We see them in their smart black uniforms on the streets and at public events, but not a lot of people know much about Māori Wardens and their role in our community.
Just for starters, here's a surprising fact: Māori Wardens work up to 30 hours plus per week, voluntarily. Much of that work is at night, and in situations that some of us might see as dangerous. This alone is testimony to the kaupapa, or guiding philosophy of the Māori Warden service, which is 'aroha ki te tangata' translating as 'compassion for the community'.
The Māori Wardens' role
The wardens have many roles, including discouraging crime on the streets, assisting in keeping our youth and people safe, while being compassionate of those in need, whatever their situation might be. Māori Wardens are on Nelson streets from Thursday to Saturday nights, working in pairs, and focusing on any areas where young people gather. They may deliver young people home to their parents, or confiscate alcohol in the liquor ban area. They want to help, rather than to arrest people.
On the community welfare side, the Māori Wardens support families and have opened their own homes to people needing shelter. They also support people in the courts. Again these services are not confined to Māori - all nationalities are helped and supported by the wardens.
Māori Wardens are usually people of high standing in the Māori community. Their approach is based on rangimarie (peace), aroha (compassion), and korero (persuasion). Knowledge of taha Māori (Māori ways) and pride in Māori identity is the basis of the way the wardens operate. Their familiar presence in the uniforms does not only win the respect of the Māori community but is recognised by all.
There were precursors to the Māori Warden service as early as the 1870s, as Māori organised themselves in response to changes brought by Europeans to New Zealand.
In 1937, wardens were appointed in Rotorua to deal with problems with drunkenness.
In 1945, Māori Wardens became a legal entity with the passing of the Māori Advancement Act, which sought to deal with issues around the post-war move of the Māori population from rural areas to the cities.
In the 70s the system went into a decline, but happily, has enjoyed a resurgence since the 1980s.
For more information
Contact Pip Ruru, Chairperson on 027 471 4080