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From History: How Maori Council supported the first National Maori Wardens Association

In our look back through the history of the New Zealand Maori Council we will be publishing old articles and notes on history. Many will remember the old New Zealand Maori Council Journal - well; we thought it was time to revisit that history in order to provide context to todays events ... we take a look back at some of the history of the New Zealand Maori Wardens:

A call for a National Association for Maori Wardens goes right back to 1966 and even further still when the then current system of Maori Wardens was established in 1953. In September of 1967 the Journal of Council reported the following:

In 1966 the Maori Council held its meet the people meeting in Waitara. One of the topics discussed was the work of the Maori Wardens. These Wardens are appointed by the Minister of Maori Affairs under the Maori Welfare Act which gives them a certain amount of Authority over other Maori’s, particularly over those who may be drunk and disorderly in hotels or at Maori gatherings.

Discrimination or self-control?

Because Wardens themselves must be Maoris and because they have powers over other Maoris and no one else, some people (including, we believe, the Minister of Affairs himself) regard the system of Maori Wardens as a form of discrimination based on race. The Maori Council prefers to look at it positively as the acceptance of Maoris of a form of self-discipline based on pride in being Maori and on the ties of Aroha that bind Maori to Maori. The success of the Maori Wardens has been such that hostels are appointing their own Wardens. We know that Islanders too, are especially keen to appoint their own Wardens but the Government has so far not been able to see an acceptable way of this being done officially.

Results of Waitara meeting

The discussions of Wardens problems at Waitara led the Maori Council to set up a sub-committee to consider whether there was a case for a National Wardens Association. There were already several local Associations that had proved to be of great value. It was thought that these local Associations should be formed in all remaining Districts and that a national body could make these local groups more effective. The Sub-Committee met first in Rotorua. The result of the meeting was a draft constitution which has since formed the basis for discussions in many different parts of the country. The chairman of the sub-committee, Mr. Haratura Rogers, has addressed meetings of Wardens in Otiria and Hamilton and the proposals contained in the draft constitution have been thrashed out in meetings in almost all other districts. The idea of district associations has been seized on everywhere, but there have been some doubts expressed at the value of a national association.

At the Councils Omahu meeting earlier this year it was decided that the time had arrived for representatives of the districts Wardens Association to be called together to discuss this final questions and an invitation went out for them to attend the Councils recent meeting in Wellington.

In response to this invitation the was attended by the following Wardens:

  • Tokerau Represented by Graham Latimer (already a Council member)

  • Auckland J. Wihongi and J H Papa both of Henderson

  • Waiariki, J, Winiata and P.N Hill President and Secretary of the Waiariki District Wardens Association

  • Tairawhiti, J Pomana of Wairoa

  • Aotea. G Whakarau and N. Tui, President and Secretary of the Aotea District Wardens Association together with N. Mako, T Karatau and T. Harris.

  • Ikaroa, W Hill President of the Wellington Wardens Association

  • Te Waipounamu J Dennny of Christchurch and A.R Lamont of Invercargill

The main point to be decided in discussions with the Council was whether the national association should be established. Any doubts that there may have been were soon removed and the Council passed the following resolution without dissent;

“The Council recognises that the continuing need for Maori Wardens and declares its support for the proposed New Zealand Maori Wardens Association.”

It was further agreed that the Councils administration committee should make arrangements for first meeting of the executive of this National Wardens Association. The place and time has yet to be fixed.

Wardens Discussions

After these decisions had been made the Wardens representatives left the Council meeting for further talks on their own. After electing George Whakarau of Wanganui as Chairman they agreed that that national executive of the Association should consist of Chairman and Secretary of the eight district associations with a third elected member. They pointed out the need for more women as Wardens and they suggested that inactive Wardens should have their warrants withdrawn. Some of the more difficult problems faced by Wardens were also discussed and it was agreed that a book of rules or suggestions for the guidance of Wardens would be most helpful. In 1953 when the existing system of Maori Wardens was established, few Maoris had been accepted into the Police Force. That this situation has now changed is partly due to the effective work of Wardens in helping Maoris to cope with rapidly changing social circumstances.

Wardens are believed still to have an independent part to play. To the New Zealand Maori Council they deserve more adequate support and guidance.; hence the interest the Council has taken in giving them an organisation of their own. The proposal that the Chairman and the Secretary of the Maori Council should also be the Chairman and Secretary of the Wardens Association was welcomed by those gathered in Wellington as this will provide the essential link between Council and Association. Mr. Whakarau said the formation of an Association would be a great step towards giving the Wardens and authorative body to guide and help them in their welfare work amongst their Maori people. He praised the Council for giving their backing to the Wardens.

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