Māori Wardens seek operational autonomy

By Leah Te Whata

The dialogue will continue between government, the Māori Council and Māori Wardens to determine whether or not Māori Wardens will be granted operational autonomy. Negotiations about the issue had been delayed by the change of government.

Māori Wardens are reinforcing their calls for independence.

Ōtāhūhū Māori Warden Co-ordinator Thomas Henry told Te Kāea, "What the Māori Wardens are really hoping for is their own autonomy."

Although negotiations were delayed at the change of government, Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta says that she's across it.

“At the moment, the thought is there, there is a pathway forward and we will try to reach an agreement in due course.”

Māori Wardens have legal responsibilities under the Māori Community Development Act and are currently managed by the government ministry, Te Puni Kōkiri. Māori Council Chairman Sir Edward Taihākurei Durie says this should not be.

Durie says, "Māori are capable of managing law and order themselves and managing their own systems and that's what we are still trying to achieve."

$1million was set aside in Budget 2018 for Māori Wardens to support youth in the communities. Durie says wardens should be the responsibility of Māori communities, represented by Māori Council.

"What we are saying it's time to give the wardens back to the council to manage it and that they should not be being managed by Te Puni Kōkiri."

However, Minister Mahuta says, talks will commence when the Māori Council annual elections are complete.

“When the Māori Council election is finished I'll talk to them and the wardens but there is a way forward if the wardens can agree that it is autonomy that they are seeking.”

With a reported eighty wardens waiting for Māori Council and government sign off to practice, patience is wearing thin.