Dominion Post: Kohanga censorship not on

PRESS CONFERENCE: Te Kohanga Reo Trust Board chair, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and Tukoroirangi Morgan take questions from the media.

PRESS CONFERENCE: Te Kohanga Reo Trust Board chair, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and Tukoroirangi Morgan take questions from the media.

OPINION: The leaders of the kohanga reo movement gave a rare press conference over the weekend.

Unfortunately it did little to repair the organisation’s reputation for arrogance and secrecy at the top.

Most worryingly, the Kohanga Reo National Trust board barred journalists representing Maori Television’s Native Affairs programme from the event. This was apparently utu for their reports of alleged misspending by the trust’s commercial arm, Te Pataka Ohanga.

Controversy over the claims has dogged the kohanga reo movement for months. The allegations include TPO managers using public funds on a wedding dress, an $800 Trelise Cooper dress and a 21st birthday, as well as reports of a $50,000 koha to an unnamed board member. The Serious Fraud Office is now investigating.

Asked why the journalists had been banned, trust board member Tukoroirangi Morgan said: “We make our own choices on who we talk to.”

Yes, indeed, and everyone else makes their own choices about how to view such a vengeful, suspicious act.

Attempts to punish reporters in New Zealand are rare, but they have a history. Former prime minister Robert Muldoon famously banned journalists from his press conferences after critical stories, including former Dominion editor Richard Long and current Dominion Post cartoonist Tom Scott. “Take him away, will you?” Muldoon muttered into his microphone before Scott was ejected in 1982.

Contemporary politicians usually have the sense, or the training, to know such overt acts of retribution will only make things worse.

But other organisations occasionally walk into this sort of trouble. In 2012, a radio journalist was barred from covering the Wellington premiere of The Hobbit for reportedly producing “too many negative stories”. Once the ban became public, however, the film’s producers quickly rescinded it.

When public organisations or figures punish people who question them, it is troubling by itself. But it also usually points to something deeper that is rotten with them: a discomfort with scrutiny, and a sense of entitlement.

Morgan did not just object to the reporters’ presence. He also threatened to shut down the press conference over questions about the Serious Fraud Office investigation.

What the board members apparently still don’t realise is that their prevaricating and indignation over the spending allegations are hurting the cause they are supposed to be stewarding. As the 2012 Waitangi Tribunal report on the kohanga reo made clear, the movement is in trouble, with sharply declining rolls.

There are justifiable concerns about how the Government has funded and treated kohanga that need to be addressed.

But the trust’s own culture of privilege is slowing down that work.

It doesn’t need to censor journalists. It needs a shake-up.

Until the air gets cleared over the spending of public money, there will be little confidence in the national body.

And that means no new direction for these important education centres.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Charlie B
    Apr 17, 2014 @ 09:18:01

    Quote PM Key: That’s the appropriate thing & they should determine, whether there’s some sort of inappropriate behaviour or not’.

    Well if that is not the kettle calling the pot black and coming from such an outstanding citizen of questionable moral character what the hell is?

    Arrogance and secrecy are the hallmarks of a typical maori outfit trying to be like their white bros at the round table and that is where they all go wrong. Tuku always bragged at being able to go into the PMs office any time. He is a trojan horse of the worst kind but say what you like he is tenacious and he is still in there?

    The Kohanga are brownies at the brown table and brown wash don’t work because legally there is only protection for the white boys. Someone has to go down for this and I am picking some poor slob is “eventually” going to be elected to take the fall.

    NZ is a dodgy joint at the best of times and the presstitutes love this shit. Nothing like a bit of maori bashing in mainstream (fictionalised) media at election time to stir the pot, keep those brownies in check. The niggas steal a couple of bucks here and there and all hell breaks loose. Such is life?

    The corporations steal billions as in (untaxed rorts) and no she is all good mate.
    Thieving in NZ is only allowed by licensed stealers. If you don’t have a license your fucked. Thats why banksters have a license, so they steal everyday and they have their vaccinations giving absolute immunity against prosecution. Its called a protection racket designed by the ruling class over many years. Its fool proof.

    Unfortunately the Kohanga Reo National Trust board needs to look in the mirror and do the right thing. Someone stuffed up so they need to come clean and put it right. There has to be a sacrificial lamb doing the falling on the sword act otherwise the funding may get cut.

    The board members may then disappear up their own arseholes making Hone Key look very good in the process. We all know how he loves to look good. Lookin good brother, lookin good. Yeah right!


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