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No. 8 (Winter 1954)
– 41 –

Kawerau …

Even if the annual conference of the Maori Section of the National Council of Churches, held at Kawerau on February 16 and 17, had led to nothing at all, it would still be a valuable piece of Maori culture. Fifty of us lying or sitting in the finely carved Kawerau meeting-house for two days and three nights, maintained the traditions of oratory and aroha, and spoke on the fundamental questions of Maoritanga, enjoying meanwhile the very best of Maori hospitality. Even if nothing had been done it would have been a memorable experience, with so many wise men and fine orators present, and an agenda of such wide and general interest.


However, the conference did lead to interesting new developments in four practical issues of the day: hostels, broadcasts, race relations and temperance. To begin with the most ‘practical’ issue of all, conference endorsed the executive's appointment of a management committee for a Maori apprentices' hostel, to be jointly managed by the constituent churches at Rotorua. This Rotorua hostel makes church history, as it is the first permanent social service undertaken by the constituent churches (Church of England, Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church) in collaboration. The name of the hostel—appropriately—is to be Whanaungatanga (Unity). The management committee is to include three local representatives of each of the three constituent churches, three members elected from the Maori Section executive, and one co-opted, but with power to vote, from each of the following: Vocational Guidance Council, District Maori Welfare Officer, Arawa Maori Trust Board, Maori Women's Welfare Leagues, District Council of Tribal Executives, Maori Women's Health Leagues, making in all the very large number of eighteen members.


On the hostel scheme there was not very much discussion, as the gathering clerics naturally had more interest in cultural and spiritual problems than in details of administration. The debate on the next item, broadcasting, made up for it. Unfortunately, most of the discussion centred on what delegates from the conference were to say at an interview with the Director of Broadcasting, and interesting though this was, publication was not permitted. Members unanimously believed that good broadcasts in the Maori language, especially on subjects touching on Maoritanga, would be of immeasurable value to the present-day Maori, both young and old. A scheme was discussed for giving practical help in the preparation of such broadcasts. The broadcasting committee under Rev. Te K. Paenga was re-elected.


Although the matters under discussion were very often very much of this world, speakers never lost sight of their theological and spiritual foundations. This was particularly noteworthy in the debate on racial relations. At last year's conference two papers on this subject were read, and the Rev. Dan Kaa was deputed to work out a practical programme for the Maori Section to follow, based on the two papers. Instead of doing this, the Rev. Kaa presented, in a third paper, a brilliant account of the Christian attitude to racial problems.

Conference was grateful for the Rev. Kaa's essay, and set up a special committee under Bishop Panapa to come to a definite policy on race relations, using all three papers. Conference favoured an active, even militant approach to the race relations problem. The Maori Section's views and their spiritual foundation are well presented in a few questions from the Rev. Kaa's essay, which should be of general interest.