Tainui’s political infamy has spread far beyond Waikato’s main road and even residents of Timaru (a town located halfway to Antarctica) have taken notice and the Timaru Herald has some words to say about Tainui’s dirty politics.
Troubling times as Tainui factions form
The recent spate of reports flowing from the Waikato regarding the in-house fighting of Tainui are worrying. The latest flurry of accusations to be levelled at certain members of Waikato- Tainui takes the public back to a time when they found themselves in difficulty from a number of high-risk investments including owning the country’s only rugby league franchise, the Warriors.
Reflecting on that time they were simply bad investment decisions. In comparison with the number of high-flying finance companies that have gone bust over the past two years, some will have sympathy for the plight of Tainui. To their credit the string of bad investments made by Tainui were reversed and they now find themselves as major economic players within the Waikato .
The latest criticism to face Tainui however is more concerning. At stake is not a few million dollars but rather the respect of an institution. The Kingitanga, through the actions of King Tuheitia, are facing the scorn of some members due to some surprising behaviours exhibited by the King. Firstly there was the unprecedented move by Tuheitia to sack the chair of Te Kauhanganui, Tania Martin. Te Kauhanganui is the elected body that is charged with protecting the interests of Waikato-Tainui. Secondly the King apparently unleashed his tongue upon some unsuspecting kaumatua when they quizzed him over his actions.
Turning first to the Martin sacking. It would seem that Martin was tasked with preparing a report that looked at the financial spending of the management of Waikato-Tainui. What she found was that some people within management were being paid handsomely and thought it was best to bring this to the attention of Te Kauhanganui. That would seem like a reasonable step to take, given the process undertaken and the role of Martin.
King Tuheitia intervened and promptly sacked Martin. They seem to argue that Martin didn’t get her facts and figures right. That is a legitimate concern, yet I would have thought that the obvious process would have been to discuss those concerns within Te Kauhanganui, not for the King to have dismissed Martin immediately?
Tukukoroirangi Morgan was interviewed by Julian Wilcox on Native Affairs after Martin received the news that she had been given the boot. He defended the actions of Tuheitia, in the role of chair of the management arm of Waikato-Tainui, by stating they had followed their constitutional processes. He backtracked when Wilcox said he could not find the provision within their constitution for the King to sack the chairperson.
The second criticism levelled at King Tuheitia is that he swore several times at a hui, exclaiming that if certain people did not like what had happened, they could “f… off”. I have never heard of a heredity leader within Maoridom using that kind of language. It leads me to think that Tom Roa, former chair of Te Kauhanganui, , was right when he publicly criticised the King’s actions and said that the King was being ill- advised by his council.
People will compare the recent actions of Tuheitia with that of his mother, Queen Te Atairangikaahu. I would be the first to admit that at times I have been frustrated by the apparent lack of intervention expressed by Te Atairangikaahu on issues affecting Maoridom. After having witnessed this latest stoush within Tainui, I have come to quickly appreciate that some separation between the figurehead and the organisation is a good thing. Preserving the dignity of the Kingitanga enables doors to open that would otherwise be shut and possibilities to be explored that otherwise would not exist.
I’m not sure how this script will read when completed. The factions within Tainui seem to be forming; Tuheitia doesn’t appear to be backing down and Martin’s Marae are in no rush to tell her to accept her firing.
One hopes lessons can be learned from this experience and Tainui become the wiser for it.