Te Tai Tokerau MP backs iwi against police over vetting border volunteers

By Heta Gardiner

Northern leaders, both inside and outside of Parliament, have pushed back at police vetting of volunteers at the Te Tai Tokerau border.

Te Ao Mārama spoke to Hone Harawira today, after he himself manned the northern border until the early hours, this morning. He was "hōhā" at the decision to require iwi border volunteers to be vetted by police.

“We started this kaupapa 19 months ago, and yet just this week we get the memo, telling us there is a new rule that people must be vetted by police. I’m disappointed and annoyed because I see our people trying so hard to protect our whānau, hapū and iwi.”

Harawira got surprising support from Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis, the MP who stood against Harawira four times for the seat he now holds. Despite being a cabinet mnister alongside Police Minister Poto Williams, Davis openly disagreed with the police stance to vet iwi border volunteers, after working alongside them for over a year and a half, without any obligations to be vetted.

“I agree with Hone. They have been working together for how long now? Hone and the iwi border team have been working with police for almost two years, without any major issues. So I don’t see why there is a problem (with having unvetted volunteers) now.”

“These volunteers having been doing the work to protect the people of the north," he said. "They’re doing the mahi, and I think they should be allowed to continue to do what they’ve been doing, for the protection of Te Tai Tokerau.”

Responding to the concerns about police vetting at the border, Poto Williams said she was comfortable with the position taken by the police. “I know that police are taking this very seriously, and ensuring that people that are engaging with the public are able to do so but I know there are a lot of opportunities for volunteers to help out, with coffee and tea in the background as well.”