There has been a fair bit of comment over the past 24 hours about a previously little-know piece of legislation entitled the Māori Community Development Act 1962. A TV3 article highlighted the planned use of sections of this Act by the police to control unruly behaviour by Māori during the Rugby World Cup. The section of the Act causing controversy is section 32:
32 Maori may be ordered to leave hotel
(1) A Maori Warden may at any reasonable time enter any licensed
premises in any area where he is authorised to carry out his
duties and order any Maori who appears to be intoxicated or
partly intoxicated, or who is violent, quarrelsome, or disorderly,
whether intoxicated or not, to leave the premises.
(2) If the Maori refuses or fails to leave the premises when ordered
to do so as aforesaid, he commits an offence against this Act
and the Warden may request any member of the Police to expel
the Maori from the premises and that member may do so with
or without the assistance of the Warden.
The power granted to Māori Wardens in this case is fairly self-explanatory and any decision to remove a Māori rests solely with the Māori Warden and not the police. I have seen many comments today to the effect that the Act is racist and should be abolished. Such calls are misguided and those making them fail to understand the purpose of the Act and why these powers are included. Māori Wardens are intended as a buffer between Māori communities and the police. Their existence is a prime example of Tino Rangatiratanga in action.
For the past 170 years we have continued to assert our right to Tino Rangatiratanga. In the realm of law and order there are frequent calls for Māori solutions to be provided and the Māori Wardens are a crucial element in this. They exist as a uniquely Māori solution to preventing unruly behaviour from escalating. Consider the current riots sweeping through the United Kingdom. If that occurred here, and Māori youth were involved, who would have a better chance of restoring peace to the streets – the police of Māori Wardens?
Abolishing the Act is not the answer here, nor is calling the police racist in their efforts to utilise Māori Wardens in the community. To take away the power of a Māori Warden to act to prevent unruly behaviour renders their position useless. In fact, the greater engagement of the Māori Wardens by the police is a good thing for Māori. After-all, we have been asking for generations for our right to manage our own affairs to be upheld.
Update: The Māori Wardens have today come out and stated that they will not be dragging Māori out of bars. There was nothing to suggest that they would either, they are a force of peace in our community.