Mayor in dispute over Maori protocol

01:37, Jul 22 2014
Ross Dunlop
DISPUTE: South Taranaki's mayor, Ross Dunlop.

A spat over Maori protocol played out at South Taranaki District Council's iwi liaison committee meeting last week.

It began after one of Ngati Ruanui's representatives Ngapari Nui took the district's mayor Ross Dunlop to task about the lack of cultural protocol observed at a recent citizenship ceremony.

In June last year, the committee asked for iwi to be included at citizenship ceremonies. A subsequent decision was made by Dunlop for the council's iwi liaison adviser to attend each ceremony and for an iwi representative to complete a formal welcome or whakatau.

However, Nui said the process to welcome new citizens to the district should follow Maori tikanga (protocol), which included a full powhiri, and the current arrangement Dunlop had established fell well short of his iwi's expectations.

Nui said the council should not be able to pick and choose when they decided to observe tikanga or not.

"You can't have it both ways, Ross," Nui said.

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Nui's stance was supported by Taranaki iwi representative Liana Poutu.

She said although a clearer understanding between iwi and council needed to be developed around such issues, if a cultural ceremony was required, it should be up to iwi to decide what that looked like.

Following the meeting, Dunlop told the Taranaki Daily News that while he was satisfied with the current arrangements in place, he also knew it was important for iwi also to be involved in some way.

"It's just how you do that," he said.

Dunlop said although he did not think a full powhiri was necessary for the ceremonies, he still believed some level of cultural input was important.

The disagreement comes at the same time a review of the structure and terms of reference of the iwi liaison committee is taking place.

Following months of discussion, including separate meetings held in April and June involving the four iwi groups represented on the committee, a memorandum was tabled at last week's meeting which highlighted a number of changes identified by the group.

Some of the changes include iwi representation on council standing committees and an immediate review of the roles of council iwi liaison officer role and committee chair.

The issue of how tikanga is practiced at council events has also been part of the discussions.

According to the memorandum, it was considered "inappropriate for council to simply change arrangements or ignore any cultural considerations provided by iwi without discussing and reaching agreement beforehand."

The changes mooted by the iwi liaison committee, including suggested guidelines on how tikanga should be observed, will be discussed at the next full council meeting on September 1.

Taranaki Daily News