Karakia refused to Māori councillor by new Kaipara Mayor

Mayor Craig Jepson denied Māori ward councillor Pera Paniora a karakia at the first session of the new Kaipara District Council Wednesday. Video / Kaipara District Council

Conflict has erupted at a council meeting over a mayor's decision to shutdown a wahine Māori councillor wishing to recite karakia, before the opening of business.

Kaipara District Council met for the first time Wednesday, under new Mayor Craig Jepson, elected at October's local elections.

As is customary in councils and at the opening of parliament, Māori Ward councillor Pera Paniora, of Te Moanaui o Kaipara, wanted to begin the meeting with a karakia.

"Excuse me, just before we start, through the chair may I say the karakia?" Paniora said.

Jepson charged on saying 'you cannot interrupt, sorry'.

Paniora stated her case explaining the tikanga of karakia, which appeared to trigger Jepson.

"This is a council that's full of people who are non-religious, religious, of different ethnicities and I intend to run a secular council here which respects everybody and I will not be veering from that. Thank you." he rebuked.

"I don't agree with that." Paniora said.

"You cannot interject," Jepson struck back.

Paniora tried a final time by saying 'Excuse me for those who do practice...' but was ultimately shut down.

"Councillor Paniora, you are not allowed to speak in this manner and we will continue with our meeting." Jepson said.

"It doesn't really feel like a meeting," a third councillor interjected.

Paniora appeared to give up, however in a throw back 20 minutes later she said the karakia and members of her supporters sang Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi as part of her maiden speech.

"Seen as I wasn't able to do the karakia this morning, it's better late than never." she said.

Fellow councillors and attendees in the public gallery could be heard closing the prayer in unison, with a collective 'āmene'.

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