24 Aug 2016

Wananga issues trespass notice against founder

1:06 pm on 24 August 2016

Te Wananga o Aotearoa has issued a trespass notice against its founder Rongo Wetere, saying he tried to enter the tertiary provider's campus last Sunday.

Dr Rongo Wetere at his Te Awamutu office.

Dr Rongo Wetere Photo: Supplied / Mihirawhiti Serancke

The move follows allegations that Dr Wetere removed paintings of Ngāti Maniapoto leaders from the Maniapoto Trust Board's offices in Te Kuiti this week.

Dr Wetere has confirmed he has the artworks, which were removed from the King Country tribal offices on Monday.

Before the paintings were removed, Dr Wetere, who no longer has any involvement with Te Wananga o Aotearoa, allegedly tried to enter its Maniapoto Campus in Te Kuiti on Sunday but was prevented from doing so.

Wananga national communications manager James Ihaka said on the advice of police it had issued a trespass notice against Dr Wetere.

The notice covers all the wananga's campuses and is for two years.

Portrait of Dr Rongo Wetere - one of the paintings removed from the Maniapoto Trust Board offices.

A portrait of Dr Rongo Wetere - one of the paintings removed from the Maniapoto Trust Board's offices. Photo: Supplied / Mihirawhiti Serancke

Dr Wetere said he had commissioned the paintings of the tūpuna and did not want them at the offices of the trust, where he said there was poor decision-making.

Trust board deputy chairman Keith Ikin said the board had a very different view of the ownership.

"A record of a board meeting from 1989 in our view clarifies where that ownership lies, and in our view that minuted record quite clearly states that the ownership of those whakaahua [photos] is held by the board on behalf of all of Maniapoto."

Mr Ikin said the loss of the paintings, by the artist John Willetts, had been devastating for the whānau.

Dr Wetere is today returning to Canada, where he has developed a literacy programme for indigenous people.

More recently he has been holding meetings throughout the King Country discussing the possibility of taking action against the Crown for Treaty breaches through the High Court rather than the Waitangi Tribunal.

The idea has garnered support from some in Ngāti Maniapoto. The iwi has been involved in the Te Rohe Pōtae Inquiry involving 270 Treaty claims, which is looking at the Crown's relationship with the Kiingitanga movement, the construction of the main truck railway through the district and the creation of the Rohe Pōtae, including the 1883 petition.