Q+A interview with Hannah Tamaki
Sunday 31st July, 2011
Q+A interview with Hannah Tamaki.
May look for role in another group if not elected president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League: “I’m prepared to work with any organisation that looks after the family”
But will stay with League even if not elected
Efforts to become President ‘not a money grab’, nothing to do with securing MSD funding
Insists she has nothing to do with Destiny’s social services arm
Does not have political ambitions
Claims forming 10 branches in one day was within League’s rules; no regrets
Forming 10 groups in one day ‘not cheating’; says branches not illegal despite court ruling
Denies reports that Destiny paid the subs of the members of 10 illegal new branches; says individuals all paid their own subs
‘Surprised’ when her name was removed from ballot paper
Wants to lift profile of League because most people don’t know it still exists
Maori Women’s Welfare League has proud history of religious leaders, including Same Whina Cooper
Denies Destiny is a cult, rather an organisation with a ‘strong Christian basis’
The interview has been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be watched on tvnz.co.nz at, http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news
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HANNAH TAMAKI interviewed by PAUL HOLMES
Hannah Tamaki, welcome.
HANNAH TAMAKI -
Destiny Church Pastor
Thank you, Paul.
PAUL Why would you want to be president of an organisation [Maori Women’s Welfare League] that doesn’t seem to want you?
HANNAH Well, at the beginning I didn’t know that they didn’t want me. It wasn’t till actually all this stuff happened in the media. But the reality is I was an eligible candidate. My nomination was accepted, and so, yes, I was a bit surprised when my name was removed off the ballot sheet.
PAUL Let’s come to that shortly. But what motivates you? What could the Maori Women’s Welfare League do better? You’ve been a member for 27 months. That’s another problem they have with you - you’ve been around five minutes. But, anyway, what do you think the Maori Women’s Welfare League could do better?
HANNAH Well, Paul, I don’t really know what I could say about it being better, but the things is I wanted to lift the profile of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, because how many people in New Zealand actually knew the Maori Women’s Welfare League still existed? I only found out seven years ago that it still was around, and I think probably a lot of viewers this morning will still be wondering what do the Maori Women’s Welfare League people represent and who are they?
PAUL There is a lot people who wonder what the Destiny Church represents and who are you? I think the problem for the Maori Women’s Welfare League regarding you is the perception that you represent a cult.
HANNAH Well, we’re a very strong Christian-based organisation. We’re a church who has Christ as its foundations.
PAUL Yes, I know. But you do cultish things, or you seem to say things that people think are cultish. Your husband, for example, says the New Zealand Government is inherently evil, that your organisation wants to wage war on secular humanism, liberalism, relativism, pluralism and the radical homosexual agenda - what any of those are. The Maori Women’s Welfare League might think that political and odd.
HANNAH Well, in actual fact, the Maori Women’s Welfare League is political. What we’re doing here is political. Over the past few days, I’ve been involved in lots of political things. There’s manoeuvring and all sorts of things happening, just like a political party will. At the end of the day, if you put your name for a president of any organisation or a political leader, there’s a process, and that process is actually a political one. This is new to me, but reality is I put my name forward in good faith. I’ve worked with Maori people for over 30 years - right from the little tamariki to the nannies and the koros. So I really don’t see the problem.
PAUL The problem is this - that you tried to rig the election. You see, that was illegal and corrupt. (CHUCKLES)
HANNAH Paul, I can explain some of that to you, which will be great. No, it was tikanga. It wasn’t corrupt.
PAUL Mrs Tamaki, it’s corrupt to try and rig elections.
HANNAH No, Paul, it fitted the constitution, and it was by the rules. There were three groups already nearly established before we had that weekend. One was in Brisbane, Australia, and two were down in the Bay of Plenty. They’d been waiting for 18 months to be recognised. So if you look at that, there have been 29 new branches established since then, not just the 10.
PAUL No one’s arguing about those, I think, Mrs Tamaki. They’re arguing about the 10, and the Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not rig elections’, I think.
HANNAH (LAUGHS) Well, I haven’t read that, Paul.
PAUL No, well, I’m sure it’s in there. And there you were, in the eyes of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, cheating, Hannah.
HANNAH That’s not cheating. And the other thing is that there are eight candidates standing, and the other thing is that they’re all lobbying for support too. Paul, I was fortunate enough to have a conference where there was other 1200 women represented there. They heard that I was going to stand…
PAUL No, look, go back to your dodgy branches that the judge said you couldn’t have.
HANNAH They’re not illegal.
PAUL Let us be realistic about this. You set up 10 branches all based at the Destiny Church and one day designed to get you, no doubt, 100 of the 350 votes available. Destiny paid all the subs of the new members.
HANNAH They did not. The people paid their own subs.
PAUL Well, the judge said, ‘Sorry. Those aren’t acceptable.’
HANNAH To tikanga, Paul. Reality is I heard Winston Peters says on radio that if I wanted to fight that, I could have. I chose not to.
PAUL No, he said you could fight it to get your name back on the ballot.
HANNAH No, no. I could fight it to get those branches approved. And they weren’t all Destiny people. There are a lot of people from Anglican churches, Catholic churches, Ratana church. Maori Women’s Welfare League is a strong, faith-based organisation.
PAUL The thing was it looked bad. You had 10…
HANNAH Admittedly, it may look bad, but, you know, Paul, when people support you…
PAUL Do you regret doing it?
HANNAH No, I don’t regret doing it, because I don’t regret the fact that 700 people agreed and wanted to support me.
PAUL Yeah, but it made the Maori Women’s Welfare League suspicious of what you were up to.
HANNAH Well, what about the unlawful act of what they did to me by taking my name off the ballot? I was not told.
PAUL It shows you how much they detested what you did.
HANNAH But that was even before this all came out, Paul.
PAUL Don’t you see, though, that shows how they detested what you did.
HANNAH At the end of the day, Paul, I’m here to stand up for Maori women. I am a Maori woman, I’m a mother, and I’m a grandmother. And I do have a passion, and I do still want to represent the Maori Women’s Welfare League.
PAUL Can I just ask you this too? Because this is going around. To what extent is your attempt to become the president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League about money? Destiny earns a small fortune in Ministry of Social Development funding for its social programmes. I understand some of these programmes are very good. And now under the Whanau Ora regime, all your applications this year were declined. So it is said that you want control of the Maori Women’s Welfare League or have a close alliance with the Maori Women’s Welfare League in order to get funding by association with the Maori Women’s Welfare League. Is that so?
HANNAH Well, I don’t have anything to do with the social arm there. But the other thing is, Paul…
PAUL The judge accepted… Excuse me, the judge… You are the co-leader of the Destiny Church, and the judge did not believe that the social arm and Destiny were separate. He said you were pulling the wool over his eyes.
HANNAH Well, I’m here to tell you, Paul, I am not the manager of the social arm. And the other thing is I have made it very clear in the public realm that I do not want to take an income from the Maori Women’s Welfare League. I have said that right from day dot. I’m prepared to do this as a koha. Voluntary
PAUL Don’t you see the judge had a concern…? The judge was bothered that there is no separation, really… He did not believe there was a separation between you and your husband as co-leaders of the Destiny Church and the social-spending arm. He didn’t accept it.
HANNAH Mm. OK. Well, um, bishop means overseer, so Brian is the overseer of 10 other churches, so he is the bishop of the other churches. I am one of 20 pastors, so we are not co-leaders. I have worked hard with him, like lots of women work hard with their husbands in their profession.
PAUL I understand, but he didn’t really believe there was a separation, a correct separation, and so that the business of your attempts to become president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League could be about the money for the Destiny Church.
HANNAH No, it can’t.
PAUL I’m just going to ask you one more on this, and I’ll leave you alone. The 10 branches that day were set up by the wife of George Ngatai, the chief executive of your social programme. Do you see what I mean? It looks like a money grab.
HANNAH It’s not a money grab. It’s a genuine reach out for people to be a part of the league. There were seven set up that day, and three were already established, but they hadn’t been recognised yet, and two of them for 18 months. So, you know, you’re looking at women who genuinely saw that I was going to be involved with something, were passionate about it too…
PAUL The problem, I suppose, for the Maori Women’s Welfare League is they see your church and the power of your church, and the position of the president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League is one of great power. The president can issue directives, decide fates, decide disputes, run the finances. And you’re a person who set up 10 phoney branches to get 100 votes.
HANNAH Paul, the manager runs the finances, not the president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League. And let’s get back to the core principle of the league - it is very Christian-based. Whina Cooper was a strong Christian, a strong Catholic.
PAUL A strong Catholic, it’s true.
PAUL It’s faith-based, that is true, but it doesn’t want to be overtly political. That’s in its manifesto. And it sees when Shane Jones show up and Tau Henare and Pita Sharples you’ve got the holding of hands, they see you people as having political ambition.
HANNAH Well, I don’t have a political… You know, I wanted to step outside the church and do something for the community genuinely. I’ve worked with families for 30 years. I’m genuinely bringing myself to the table. If the Maori Women’s Welfare League don’t vote me in, I’m prepared to work with any organisation that looks after the family, and I’ll do it voluntarily, Paul.
PAUL Well, if they don’t vote you in as president, would you still stay with the Maori Women’s Welfare League?
HANNAH Yes, I will, because I do believe in it. I wasn’t raised in the league. My mum left when I was 6 years old. I had no Maori influence around me. So, the fact is I heard about the Maori Women’s Welfare League. It touched something inside of me and drew me back to a relationship with my mother.
PAUL Can I ask you this? Yes, I understand that.
HANNAH Yeah, that’s fine.
PAUL Can I ask you this? If you were to become…? You are the figure you are in the Destiny Church. If you were to become president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, would you expect there to be a restoration of the money which you’d been declined for the continuation of Destiny’s social programmes? Do you understand me?
HANNAH No, it’s totally… I don’t even manage anything to do with the social arm of the church. I’m more hands-on with everyday people, Paul. I help Maori people get into business. I help families who are in trouble. I talk to ex-convicts. I talk to families whose family are in prison. I’m an on-the-ground type person. I’m not a person who just wants to sit in an office and do directives. In the league, you have to be in a committee and work things. I couldn’t make a decision and just do things off my own bat. It’s about working together with other people, and that’s what I’m prepared to do.
PAUL Are you winning, do you think?
HANNAH Well, I think it’s given me a great opportunity to be able to speak to people I did not expect I’d get this sort of media reaction. Um, admittedly…
PAUL 10 branches in one day. (LAUGHS)
HANNAH Well, I think any political party would be quite pleased if they could get the same sort of sign-ups in one day. Let’s be realistic.
PAUL (LAUGHS) I’m sure. Hannah Tamaki, thank you very much for coming in.
HANNAH Thank you, Paul.