Protesters disrupt MWWL National Conference

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Māori Women's Welfare League (MWWL) President Prue Kapua and others including Kīngi Tūheitia Paki and league Patron Te Makau Ariki Atawhai were blocked from entering the venue of the MWWL National Conference today.

Members expressed disappointment and anger with the protesters this morning.  The group was protesting because Hinerangi Puru was not allowed into the conference.

Ripeka Lessels from the Waiariki branch says, “According to Hinepuru, she has the right to attend these conferences based on the work done by her mother.”

Puru is the patron for the Rongopai branch, of which Pauline Rewiti is a member. 

Rewiti has taken the League to court after it's national executive secured 180 amendments to the constitution in 2013, including an amendment allowing presidents to serve more than one term.

However, Kapua explained that Puru had not registered to attend the conference.

“They had the opportunity to register if that's what they wanted to do but they didn't and so Waiariki got in behind her and Materoa [Dodd] got in behind her and that's what occurred. 

"What happened was that we couldn't get through," says Kapua.

Te Tairawhiti members cleared a path to allow registered attendees a safe passage through.

Kim Hapi from the Te Tairāwhiti branch says, “We formed a guard of honour, not to trample on anyone, but to fix the things that were not right.”

As a result, Waiariki branch members chose not to enter the conference and did not make the roll call.  Therefore Waiariki are not represented at the conference.

Lessels says, “It is a big problem, but a bigger problem is this issue of barring our elders from the conference.”

Kapua says, “This is the time to be airing issues, not standing stopping people outside the door.”

MWWL branch delegates put their foot down.  One League member says, “We all got taken to court, the whole lot of us.”

Another member says, “We actually need to pull their heads in. and if they don't want to be here, they need to leave.”

A remit by the Ōtautahi Waipounamu branch aimed at expelling Pauline Rewiti and seven other witnesses who submitted evidence in a court case against the League will be tabled tomorrow.