What do taxpayers give a special person? Why, a $2000 (and more) flax cloak, of course

Alf enjoys a good piss-up when taxpayers pick up the tab, but only so long as he is invited.

Sadly, he wasn’t invited to the function to farewell two members of the Maori Language Commission board and celebrate 25 years of the Maori Language Act.

Accordingly (a) he is miffed and (b) he is apt to raise questions about the $12,110 (at least) spent on the function.

Mind you, his dander was raised only momentarily because he forgot the money spent on the occasion included farewell gifts (of more than $2000 each, according to the report here) for Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and Ruakere Hond.

And those people, it should be noted, are special people by virtue of their being indigenous.

The report at Stuff, based on figures released under the Official Information Act, says the event, “for Maori language stakeholders”, was held on August 1 and 2 in Wellington.

Wow. Two days of it, eh?

More than 200 people attended and invitees included Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, academics, public servants and members of the Maori media.

The commission spent $7610 flying 14 people to Wellington.

Flights were for incoming board members Katrina Evans and Poia Rewi, a speaker at the event and kaumatua.

Dame Iritana and Mr Hond spoke during the event and were presented with traditional Maori cloaks to thank them for their tenure of 12 and nine years respectively.

“Both of these former commissioners have been at the forefront of the language movement over the first 25 years of the Maori Language Act and continue to contribute to the future language going forward,” documents provided to Fairfax Media said.

As it happens, we are being assured there was nothing special about the gifts, because Stuff says they were consistent with the auditor-general’s guidelines.

Mind you, the auditor-general’s guidelines maybe differ when they are applied to our special people.

So what do special people give to other special people when they can dip into the public trough to raise the readies?

Dame Iritana’s cloak was made of flax fibre dyed with natural dyes and took one weaver about 70 hours to make. It cost $2000.

Mr Hond’s cloak cost $2500. It required the work of two weavers and took approximately 80 hours. It was made with leaves from Mt Taranaki.

Bloody hell.

The Warehouse could have shipped in a container-load of cloaks from China for that sort of money, although maybe they would not be made of flax.

But here’s something that puzzles Alf.

At the time of the event, commission chairman Erima Henare said Dame Iritana and Mr Hond had served te reo Maori all their lives.

All their lives?


And how did they do that – pray – at, let’s say, age one?

As well as incoming and outgoing commissioners, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, former Waitangi Tribunal chief judge Joe Williams, and former commission chairman Patu Hohepa spoke at the event.

Oh, two more points.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages were served at the formal event on August 1.

A smaller function, focused on community language development, was held the following day.

Maybe Alf would have declined the invitation to a non-alcohol function, had he been invited and was made aware no scotch would be served.

Dunno what they served at the smaller function, but because its focus was community language development, and the Eketahuna community has no language problems, it would have been a waste of your hard-working MP’s time.

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