19 Mar 2014

Wardens look for private work

7:44 am on 19 March 2014

Some Maori Wardens are bidding for private security work because they're not getting any government money, the Waitangi Tribunal has been told.

Owen Lloyd, of Tairawhiti District Maori Council.

Owen Lloyd, of Tairawhiti District Maori Council. Photo: RNZ / Gareth Thomas

Tairawhiti District Maori Council chair Owen Lloyd said at an urgent three-day tribunal hearing into the future of Maori Wardens that volunteers on the East Coast had tendered for work at festivals in a effort to generate an income.

They had sought contracts at Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne but their bids for private security work had so far been unsuccessful, he said.

Mr Lloyd has been giving evidence at a three-day urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the future of Maori Wardens, which continues on Wednesday at Pipitea Marae in Wellington.

The tribunal was also told some Maori Wardens were operating unsafely because they had not been issued with warrants.

In the capital alone, 30 wardens are patrolling without warrants because government advisors have suggested the Minister of Maori Affairs not issue them.

By law, the Maori Council has a statutory authority to control the wardens, and it says a warrant gives the volunteers the authority to be on duty.

But it says the government is interfering with the wardens by allowing Te Puni Kokiri to provide funding and training.

The Crown is being accused of diverting funds to Te Puni Kokiri that should be going directly to the Maori Council.

Not just about money

Council deputy chair for wardens Des Ratima says the issue isn't just about money; it's about tino rangatiratanga, or self determination.

If it was about money, the volunteers would have packed up and gone home long ago, he says.

But Mr Ratima estimates the council has missed out on about 60 percent of funding - more than $3 million - which has instead been given to Te Puni Kokiri.

The council will tie training to New Zealand Qualifications Authority qualifications if it receives the funding, too boost the job prospects of volunteers.

Council co-chair Maanu Paul says the council will be destroyed if the wardens are taken away and accuses the Crown of having no Maori feeling or spirit.

The three-day hearing is being held at Pipitea Marae, and more than 100 Maori Wardens attended the first day. They travelled in mini-buses to Wellington from throughout the country, including from the Far North and the East Coast, staying at marae along the way.

The Crown is due to call on its witnesses later on Wednesday.