Kaipara mayor unbans karakia from council meetings

11:48 am on 8 December 2022
Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson (centre in red robe) alongside Te Moananui Māori Ward councillor Pera Paniora.

Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson (centre in red robe) alongside Te Moananui Māori Ward councillor Pera Paniora. Photo: LDR / Susan Botting

The mayor of Kaipara has backed down on banning karakia from council hui.

Craig Jepson repeatedly interrupted councillor Pera Paniora when she attempted to open a meeting with karakia last week.

The mayor on Thursday said in a statement there was an "open and frank discussion" between elected members on Wednesday.

They agreed councillors would have the opportunity, on a rotating basis, "to recite karakia, make statements of choice and forms of reflection", immediately prior to the opening of a council meeting.

Jepson said it has been "a stressful process" for members and family but there will "always be contrasting views".

He had previously stood firm on the karakia ban, last week saying while being "quite happy to have all groups included", he didn't "have to include Indian culture, Asian culture, any other culture or religion or non-religious group - or Nordic - I don't have to give selections to anybody".

"We're there to do the business, we don't have to open it in any way."

Pera Paniora (Te Roroa, Ngāti Whātua), who represents Te Moananui o Kaipara, said the compromise was an improvement.

"I'm quite happy with that compromise, it does mean that all the councillors feel included and comfortable and we are not forcing anything on them that they don't agree with."

However, because the karakia would be said before the meeting and not as part of the meeting, to some, that limitation was a let down, she said.

"I've had feedback that compromise is not okay from our people's perspective, they want karakia in the meeting."

It became clear at the gathering yesterday that some councillors had supported the mayor's opposition, she said.

"There are other very, very strong views within the council chamber, in relation to karakia. It is by no means the majority, but there are some very extreme views against it."

Jepson, a first-term mayor, had previously campaigned against Māori wards but insisted last week he was not racist.

A petition with more than 5500 signatures had called for him to stand down, and members of the Kaipara community organised a hīkoi next week to protest the ban.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon condemned the ban.

But he commended the Kaipara mayor today for backtracking on the ban at council hui.

"I think there needs to be a healing process to go through to ensure the karakia and other aspects of community culture is safe," he said.

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