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Maori Students’ Association Blasted from Within

Keith Ng




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The Secretary of Vic’s Maori Students’ Association Ngai Tauira (NT), Sean Fernandez, has lashed out against the association and its executive, saying that they “do very little for Maori students”.
NT was thrown into disarray last year after the incoming executive discovered financial irregularities and initiated an investigation in June. Salient understands that around $160,000 went missing from NT’s accounts over several years. Last year also saw NT make changes to its constitution and promise to become an incorporated society.
Eight months later, documents vital to the investigation have not yet been given to the police. NT is still a non-incorporated society, with no legal requirements for accountability.
Fernandez blasted the executive. “Since my time on the Exec, the only thing the Exec has proven to me is that they do very little for Maori students. I have absolutely no confidence that they’ll keep any of their promises.
“After the investigation it was assumed that once we made constitutional changes, they would be adhered to. A number of the Executive, including some senior members, have failed in their duties to adhere to the constitution. I have no faith in the executive.
“I’d be asking myself, as a Maori student, what NT has done for Maori students, in a real sense, as opposed to offering the whakangahau, which is essentially just an end-of-year party. Other than that, NT hasn’t really done anything. I mean, what have we really done? We’ve opened the Men’s Room, what else have we done? Zip. We take all this money from Maori students […] I’m quite ashamed to be part of NT exec at the moment.
NT received $166,098 (15% of all student levies) in 2003.
“The reality is that if I could quit, I would. But my greatest fear, as well as [Treasurer] Kathy [Fernandez]’s, is that more money would be defrauded.”
NT Tumuaki (President) Rob Downes rejected the claims, and accused Fernandez of having “ulterior motives”.
“That’s really sad for him to say that,” said Downes, “at the end of the day, we’ve always wanted to become incorporated.” According to Downes, the Executive had only laid the groundwork for becoming an incorporated society over the holidays, and the Executive had not met since December. However, Downes “guarantee[s] that [the incorporation] will be done within the next month”.
Downes said that although he was concerned at the lack of progress in the investigation, he was told by police that the case was not a high priority, as police resources were required elsewhere.
Fernandez also said that “the biggest issues for students at Vic is not just what NT offers them, it’s that NT believes in its heart that it serves all Maori students. The reality is that it only targets students at the marae, and more specifically, it only targets students that are studying Maori Studies at the marae. The majority of Maori students at Vic do not go to marae, we can clearly see that by the fact that we’ve got four campuses now. How many students don’t ever come to Kelburn? So how many Maori students really come to the marae? Fuck all. That being the case, we’re not targeting anyone other than Exec members and their friends. We’ve had two whakangahau and both of them were essentially for the members of the Exec and their cliquey little friends.”
Downes defended NT’s focus on the marae: “NT came out of the marae, because our focus is on Maori students and making sure that the university is a safe environment for them. We utilise the marae to the fullest extent, we encourage our students to utilise the marae, even if they’re down at the School of Design – [though] there aren’t many Maori design students. We base a lot of our initiatives at the marae, that’s purely because, for a lot of students, this is a safehaven for them.”
Maori Students’ Orientation was held on the marae last week. “[The Maori Students’ Orientation] had nearly 300 people. We must be doing something right.”