Thursday, December 15, 2022

Don Brash: I admire Craig Jepson

Until a few days ago, I had never heard of Craig Jepson, and I suspect that that is also true of most New Zealanders. He has suddenly become almost as well-known as Meng Foon, the Race Relations Commissioner. Both men are hugely admired by some; and viscerally disliked by others – though those who admire Meng Foon no doubt detest Craig Jepson and vice versa.

For those who haven’t been following the media lately, Craig Jepson is of course the recently-elected mayor of the Kaipara District. He had the effrontery to point out to a Maori member of his council that reciting a karakia, or any other kind of prayer, at the beginning of a council meeting was quite inappropriate, given that the council is a secular institution.

After what I presume was some discussion with other councillors, Mayor Jepson announced that councillors could take it in turn to say some introductory words prior to council meetings, but these introductory words would not be part of the formal proceedings.

This wasn’t good enough for some Maori who insisted that reciting a karakia at the commencement of council meetings was some kind of absolute right, presumably guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi. They turned up in numbers prior to the council meeting this week, and ten of them were allowed to speak in what councils call Public Forum. Speaker after speaker denounced the mayor, and accused him of arrogance and racism.

But the mayor was absolutely right, and I have long been mystified by the willingness of councils to tolerate the intrusion of Maori customs into formal council meetings.

I recently attended the first meeting of a district council following the recent local body elections. Male councillors were seated in the front row; female councillors in the row behind. The meeting began with a karakia and several rather lengthy speeches in the Maori language. No translation was provided. Very few, if any, of the councillors understood what was being said.

Yes, the Maori language is one of New Zealand’s official languages (with sign language being the other official language), but to speak in a language which none of your listeners understand is at least inconsiderate if not downright rude. It is certainly no way to encourage understanding, or the way to convey information.

If a Catholic councillor wanted to open a council meeting by reciting the Rosary, nobody would be surprised if the mayor advised the councillor that reciting the Rosary would be inappropriate given that the council is an entirely secular institution.

I hope lots of people send Mayor Jepson supportive messages because he may be treading a lonely path. He needs to know that lots of New Zealanders, including no doubt lots of Maori New Zealanders, support him. His email address is

Dr Don Brash, Former Governor of the Reserve Bank and Leader of the New Zealand National Party from 2003 to 2006 and ACT in 2011.


RogerF said...

My wife and I sent the following:

"Congratulations on your stand.

It represents a true interpretation of the Treaty.

We would quote you the words attributed to John Stuart Mill - “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

The Treaty is the instrument of equal status for ALL New Zealanders. Those who oppose that intent are the harbingers of apartheid!

Your decision reflects the wisdom of Solomon.

The best to you and your supporters."

Ray S said...

Perhaps the councilors could get up and leave the chamber while the Maori prayer thing was being recited.
Having to sit and listen to something I have no knowledge of nor wish to have, would be like siting through a Metallica concert.
These people need to get over themselves.

Anonymous said...

Don Brash does not realise it was Cr Paniora who suggested the compromise solution. Clearly, she did not make this known to her kin-folk protesters who reject the compromise and continued to call Mayor Jepson a racist white supremacist.

Anonymous said...

Hello Don - I have been hoping he's getting lots of support too and I suspect he will be inundated with it. Thanks for saying what we are all thinking. There has been a little flash point of temper as when a child doesn't get it's own way. But this will settle down. I'm sure Craig is not one to buckle under what must have been immense pressure.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid I am getting so tired of this tribal bullying! A compromise was found ...Great now let's move on.

Ian Bilson said...

While in agreement with your statement, I have to say that the Mayor was,well,impolite and rather abrasive. Not wrong,but insensitive. Given that the imposition of Karakia has been longstanding, it would be more politic to allow it,once, and then embargo a repeat. Mallard removed the Parliamentary prayer,but that,of course,embodied Judeo-Christian sentiments. Karakea presumably,claim some special cultural,Treaty rights?