Tainui parliament 'like Jerry Springer'

A member of Waikato-Tainui has hit out at the tribe's parliament, liking it to a violent and controversial US television talk show.

The comments come after Tania Martin, the former chair of Te Kauhanganui, was stood down from her position on Sunday.

Wiremu Puke says the level of dysfunction in the tribal hierarchy was out of hand and would affect the iwi for years to come.

"We are seeing quite a disparity between the levels of competency of thinking and direction. It becomes an oversized version of the Jerry Springer show," he said.

King Tuheitia tried unsuccessfully to sack Ms Martin from her position two years ago and with the affair rearing its head again at the weekend, tribal members at the grassroots level are feeling frustrated.

"It affects many people right across the tribe," Mr Puke said. "It often features in a conversation in a hui or poukai and I try to stay out of it because you can be pulled into the black hole of it."

The 199-member Te Kauhanganui Parliament serves nearly 63,000 tribal members and is made up of three representatives from each of the 65 Waikato-Tainui marae.

Members of the executive arm, Te Arataura, are elected from this group and one is appointed to the board by the king.

Mr Puke said the numbers were so large it had become ineffective and just a gravy train for lawyers.

"It's far too big a parliament to deal with and it relies on a constitutional process to resolve these issues. Unfortunately the courthouses are becoming the new marae - a place to resolve problems that would normally be sorted out on the marae."

Before Te Kauhanganui was established the tribe had a common cause but since then Mr Puke had seen the tribe turn on itself.

"I think there is a lack of respect in the house towards people's opinions and unfortunately the values of respect have actually gone. It's all about trying to win the favour of the king - doing this for him and doing that for him."

Mr Puke wants to see a solution to the problems facing the tribe and says it is not an easy fix but he fears the tribe will splinter if nothing happens.

"I think in time there needs to be a clear direction of where the tribe needs to consolidate its strength. It has got to include a base of young people. If they don't approach and bring on board the young people - if this is all they see - our future is not going to be great."

On the streets of Ngaruawahia tribal members are also dismayed. A member who asked not to be named said people were raised to accept the decisions of the Kingitanga even if they disagreed. "We just have to hope that he has a vision of the future for the people.

"I can't see what it is but I hope that it is a good one. The only problem is that if they get it wrong we are going to have to clean up the mess."

Waikato Times