Ōtepoti creating more Māori Wardens

Dunedin will soon have a group of more than 20 Māori wardens taking turns patrolling the streets at night and during big events.

Published: Monday, 24 August 2015 | Rāhina, 24 Hereturikōkā, 2015

The new push for Māori wardens is being driven by Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou, through its subsidiary A3 Kaitiaki (A3K) and supported by Otago Police - including the provision of a van.

A3K operations manager Michelle Taiaroa-McDonald said the enthusiasm of the new volunteers was ''magnificent''.

She said the Wardens' programme had tapered off a lot over the past 20 years and many young people did not even know what a Māori Warden was.

''When I was a teenager, Māori Wardens were on the street. When we saw them walking down Stuart Street, we were off like robber's dogs because they were the ones who knew who your mother or your father was.''

New recruit Paritai Samuel said she was inspired to become a Warden because her father, Ben Samuels, had been one in the 1980s and 1990s.

''After a night of Wardens rounds there were often extra rangatahi [youth] at the breakfast table the next morning.

''I remember watching him put his uniform on and having that sense of pride about what he was doing. The Māori warden presence was very strong. They were highly regarded and an integral part of the Māori community in Dunedin.''

Iwi Pacific Liaison officer Coastal Otago area Senior Constable Toni Wall said the Māori Wardens’ would be mobile and able to travel around the district to places such as Invercargill and Central Otago to help out at big events.

People could expect to see them in the Octagon on weekends, at big sporting events and at other special events such as large tangi and large organised student parties.

A group of eight new Māori Wardens is in the final stages of training with another 10 to 15 about to start theirs.

Mrs Taiaroa-McDonald said the Wardens’ were fully trained volunteers who worked closely with police. They were provided with radios to stay in contact with nearby police.

She said their role was to support the Police ''prevention first'' policy and using korero (talking) to prevent problems, removing people from bad situations and encouraging them to go home. ''It is all about manaaki - how we take care of our people.''

Image: (back row from left) Jesse-Joe Clark, Natalie Karaitiana, Te Hau Moses, (front row from left) Anne Robertson, Chris Holtham and Paritai Samuel. Standing is James Mathews