Morgan sparks debate with proposal for king's veto

20:00, Nov 29 2012

The iwi is unlikely to support dictatorial powers, reports Siena Yates.

Tuku Morgan has sparked controversy after saying the Maori King, Tuheitia, should have veto rights or the power to dissolve Waikato-Tainui's parliament. But it is the people who will decide.

Mr Morgan, whose name will go forward as chair of Te Kauhanganui after Tania Martin was disqualified from the position this week, said, if elected, he plans to change the iwi's constitution to allow King Tuheitia these over-arching powers.

However, Waikato University's Professor Bradford Morse, an expert in indigenous issues and governance, said any change was feasible so long as the people were behind it.

But even with majority support internally, Dr Morse said pressure could still come from outside, from those that would deem the leadership undemocratic.

With the business involvement of Te Kauhanganui Incorporated and Tainui Group Holdings, having the king at the helm could impact negatively on financing, and development and economic projects in the works or under way.


"No individual, group or iwi operates in isolation. What we do has implications on our ability to borrow or engage in business with others," he said.

Chris Webster, Waikato-Tainui member and spokesperson for the previous chair, Mrs Martin, said Mr Morgan was just being provocative and King Tuheitia was "in la-la land".

"Tuheitia is just a citizen, he has no formal or legal status. The title of king is just that, a title. He's not a king because we don't have that kind of hierarchy here. That's a pakeha title taken from the Bible. We are a democracy, and it simply doesn't happen that way," she said.

"Paki needs Morgan and Morgan needs Paki, they're both just making a play via the other. You're not ever going to have the people of Waikato agreeing to this. This will go to court, should there be any move towards making him a sole arbiter with the power to veto."

However, Waikato-Tainui chief executive Parekawhia McLean said while there was no provision in the rules for Mr Morgan's proposed changes to take place, there is an "appetite for constitutional change" among the iwi and King Tuheitia's message supported that.

She said the iwi had raised the need for change but making any kind of reform requires going back to the people, a process which she said had already begun but could take years to complete.

After following King Tuheitia's written recommendation to stand down Ms Martin as chair, and with plans to address his call against Te Arataura next week, some would argue the tribe is following another instruction to "refresh your mandate and go back to your people". However, Ms McLean said that this was always something that needed to be done but, "[it is] encouraging that our king is also supporting that step".