Morgan Godfery on King Tuheitia

December 7th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Morgan Godfery blogs at Maui Street:

It’s worth remembering that the Kingitanga is not an expression of power or sovereignty. The movement is an expression of and tool for unity. Tuheitia, however, appears to treat his office as if it’s a cheap imitation of the worst aspects European Royal Protocol. …

Guests are also encouraged to refer to Tuheitia as “your majesty”. Odd. I find it strange that royal protocols exist at all – Te Atairangikaahu did not keep a protocol guide. Hell, when she travelled the country she would stay at the homes of her friends and whanau. No hotels and chauffeurs, thank you very much. After all, the Kingitanga isn’t about reverance and mana does not extend to those people with less having to act towards you with veneration. 

Add to that a verbal incident that the Waikato Times reported in 2010. Apparently, in a meeting about Tania Martin and Te Kauhanganui, Tuheitia let rip against a kaumatua and Tame Iti’s sister. The King is reported to have asked the kaumatua whether he can “fucking read” and, when called on it, he told Iti if she doesn’t like it she can “fuck off”. Not the qualities you would expect of any leader, let alone the Maori King. 

Waikato-Tainui members are also asking whether this is part of a continuing campaign for more power and money. In January this year Tuheitia first voiced his desire to “take control of the tribe’s parliament” and Chris Webster reports that the Office of the King has received millions in tribal funding from 2009. Earlier this year Tuheitia penned a plea in the tribal magazine, Te Hookioi, for further funding. You have to ask whether the King’s latest reach for power, read the first and the most recent open letters, are part of a pattern.

Another cause for worry is the King’s cartel of advisors. The King maintains a large office, in comparison to his mother at least, including Rangi Wallace who admitted to beating his step-daughter and her mother, Helen Kotua. Further to that, Wallace also owed $250,000 to IRD in 2011 and Kotua owed Baycorp over $3000. Kotua, I should mention, is the author of the protocols above.  …

In one sense, the behaviour of the Maori King is simply a matter for Tainui. It is up to them. However the former Maori Queen was held in high regard by many New Zealanders and widely mourned when she died. It is a shame to see her successor act so differently.

I’m not a great fan of royalty and hereditary succession – for New Zealand, or elsewhere. However, it can work reasonably well when the monarch merely reigns rather than rules.

King Tuheitia obviously desires to rule Tainui, with his proposal that he be given the authority to both veto and dissolve the tribal parliament. Now that is a matter for Tainui, but I make the general point from history that monarchs who try to rule, not reign, generally end up serving themselves – not their people.

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Responding to Morgan

July 20th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Morgan Godfery blogged a response to me on the Takamore case. He said:

There is a clash of laws. In New Zealand, and elsewhere, the common law position is that the executrix of the will (Miss Clarke) will prevail. Under Maori law, a majority opinion in the whanau will prevail. The wishes of the deceased and the deceased’ partner are, in most cases, subordinate to the wishes of the wider whanau.

The question then is, what law should prevail? In this particular case, I am comfortable with the common law position (or the western position) prevailing. Why? Well, because the deceased made it clear he wanted to lay in Otautahi (Christchurch) as did his children. However, in a situation where there is no explicit wish and the deceased is Maori, I think Maori law must prevail. These situations are rare and should be decided on a case by case basis.

I’m not necessarily against the wider whanau deciding, if there is no explicit wish from the deceased. I am very firm that the explicit wishes of the deceased should be paramount.

However I believe good laws deliver certainty.  People should know where they stand under the law, so they don’t break then. And this is where a law that say the wishes of a majority opinion in the whanau will decide, has problems. Who decides who counts in the whanau? Does an uncle or aunt count? How about cousins? Do children and partners get the same say as a second cousin? Do only Maori members of the whanau count? Does that mean the Pakeha partner doesn’t even get a vote?

If one seriously wants customary law to prevail, then you need to define it better. If you do not, then I think that significantly increase the number of disputes and potential for unilateral action.

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