because that's discrimination.

"If they want to use the Maori wardens for community policing, that is what they are used for but they should respect the wardens and make sure they are properly resourced to do the job."

Police Minister Judith Collins said she did not support the "attack" on the wardens. "There is nothing wrong with the work Maori wardens do."

Asked if she was concerned the wardens would target Maori during the Rugby World Cup, Collins said they should continue to work with police.

"Their focus is always going to be about trying to prevent crime, prevent Maori becoming victims of crime, and to keep the peace."

Wellington City Council trialled Maori wardens after the All Blacks game against the Springboks last month and wrote to bar owners in Wellington central advising them of their powers.

Wellington police spokeswoman Victoria Davis said Maori wardens on patrol in greater Wellington regularly went into bars.

She said the wardens would be used during the Rugby World Cup to assist police. "As they already do, in many other parts of the Wellington district, such as Lower Hutt, for public events, and specific operations, for example, operations to reduce alcohol harm, such as Operation Unite."

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