Shane Jones on the Wero
List Member of Parliament
04 February 2008 Statement/column by Northland Labour MP Shane Jones on the Wero
“For some time now I have become increasingly disenchanted at the way our young Maori youth, or warriors, are conducting themselves during the WERO (challenge) as visitors of all races, creeds and religions are being welcomed onto the marae.
It is my great concern that there is an ongoing degeneration in the behaviour and conduct of this part of the Powhiri (Welcome) with an unnecessary level of growling and snarling.
It is part of the process that there is a challenge, but I can’t see why we need to have a growing trend of menacing and intimidatory behaviour by the youth involved because that is just not the Kaupapa of the traditional welcome.
It is not a good look for Maori youth to distort the kaupapa because by doing that they are perverting culture and tradition.
The Wero was meant to be, and should continue into eternity as a respectful challenge. It is not meant to be conducted in a manner of ugliness; applied to by the sort gang mentality that we so often see on our television screens.
I am at a loss to explain why our youth see it increasingly necessary to express themselves in this manner because not only are they showing a great deal of disrespect for their guests but also our own culture and traditions which we are so intent on taking to the world as we continue to develop and grow our economic clout through tourism.
The Wero is part of a beautiful and solemn custom and it must not be bastardised and turned into some sort of primal and basic ritual that only ends up frightening one’s visitors and denigrating our entire culture.
It is meant to be a statement of athleticism and prowess, not aggression and intimidation.
Teachers should wake up and make sure their charges knew the depths of the wero, otherwise it should be dispensed with altogether.
I hope we do not see this sort of behaviour at Waitangi this year, and I call upon our kaumatua, kuia (elders) and our kaiarahi (leaders) to maintain the proper cultural protocols that are properly reflective of our mana and culture.”