With the future direction of the Māori wardens hinging on a looming Waitangi Tribunal decision, NZ First leader Winston Peters says the wardens have been neglected for too long and has committed to funding them in the future.
They offer a familiar face at many an event, a presence that helps keep order but they're in dire need of a clear direction.
NZ First leader Winston Peters says, "We're certainly going to fund the Māori wardens because they've done a profoundly good job."
The NZ Māori Council called Te Pūni Kōkiri's role with the wardens unlawful and challenged them in an urgent tribunal hearing earlier this year. Under the Māori Development Act, the wardens come solely under the council. At present, the wardens are being governed by both the Council and TPK.
Deputy chair of the Māori Wardens Association, Des Ratima says that it hasn't worked at all. "It's been divisive, and caused angst among the wardens themselves."
When asked whether TPK or the NZ Māori Council should manage funding for the wardens, Winston Peters replied, "neither".
Peters wants to see the wardens be in control of their own organisation, an entity unto themselves similar to the Māori Women's Welfare League.
Processes are already underway to upskill the wardens, but progress is somewhat hindered by the looming decision from the Tribunal.
Mr Ratima says, "If it doesn't go in our favour, we really have to have a think about how to challenge the finding."
The tribunal says there is much to consider on this issue of governance before a decision date can be set.