Māori Wardens welcome $3.7mil govt investment

By Talisa Kupenga

Māori Wardens have received a $3.75mil boost from the government.  They say the funding is very much needed given the expansion of their volunteer roles and responsibilities.

Māori Wardens national manager Hakitia Wihongi (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) says, “I’ve been a warden for 35 years and back then we always had concerns about not having any funding.  I’m very pleased and thankful that the minister has worked hard for us to receive these funds."

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta says, "The wardens did raise concerns about how the funds would be shared.  I know it is only a small contribution but it's a start."

The funding will be used to invest directly into the development of a new Māori Warden self-management capability, along with increased training, recruitment and promotion.  The funds will also start an awards programme to recognise their work.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says, “Māori Wardens play a huge role within our communities and we want to invest in the wardens and ensure they have the right skills and tools to be of service to their communities.”

In the 1950s and 60s, the main role of Māori Wardens was to manage the behaviour of Māori under the influence of alcohol.  Their volunteer roles have since expanded to include helping the homeless and event management, through to facilitating youth at risk programmes.

They also support other organisations like the New Zealand Police, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide prevention groups.

Mahuta says, "Under the law they were granted permission to go into the homes of Māori and into pubs, but today they help our communities with other issues like drugs and the like which they work to prevent taking hold within our families."

There are more than 900 Māori Wardens nationwide.  More than 100 are youth.

Raukawa Māori Warden Jordan Winiata (Ngāti Kahungunu) says, "There is a lot of support from our iwi and communities for our wardens and they can see all the hard work they do.  It is a special role because it’s about supporting all of our Māori communities.”

A review launched earlier this year is looking into the changing roles of the wardens and how they can be better supported.  This is expected to be finalised at the end of the year. The last review was in 1962.

Minister Mahuta also voiced a desire to see a documentary made about the Māori Warden's story.