Indigenous | Dame Naida Glavish

Iwi call on Kaipara mayor to resign over karakia ban

The Kaipara District Council was confronted by hundreds of protesters in Dargaville this morning amid calls for mayor Craig Jepson to resign.

Local iwi are upset over Jepson's refusal to allow Māori ward councillor Pera Pāniora the opportunity to say a karakia at the first council meeting held last month, and, while a compromise has since been reached, the iwi says it's too late and they want the mayor gone.

Pāniora herself stopped short of calling the mayor racist.

"If you look up the definition of racism and have a look around at what's happening at Kaipara District Council, you can make your own mind up."

On the streets of Dargaville, anti-racist placards and calls for Jepson to resign his position as mayor were seen, and Jepson, along with his co-councillors, heard from iwi leaders like Dame Naida Glavish who were unequivocal in their opposition to the ban.

"A karakia is an incantation from atua that cannot be denied by anybody, mayor or otherwise."

Glavish says this is an example of blatant racism, and Jepson should resign.

Jepson stands outside his council chambers to hear from protestors.

'Put an end to racism'

"The racism that still exists today, we need to annihilate it. We must put an end to it."

A compromise was made earlier this month, where each councillor will take turns in opening and closing meetings with a karakia, affirmation, prayer, or reflection of the day, something the iwi disagree with.

Ngāti Wai chairman Aperahama Edwards says karakia is Māori, and should be treated as such by the council.

"To us, the mayor still lives in the dark ages, and the fear is that attitude is prevalent in the minds of some of his council mates."

Despite the issues thrown Pāniora's way, she is looking forward to doing the mahi for her people.

"We have a housing shortage, and social housing is a huge issue. So things like that I would like to be able to turn my attention to, which is what I campaigned on and what I was elected to do."

Teaomā has asked mayor Craig Jepson to respond to the claims of racism but at the time of publication, we had had no response.