Hundreds flood Kaipara streets in protest of mayor Craig Jepson's karakia refusal


Hundreds gathered in Dargaville to protest against the Kaipara mayor on Wednesday morning.

It come two weeks after Craig Jepson repeatedly interrupted councillor Pera Paniora when she tried to open a hui with karakia.

He has since permitted karakia on a rotating basis just before meetings but not in them.

Paniora (Te Roroa, Ngāti Whātua), who represents Te Moananui o Kaipara, said the mayor's behaviour had been "disheartening".

"He states that he wants everyone to be included and treated equally. But from where I've been spending the last couple of weeks, he's not afforded the same opportunities to Māori and it comes across in such a way that makes you wonder, is there more to it?"

She said there was "a lack of respect or courtesy, shown by the mayor, and a simple discussion with me beforehand would have gone a long way".

Dame Rangimārie Naida Glavish spoke in front of the crowd, which grew in size to about 400 people, asking who the mayor thought he was.

She said the time for racists was over.

Jepson denied being racist, previously saying he handled the situation correctly.

Councillors were there to do business and specific religions or cultures should not be included in meetings, he said.

"It's not racist at all in my opinion, I'm not a racist person. I wanted to run a secular council, I'm quite happy to have all groups included."

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has said he was shocked and disappointed about what had happened at the council meeting.

"It's very important for councils and all organisations to create the right space to encourage Māori to honour the Treaty of Waitangi, to provide a space to express their culture and language," Foon said.

"I would encourage the leaders of Kaipara District Council to acknowledge that and create a safe environment for all people."