10 Aug 2011

Maori Wardens say they're helpers - not racist

7:47 pm on 10 August 2011

Maori Wardens say it is sad the Prime Minister and others have labelled as racist a law that allows them to deal with drunk people.

The wardens will patrol bars during the Rugby World Cup and can order Maori patrons out if they are drunk.

The law also says wardens can stop bars from serving any Maori who seem drunk, violent, quarrelsome or disorderly - or likely to become so.

Prime Minister John Key says the law appears to be racist and some Wellington bar owners have objected.

Maori Wardens' president Gloria Hughes says the law's archaic language needs changing, but wardens have a kaupapa-driven duty to support and protect.

She says as soon as the wardens start to lose sight of the Maori ethos which is fundamental to it, it will turn into something different.

Ms Hughes says the most important thing is how wardens deal with people and the Maori values around that. She says wardens help everyone, regardless of ethnicity.

Wellington City Council says the law sounds old-fashioned, but wardens will be useful in the capital during and after the rugby tournament.

Wardens have not patrolled Wellington for many years, but an agreement with police and the council will see them back in the entertainment district, including Courtenay Place.

Council spokesperson Richard MacLean says many bar owners and others were surprised to learn about the law.

Mr MacLean says although he agrees the law sounds archaic, he admits the wardens still have an important role to play by assisting police.