Could this be Tuku Morgan’s final act? From the NZ Herald:Although the vote failed, the message is clear. Shape up or ship out, Tuku. 30 Marae affirmed the resolution to disqualify Tuku Morgan while 27 voted against, two abstained and six votes were deemed invalid. This may be the watershed moment in what has been a prolonged and filthy battle between Tuku Morgan and Te Arataura and Tania Martin and her supporters in Te Kauhanganui.
A Tainui board has backed Tuku Morgan's leadership after a wider tribal parliamentary vote at the weekend threatened to end it.
On Saturday Mr Morgan faced a vote to remove him from chairing Te Arataura, the tribe's executive board, based on misconduct allegations.
To be successful it required 50 per cent of 65 marae attending the tribe's half-yearly Te Kauhanganui or parliamentary meeting on Saturday to vote to remove him.
Having said that, some confusion remains. Initial reports suggested a plurality was enough to remove Tuku, however later claims from Te Arataura suggested that a majority was needed for a removal resolution to be successful. Consequently, Te Arataura has taken the issue to Court claiming that their interpretation of the Constitution holds that a majority is needed to remove Tuku. I cannot say who is in the right without reading the Constitution; suffice to say some interesting legal issues are raised. As an aside it is interesting to note that over the years Te Arataura have gradually altered the Constitution, even to the point of inserting some provisions of the Companies Act 1993, no doubt in an attempt to shift power from Te Kauhanganui to the Executive Board.
Trouble between Tania Martin and Tuku Morgan, and by extension Te Kauhanganui and Te Arataura, emerged late last year when Tania Martin released a report criticising Te Arataura, but in particular Tuku Morgan. Tuku then cried foul and lobbied Kingi Tuheitia to remove her. The King obliged and used his mana as Arikinui of Tainui to remove Tania Martin as Chairwoman of te Kauhanganui. Consequently, Tania Martin invoked the mana of the law and took the issue to Court seeking reinstatement. Justice Hansen obliged and held that Tania Martin’s removal was unlawful. A tit for tat public battle ensured with both sides smearing the other. Recently Tuku Morgan filed a complaint with the Police alleging financial mismanagement on Tania Martin’s part, however the Police refused to investigate the complaint claiming that there was insufficient evidence to justify an investigation.
This latest battle may be the defining moment of the war. It is clear that despite Tuku Morgan’s behind the scenes lobbying and public attacks that Tania Martin enjoys the support of Te Kauhanganui. Te Kauhanganui is the ultimate authority in Tainui and maintains the mana to speak on behalf of all of Tainui. Unless Tuku Morgan can pull Te Kauhanganui in his direction he will not win. Tuku’s favourite play is to erect procedural barriers. He engages his solicitors, Chapman Tripp for the record, and he assaults his victims with legalese and threats. For example, the meeting in question has been delayed by Tuku for months as he knew, full well may I add, that he would lose the vote.
Te Kauhanganui also voted on resolution seven: disqualification of the Executive Board. That vote failed meaning Tuku’s minions remain and appear, at least for now, safe. It appears that they have avoided been implicated in Tuku’s dodgy plays.
At its most basic this dirty episode comes down to rotten personalities and toxic tribal politics. Tainui has experienced more than its share of internal political dramas, then again most Iwi have, but Tainui’s problems seem to play out on the national stage. For me this saga speaks to the unnecessary complexity of Iwi post-settlement entities and the self-interest many of the Iwi elite operate with. The Tainui Brown Table is a putrid one, one that needs to be destroyed and remade. Remade with the interests of the people at its core. The problem Te Arataura has is that they operate like a business. They treat their operations like they are a massive corporation and the people like they are expendable and marginal shareholders. In my opinion, the sooner Tuku and his mates are removed the sooner Te Arataura can go back to serving the people. Finally, isn’t it funny how Tuku always seems to be at the centre of these dramas within Tainui. Take what you will from that.
UPDATE: Waikato Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta has called for the issue to be resolved outside of the Court room. Mahuta is careful not to pick sides, but I tend to think she is leaning towards supporting the decisions of Te Kauhanganui. Good on her.