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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Solomon saga tests tribe's wisdom

It's the big showdown in the south as Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu meets in Christchurch today and tomorrow to discuss the fate of the tribe's embattled chairperson.

Rank and file Ngai Tahu hope the hui will put an end to the squabbling which has split the country's wealthiest tribe.

Mark Solomon has faced repeated coup attempts over the past three years, but each time his casting vote has been enough to keep him on as kaiwhakahaere.

He outlasted one of his main opponents, former chief executive Tahu Potiki, but the attacks keep coming - despite indications of widespread support for Mr Solomon at the marae level.

In an open letter this month, ormer Ngai Tahu Trust Board chair Sir Tipene O'Regan, the new chair of the tribe's commercial arm, Wally Stone, and kaumatua Rakiihia Tau this month accused Mr Solomon of bringing the tribe into disrepute.

Today's hui was supposed to have been held a fortnight ago, but was put off because of the death of executive member Kelly Davis, one of Mr Solomon's opponents.

A lot may depend on how Mr Davis's replacement votes.

But the only thing likely to settle the raru is fresh elections, and they aren't due until later in the year.


The Minister of Maori Affairs says there should be more resources going in to a programme which improves the achievement of Maori in mainstream schools.

A report released yesterday on Te Kotahitanga found the Waikato University-designed programme boosted literacy and numeracy among Maori students in 12 pilot schools.

Parekura Horomia says Te Kotahitanga offers teachers an alternative way of dealing with Maori students.

“This is about building a relationship between the teacher and student and it’s about teachers having a good understanding of the students’ individual needs. It was extended last year to include another 21 schools and beginning in may is an independent evaluation, and that’s certainly what brings more resources,” Mr Horomia says.

Te Kotahitanga is attracting worldwide attention for the way it acknowledges cultural diversity in the classroom.


Green MP Nandor Tancoz says police would be overstepping the mark if they gave employers the names of people they bust buying cannabis.

South Auckland police have this month arrested more than 50 people allegedly buying from tinnie houses in Otara.

Mr Tanczos says the police role is to prosecute people who break the law, and informing employers is not part of the job.

“Where's it going to stop? Are they going to start looking at who buys a beer from the pub so they can inform employers? It’s just well beyond their responsibilities as police officer and for my mind, if they spent more time investigating real offences, crimes of violence and crimes of theft, they wouldn’t have any time to be going to talk to employers about someone who might have bought a tinny one day,” Mr Tanczos says.

He says research shows Maori are seven times more likely to be charged with possession of marijuana than non Maori.


Ngai Tahu members are arriving at Te Waipounamu House in Christchurch about now for a two day hui on the tribe's leadership.

The hui is expected to focus on the performance of kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon and on the tactics of those board members and tribal elders who have tried to unseat him.

There will be a lot of interest in the vote of the runanga executive's newest member, Gerald Coates from Waihao runanga.

Mr Coates replaces the late Kelly Davis, who had been one of nine executive members bloc-voting against Mr Solomon.

Tribe members held an informal meeting at Christchurch's Rehua Marae last night to discuss the row, which some elders claim is bringing the country's richest iwi into disrepute.

Mr Solomon says he feels comfortable about the likely outcome of the hui.


Te Papa's outgoing kaihautuu Maori says the agreed release of remains by Chicago's Field Museum should open the doors to other institutions.

Te Taru White says the remains - one toi moko or preserved head and a number of bones - could be back in New Zealand within the next couple of months.

Mr White says the important thing was the decision was made.

“That wasn't an overnight wonder. It didn’t happen by accident. we worked hard, damn hard, on the relationship with Chicago. They’re the third largest museum in the world. They’re like Fort Knox – similar to the British Museum in that sense – and for them to agree was a major breakthrough. We now are looking forward to many of the institutions in the United States following suit,” Mr White says.


The newly appointed executive manager of Auckland University's James Henare Maori Research Centre says his priority will be cementing the centre's connections with the north.

Te Tuhi Robust from Ngapuhi and Ngati Porou holds a doctorate in education from Auckland, but his early career was spent teaching in Northland schools.

The centre was established in 1993 to address the issues of Maori north of Tamaki, but went into recess in recent years.

Dr Robust says the decision to establish a second base in Whangarei should improve its effectiveness this time round.

“A lot of our people live in Auckland here and other parts of New Zealand, but first of all we have to look at maintaining and getting credentialed presence of the University of Auckland in supporting any Maori development in the Tai Tokerau,” Dr Robust says.

Merata Kawharu from Ngati Whatua and Ngapuhi was appointed research director of the James Henare Research Centre.


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