August 22 2017, updated 5:59am

Destiny battling for control of Maori women's league

Last updated 08:36 17/06/2011
Hannah Tamaki

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Destiny Church has launched a hostile take-over battle for control of one of the country's more respected culture organisations, the Maori Women's Welfare League.

Hannah Tamaki, wife of bishop and founder of Destiny, Brian Tamaki, is running a slick photo-shopped campaign in a bid to become national president of the league and its nearly 4000 members.

It is causing outrage in the league, whose first patron was the legendary Princess Te Puea Herangi (1884-1952), and was led into political pre-eminence by land rights campaigner Dame Whina Cooper (1895-1994).

At a candidate's meeting in Auckland, Destiny Church ordered its members out when a past league president, Christine Panapa, questioned what Destiny was up to.

"I could have cut the air with a knife; it was them and us, there was no unification at all," Panapa said.

Destiny was a sect and the league's constitution explicitly said it was to be a non-sectarian organisation, she said.

When Panape pointed this out on the Point Chevalier marae, a league coordinator, who was also in Destiny, stood up.

"She just took the mic and said 'would the branches of Destiny Church leave' and they did.

"I think they did not want Hannah to be embarrassed any more."

Destiny's campaigning style had not been seen in its 60 years and established members fear it is a take-over.

"That's what we believe, that is what we the women believe. What are they going to do for those members of us who are not members of the Destiny Church?"

There were many women with years of membership in the league who could be president.

"Why a woman who has only been part of it for only 10 minutes? She has not done the apprenticeship."

Destiny had done a "lot of wonderful work for our people, and I acknowledge that but I wonder if the reasons for her wanting to be president are right".

Another league president, Denise Ewe, told Radio New Zealand she is concerned at Hannah Tamaki's bid given that she had admitted five years ago she had never heard of the league.

"Why would you want to take the reigns of a very old and established and Maori organisation? Hannah's vote is coming from Destiny grown branches only."

Ewe says there around 500 Destiny women in the league

"Our concern is really about 'why now', why is she standing now.

"It is about someone coming on who has a powerful position in her own right and that has twice the membership of the league."

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Hannah Tamaki says in her campaign material that her husband "is a direct descendent" of Te Puea.

Te Puea had no children.

She says she is "humbled and proud" to be standing for the presidency.

"If elected I would koha the honorarium paid to this position to a charity supporting women's initiatives," she said.

She admitted her bid was causing turmoil in the league.

"However I will continue to keep my nomination in there and at the end of the day if the members want me as their national president then great," she says.

"My nomination has certainly created a lot more interest in the league and if it means more members then that's great."

Tamaki told Stuff she had been a league member for three years, in her own branch.

She denied her presidency would give her control of the league's funds.

"The president is one of nine people who govern the organisation on behalf of 2934 members."

She said the league's stated aims and objectives included enabling members to "effectively participate in the spiritual, social, cultural and economic development of their whanau and community". Its creed stated that each member believed in god and had reverence for humanity.

"I believe there is a fit for me here," Tamaki says.

"The league has done a lot of mahi or work for our women and children, and I know that I can also contribute what gifts I have."

She said the league and Destiny were separate organisations and she was standing because both had similar views on the wellbeing of people.

"My husband fully supports my stand for this organisation which was founded by Dame Whina Cooper and his Great Grand Aunt Princess Te Puea."

Hannah Tamaki describes herself as a mother of three and grandmother of 10.

"She is a dynamic and highly experienced visionary leader who throughout her life has inspired countless whanau, hapu and iwi towards success in family, career and entrepreneurial pursuits," her campaign material says.

It stresses achievements in her "own right".

She says she is the co-founder of Destiny with thousands of Maori nationwide.

"Its numerous social ministries are a product of her leadership."

She says she is patron of Te Runanga a Iwi o Te Oranga Ake (TOA) which she defines as "a National Urban Maori Authority with 10 offices nationwide".

She does not say it was set up as Destiny's social service arm and is controlled by her husband.

TOA has also created a league branch.

Tamaki says she was "visionary and pioneer" of a kura or school with 255 pupils she did not name. It is the Destiny School at the church headquarters.

She is using the TOA website to tout her presidency.

As president of the TOA branch she claims to have increased league membership by 300, established a kohanga reo, run cervical and breast screening, helped women in prison, established a national food bank and mentored business women.

Says the campaign flier: "Hannah is clearly a highly accomplished leader with a huge managerial capacity. She is respected and sought after, not only because of her achievements and contribution to community, but because her desire to help and empower whanau and wahine is genuinely felt in and through all that she does."

- Stuff

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