Kaipara mayor reverses karakia ban

By James Perry

The councillor at the centre of the Kaipara karakia controversy is "content" with the decision made by Kaipara District mayor Craig Jepson and fellow councillors to allow a form of karakia at council meetings.

Jepson backed down on his controversial decision to ban karakia at council meetings following an "open and frank" meeting yesterday that resulted in a compromise where each councillor will take turns in opening and closing meetings with a karakia, affirmation, prayer or reflection of the day.

Maori ward councillor Pera Paniora, who the mayor refused to allow today a karakia at the council's first meeting says the compromise is a unique way forward for karakia where all councillors can feel included and comfortable.

"Tikanga can adapt and evolve. I am content with this compromise on the basis that our wider tikanga also includes manaakitanga and aroha," she said in a statement on social media.

"A kaumatua will hold a session on the tikanga surrounding karakia so as to ensure each councillor understands and observes the tikanga of the karakia practice."

In a statement released earlier today, Jepson said an "open, frank" discussion took place between himself and eight councillors to find a way to best accommodate the needs of "all elected members".

'Uniting to strengthen'

"Agreement was reached that each councillor will have the opportunity on a rotating basis immediately prior to the opening of the ordinary Council Meeting to recite karakia, make statements of choice and forms of reflection.

"This issue has been a stressful process for members and family. Councillors acknowledge there will always be contrasting views. However, we unite to strengthen our council in a mutual desire to maintain and improve the communities we serve," Jepson said.

The discussion comes a week after Jepson interrupted an attempt by Māori ward councillor Pera Paniora to open the council's first full meeting with a karakia in te reo Māori.

In his blocking of the request by Paniora, Jepson said the council is "full of people who are non-religious, religious, of different ethnicities and I intend to run a secular council here, which respects everybody, and I will not be veering from that. Thank you."

That caused outrage among Māori, with Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara chair Kahurangi Naida Glavish calling for him to step down from office and intending to meet with Jepson, whether he wanted to or not, to discuss the matter.