Anyhow... I liked this story. That is not to say l liked the subject but I thought the reporter, Tim Donoghue, did a good job with it.
I thought he presented a clear and balanced story with comment mostly left for those he had interviewed rather than allowing his own opinion to colour the story. The sidebar was also a good backgrounder for the story.However the lack of comment from one of the key players got me to thinking.
The story is about how a Wainuiomata kohanga reo could be forced to charge higher prices after being taken to court by its Maori trust landowner.
Pukeatua Kohanga Reo currently charges parents $188.50 a week for each child but a dispute with the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, over its annual rent, could force it to charge up to $230.
In the article, Trust manager Aroha Thorpe said the kohanga reo had agreed in 2009 to a “fair market rental” being determined and signed an agreement to that effect but, as yet, no rent has been paid. As a result the trust has taken the kohanga to court in a bid to force payment of the full rent.However this is not a clear cut case of tenant vs landlord.
The story notes that this “dispute appears to be the latest battle in a feud between Te Atiawa factions in Wellington and Lower Hutt. It follows arguments over ownership of a ceremonial waka and Waiwhetu Maori raising concerns about the settlement trust's finances”.
The feud stems from the transfer of ownership of the land and buildings of the former Wainuiomata College to the trust as part of the 2009 Port Nicholson Trust settlement.
While Thorpe commented on the issue with the kohanga it was noted that Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love was unavailable for comment.
Which is a shame, the accusations levelled at the trust by the kohanga and in the backgrounder have serious undertones of disharmony and it would have been nice to hear from Sir Ngatata on the subject again.
As a Maori Affairs reporter I was often left feeling frustrated when tribal leaders either were not available for comment or simply declined. Too often my only option was to use the “not available for comment” or “declined to comment when contacted”. Which is weak, really.
I am a firm believer that tribal leaders should be accountable to their people and I think that this means commenting to the media when they have to. What do you think?