Stop Co-governance tour leader Julian Batchelor and Tauranga historian and iwi representative Buddy Mikaere. Photos / Peter de Graaf / Alex Cairns
A Tauranga historian and iwi representative feels “embarrassed and ashamed” a local community hall is hosting anti-co-governance meetings which he believes excludes people because of their race – and is vowing to protest at the events.
But the man at the centre of the meetings says he’s just kicking out troublemakers and it has nothing to do with ethnicity.
Three Stop Co-Governance meetings are being held at Mount Maunganui Community Hall from Friday to Sunday this weekend.
Buddy Mikaere has called for the meetings to be cancelled because of what he believes is their “anti-co-governance diatribe”.
Mikaere, who has whakapapa links to all Tauranga iwi but identifies most closely with Ngati Pukenga and the Ngai Tamarawaho hapu of Ngati Ranginui, said he disagreed with what he believed to be the premise of the meetings: that through a so-called Māori elite, co-governance would allow Māori to take over the running of the country and for that reason, it needed to be stopped.
In his view, co-governance was “simply putting into effect the principle of partnership as envisaged by the Treaty of Waitangi”, Mikaere said.
“Probably the best example of co-governance already in effect is found in the Local Government Act where Parts 2 and 6 require councils to establish and maintain opportunities for Māori to contribute to decision-making processes, consider ways in which they can foster the development of Māori capacity to contribute to decision-making processes and provide relevant information to Māori. Important decisions about land or water bodies must take into account the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions.”
Mikaere said the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Māori wards was an example of this working.
He said he was left feeling. “upset” by the Mount Maunganui Community Hall hosting the meetings after Māori with opposing views were denied entry to previous meetings held in other parts of the country.
Mikaere said a community facility designed for community activities was being used for an event that he believed denied entry to members of that community based solely on race.
“How can that possibly fit within their constitution or whatever it is that they operate under?
As someone brought up in Mount Maunganui, he said he felt embarrassed and ashamed and it did not reflect the Mount Maunganui community that he grew up in.
Last month, Local Democracy Reporting reported Marlborough filmmaker Keelan Walker tried to attend a Blenheim meeting but was stopped at the door, told he could not come in because he wasn’t a “good Māori” who would sit there and listen and “be respectful all the way through”.
Julian Batchelor was filmed at the entrance saying: “Māori are wrecking our meetings”.
Based on what he saw at the time, it appeared to Walker that the only Māori who managed to get in were “fairer in complexion”.
Protests and upset have also plagued other meetings, with police being called to separate counter-protesters and attendees in Orewa in March. Several venues listed on that tour were either cancelled, refused a booking or haven’t received a booking. In April, a Tauranga leg of the tour was relocated to a secret location after “bullies” and “impossible” health and safety requirements, Batchelor said at the time.
Mikaere told the Bay of Plenty Times that some people believed the meetings were “just the exercise of free speech”.
But in his view: “Well just substitute the word Jew for Māori in the anti-co-governance diatribe and see where that gets you. Yes, there is free speech but it comes with responsibilities and consequences.”
Mikaere “and many other like-minded citizens” planned to protest this weekend’s meetings “to make sure Bachelor knows that he and his views are not welcome”.
The Bay of Plenty Times rang a contact number for the Mount Maunganui Community Hall committee. A woman who answered and spoke as a committee representative, said they would not cancel the meetings because they were treating the hiree “just like everyone else”.
“If people want to hire the hall, we do not judge. On Sunday, there’s a church group. I don’t go to church but I’m not going to tell anyone not to go.”
The woman, who refused to provide her name, said the meeting was open to everyone.
“Everyone’s allowed in if they can behave themselves. We just don’t want any trouble.”
However, she later conceded that entry to the meeting was actually up to the hall hiree. In this case, Batchelor.
The woman said previous reports of Māori being excluded or turned away from meetings, because of their race, were “inaccurate”.
“You’re just writing the stuff the Government tells you to write.”
Asked for a response to concerns that the community hall was being used for meetings that excluded members of the community, the woman said she was aware Stop Co-Governance meetings had done this before “but for a very good reason, they are there to cause trouble”.
Batchelor told the Bay of Plenty Times the only people excluded from meetings were people who were threatening or intimidating in their behaviour.
“Māoris have never been excluded from meetings. We only exclude people who are not going to behave.”
Asked how he could tell who was going to behave, or not, Batchelor responded: “How can you usually tell?”
Batchelor said some people were aggressive, threatening, and intimidating. It was for these reasons he hired security at his meetings, he said.
“We had protesters at every meeting … of every shape and size. We have to protect the people who come to listen to what I have to say.”
Batchelor said freedom of speech was two-pronged: He had a right to speak and people had a right to listen.
He said the community hall was not at fault. The only problem was the “activists”, he said.
“It’s got nothing to do with the hall. It’s the behaviour of the people trying to force their way into meetings to disrespect the meetings,” Batchelor said.
Each meeting has a guest list, with names of people who are checked at the door.