Kaipara mayor won't lift karakia ban: 'I don't have to include anything'

By Kelvin McDonald
Photo / File

Kaipara mayor Craig Jepson has no plans to backtrack on his refusal to allow karakia at council meetings, despite the Race Relations Commissioner expressing shock at his actions, RNZ says.

Kaipara District Council met for the first time on Wednesday, under the new mayor elected at October's local elections.

As is customary in councils and at the opening of parliament, Māori Ward councillor Pera Paniora, of Te Moanaui o Kaipara, wanted to begin the meeting with a karakia. However, Jepson shut this down.

"This is a council that's 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." Jepson said, after Paniora explained the tikanga of karakia.

While his actions have been described by some as culturally insensitive, Jepson said he handled the situation correctly, today's RNZ report says.

"I don't have to include anything in the meetings. I don't have to include Indian culture, Asian culture, any other culture or religion or non-religious group - or nordic - I don't have to give selections to anybody. We're there to do the business, we don't have to open it in any way," said Jepson.

This is despite Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon stating it is important to honour the Treaty of Waitangi.

"It's very important for councils and all organisations to create the right space to encourage Māori to honour the Treaty of Waitangi, to provide a space to express their culture and language," Foon said.

"I would encourage the leaders of Kaipara District Council to acknowledge that and create a safe environment for all people."