25 Oct 2019

Iwi leader to councillor: 'I'm not going to have Treaty work spat on'

5:01 pm on 25 October 2019

Iwi leader Buddy Mikaere says he won't allow 30 years of Treaty of Waitangi work to be undermined by the "inflammatory" views of a new Tauranga city councillor.

Buddy at Saint George's Anglican Church, Gate Pa.

Buddy Mikaere says he has tried to sit down and talk to new councillor Andrew Hollis who is describing the Treaty of Waitangi as "a joke". Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Earlier this week, Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell asked councillor Andrew Hollis to refrain from participating in any council business involving iwi or hapū, following comments he made calling for the Treaty of Waitangi to be burned.

Mr Hollis posted on social media that the Treaty is "a joke", and that there is a need to "stop the iwi gravy train".

In response, Mr Mikaere, a former director of the Waitangi Tribunal, said he wanted Mr Hollis to step aside from the council.

In the latest development, a tangata whenua representative, Hayden Henry, ripped copies of the Treaty from the council chamber wall as a protest against Mr Hollis' views.

Mr Mikaere told Morning Report that he had gone out of his way to talk to the new councillor, but "he thinks he knows better than everyone else, including the rest of New Zealand who accept the Treaty as the country's founding document".

He said the iwi were not over-reacting to councillor Hollis' remarks.

"People who are into this space will always try and plead freedom of speech and that they're being infringed but most reasonable people can see that this is inflammatory stuff that's being spoken about.

"I've spent over 30 years working in the Treaty space and I'm not going to have that work spat on by some Johnny-come-lately who has not got the expertise or the knowledge to make a sensible comment."

He said he could see why Mr Henry had ripped down the Treaty copies - he was obviously enraged that the council was bringing into it its fold a councillor who has deliberately enflamed the treaty situation.

"I guess Hayden took the view that why are you putting it up there if you're not going to make it a living document..."

Mr Mikaere said previously he had been pleased that copies of the Treaty were sitting at the heart of the body that was administering the city's affairs.

From now on, he would take every opportunity to ensure councillor Hollis played no part in any discussions involving iwi matters because he had a conflict of interest.

"The letter of the law, as I understand it, is that the council is bound under the Local Government Act to observe Treaty principles. So every time he sets foot in that council, we will be there saying this guy has got a conflict of interest, he should not take part in any debate that happens there because of that."

Most council meetings start with a public forum, and that would be an opportunity for people like him to remind the council of their responsibilities under the Local Government Act.

Mr Mikaere said Mr Hollis' opinions trampled all over the strong relationships between Pākehā and Māori in Tauranga.

It was disappointing to have a new council in place that was being overshadowed by "this idiot running around saying all these things".

RNZ has made several attempts to approach Mr Hollis for comment but he has not responded.