Kaipara District Council, with its headquarters in Dargaville, above, has been in the news this past week after new Mayor Craig Jepsen banned karakia from the start of council meetings on November 30, then did a U-turn on Thursday
There’s been one topic in the thoughts of many Kaipara residents this past week, the decision by their new Mayor Craig Jepson to ban karakia from the start of council meetings.
The decision, made at the first meeting of the new council, drew widespread condemnation, and Jepson says, plenty of support, from within Kaipara and across the country.
However, on Thursday morning Jepson backtracked, saying that future council meetings will be opened with a karakia, statement or reflection as chosen by councillors.
Since the news of the karakia ban broke there have been multiple stories from experts and public officials commenting on the decision, and it seems to be an issue that has divided the nation.
So the Northern Advocate went to Dargaville and Mangawhai – Kaipara’s two main centres – to find out what the people on the street thought of the decision – and we found thoughts are very divided on the topic.
We had completed our Dargaville vox pop and were on the way to Mangawhai when the Jepsen u-turn decision came through so the Dargaville quotes were just on the karakia ban decision, while those from Mangawhai are on the ban and the backtrack.
We asked people on Victoria St whether they agreed with the ban and why?
“I back the decision. We can’t just pick out one (culture). What about the Indians and Italians, do they get a say? We are one country. We are not Aotearoa, we are New Zealand, so I fully support (Jepson).”
Supports the mayor’s ban, but thinks the response to it has been over the top.
“I think they should be focusing on the issues that matter to us. I use a mobility scooter and the footpaths in town are terrible. And the roads are bad too. They should be looking at those rather than things like (karakia). I’d like them to try to get around town on my scooter then they’ll see what the real problems are.”
Supports the ban, but feels it has become a distraction.
“They should instead be focused on what we, the people they represent want. Our roads are absolutely shocking. They should be looking at fixing the things that impact on people directly, not these things.”
Doesn’t support the ban, and thinks it does nothing to help increase Māori participation in local government, as required under the Local Government Act.
“There are three mana whenua bodies here who have had a strong working relationship with Kaipara District Council. This says that mana whenua are not important now. A karakia is not religious. It’s about asking that people come together for the good of all, what’s wrong with that?
“In a way though he may have actually done Māori a favour. This will hopefully get far more Māori out voting in the next election and we won’t have to put up with people making decisions like this.”
We asked people if they supported the ban and why, and what they thought about the mayor’s u-turn?
“Personally I agree with him. I believe we are going too far one way, when we are one country and should all be treated the same, not one side getting more than everybody else.
“But this is not achieving anything for us. They need to be looking at the issues all Kaipara people want to be sorted out, like the roads and potholes.”
“I’m disappointed about that. He’d taken a strong stand and should have stuck with it.”
The ban: “I don’t think there’s any place in a business for religion like that, and the council is a business. I thought it was good idea to keep religion out of the council. They should be getting on with running their business.”
“I don’t think that was a good idea. He should put his foot down and stick to his guns. I think he has bowed to the pressure. The council should be doing all it can to keep rates down – and fix the potholes.”
“He probably just didn’t know the context. I think it was probably just a bit of ignorance, rather than anything sinister.”
“I think that’s a good decision. He’s been raked over the coals for it and has probably made the decision to back down to save face. But it’s the right decision to make. It’s important for them to do it (karakia) and he probably just didn’t realise the cultural significance of it.”
“I don’t think it’s a decision that should have been made. It was wrong.”
“The back down is a good idea. It’s important for people to be able to have their say at meetings like that.”