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Top Maori representative walks away from council

Raihania Tipoki said South Wairarapa Maori needed a greater degree of autonomy. PHOTO/FILE

Private meetings ‘upset’ councillors

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Raihania Tipoki was the chairman of the South Wairarapa District Council’s Maori standing committee – he’s now resigned over what he said was a long-running dispute about the place of the group within the council.

Tipoki, who joined the committee in 2015, and chaired from 2016, was one of the people behind the logo overhaul, and suggested the motto, kia reretahi tatau [let’s fly together], now used by the council.

In his resignation letter Tipoki said, “unfortunately, they decide when they want to fly with us and when they’d rather leave us behind”.

Progress under previous mayor Viv Napier was reportedly constructive and this developed into what he called a “decent working relationship” between the standing committee and the council.

“We put so much time into that previous council – and now we’ve got a new group of people who we have to work with, a new group of people we have to prove to that we add value.”

Tipoki said the nature of the election cycle meant things “went back to square one”.

An incident pre-lockdown, before a Maori standing committee meeting prompted Tipoki to evaluate his position as chairman. A group of the standing committee members would meet an hour before the Maori standing committee meeting proper – a practice reportedly established under Napier.

“We wanted to meet, because we don’t do that. Anyone that can see the state of our marae, and all the issues we have to deal with, we don’t have time to come together as South Wairarapa Maori.”

Tipoki said the group was primarily for discussion and avoided making large decisions.

The administrator of the Maori standing committee then reportedly sent an email invite before one of the meetings, erroneously described in the communication as a “workshop” – this went to all members of the Maori standing committee, including councillors.

Tipoki said that some of the councillors were upset by the standing committee’s private meetings, and that this demonstrated to him that the SWDC “wanted to exert control over us, or didn’t trust us”.

In his resignation letter, Tipoki stated that he felt worn “from continually attempting to illustrate the importance of not only the Maori perspective but also our values, philosophies, and passion”.

Tipoki, said South Wairarapa Maori needed a greater degree of autonomy, and have “outgrown council”.

He said his decision was not based on the actions of specific individuals working within the council.

“I would like to thank the many kind people, past and present, who have supported me within the organisation.”

Mayor Alex Beijen responded to questioning, and said he that he was “confident” in the future relationship with the standing committee, and its deputy chairperson Narida Hooper, whom he commended.

He said, in the case of Tipoki’s departure, that it was important to “balance personal obligations with civic ones”.


  1. Equally, councils need to update and renew councillors and the same is required of the Maori Standing Members to refresh their own representatives to better reflect the general maori community rather than one persons personal agenda or belief which is not a fair reflection or true representation of the south wairarapa maori community.

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