Makeshift marae rules not ka pai
It seems strange that at so many formal occasions now it’s men’s bare thighs and taiaha on display while distinguished women are in back row seats ‘‘for their protection’’.
Latest breach of generally accepted community good manners was Maori banning senior nonMaori women MPs from their accepted front-row parliamentary benches for a Maori occasion in Parliament.
‘‘that was custom in Wellington’s Maori marae’’ which the parliamentary chamber was not.
Once, when my Northland Health Board’s meeting room was made ‘‘a marae’’ for our inaugural meeting, members waited outside until we were summoned.
I stood back to allow the then chairman, Winston Peter’s sister, to lead us in.
She backed away and sternly waved me in with ‘‘in our culture, men go first’’.
I still stood back with ‘‘in my culture, women go first’’.
As an impasse threatened, we walked in side by side.
When Auckland’s first term not-so-super-city was born, the town hall was mysteriously redefined as a marae, thus relegating deputy mayor Penny Hulse to a second-row seat.
In an earlier classic occasion, northern Maori silenced unusually tearful Helen Clark because local women have no marae speaking rights.
When the then ATI university welcomed its first batch of communication students, its North Shore hall also somehow became a marae. Outcomes: ‘‘Communication’’ students sat through 40 minutes of untranslated te reo until the occasion came to an abrupt halt.
Then, in a second, the makeshift marae reverted to being a hall and the deputy director of the communication department, silent until then as a woman, was allowed to greet the new class – in English.
At the next board of studies meeting I sought to have future welcomes translated as they went.
The minutes later reported – until I had them changed – ‘‘Mr Booth objected to the use of Maori’’.
Not so. It simply seemed weird to me that the students I would teach communication skills to spent the first part of their three year course with no knowledge of what was being ‘‘communicated’’ to them.
Who said local bodies are dull? Excluding recent not-so-super facts from Auckland, of course.
Michael Bassett, historian, onetime Auckland city councillor and local government minister, disproves that dull belief with his newly published 400-plus page Auckland City Council history, 1989-2010.
A fine research project with a flash-back cover highlighting that ideal ‘‘City of Sails’’ label the last lot scrapped.
Typical Bassett research turned up new or forgotten information, put past events and people into perspective.
Like when, among a raft of historic amalgamations, an old council was absorbed without trace into Auckland:
Bassett: ‘‘Of immediate interest to those entrusted with the new council’s finances were the actions of ... the mayor, councillors and senior staff (who) appeared intent on treating the borough’s resources as theirs to dispose of. Councilowned flats sold at low prices, the proceeds directed to the project closest to councillors’ hearts – improvement of a park. ‘Appreciation bonuses’ were paid to council staff. The town clerk received a ‘sizeable’ redundancy and was able to buy his near-new car at a favourable price.
‘‘He also bought a council property for $30,000, believed worth as much as $700,000. The town clerk was able to borrow from the expiring council concessional rate.
‘‘Four adjacent council properties were sold on the day before the council went out of existence, at less than half their value.
‘‘Purchasers were the mayor’s children, a son of one of the councillors, and one of his friends.’’
PS: I wonder how any future historian will handle recent affairs?
Michael Bassett: The former MP and political historian is the author of a new book revisiting Auckland’s local body history.