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Allegations were made about staff conduct at Manurewa Marae during the local elections in 2022.

Manurewa Marae

Politics

Manurewa Marae alleged to have politicised vaccination events

Local Democracy Reporter Mary Afemata has found that complaints were made to Auckland Council about how staff at the South Auckland marae were collecting voting papers and using vaccination rollouts as campaign events.

Staff at Manurewa Marae have had complaints laid against them that they encouraged people to vote for the Manurewa Action Team during vaccination events in 2022.

The allegations claim the behaviour took place around the time of the local body elections that same year.

In early June this year, Stats NZ appointed an independent external investigator to look into separate claims that Manurewa Marae misused census data to help Te Pāti Māori's election campaign.

Local Democracy Reporting has found complaints were made to Auckland Council about how staff at the Manurewa Marae were collecting voting papers and also using vaccination events as campaign events.

The allegation claimed that during vaccination events people were encouraged to vote for the Manurewa Action Team.

Anna Bray says it is important for electors with accessibility or mobility challenges to have options available to them. Photo/supplied

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The Manurewa Action Team is a political ticket that endorses candidates running for local government elections. The successful candidates for the Manurewa Local Board from the 2022 elections were Matt Winiata, Glenn Murphy, Rangi McLean, Anne Candy, and Heather Andrew.

Daniel Newman was elected as the Manurewa-Papakura ward Councillor.

Auckland Council has confirmed that a complaint was made at the time but said it felt there was no cause for further action and the “complaint was withdrawn”.

“During the 2022 local elections there was a complaint lodged with the Electoral Officer about activity by volunteers associated with the Manurewa Marae," Anna Bray, council’s Director of Governance and CCO Partnerships, said.

“The Electoral Officer contacted the leader of the Manurewa Action Team who confirmed that they had instructed their volunteers to not collect voter’s documents without authority.”

While it is not an offence for someone to have another’s voting paper in their possession, provided permission is given, it is not a recommended practice given the questions it raises, Bray said.

“That said, it is important for electors with accessibility or mobility challenges to have options available to them,” she said.

Bray directed Local Democracy Reporting to put further questions to Electoral Officer Dale Ofsoske, who is managing director of Election Services, the current provider for Auckland Council to administer its local body elections.

Ofsoske said as the Auckland Council Electoral officer, he is responsible for the conduct of the elections and is responsible for investigating possible offences.

“The original complaint was received from an Independent candidate (no party affiliation). After advising the complainant of my intended action (referring it to the police) the complaint was withdrawn.”

Ofsoske said he also addressed the complaint with the Manurewa Action Team.

“I contacted the group’s main spokesperson to advise that this was an unwise practice. The spokesperson advised such a practice was unlikely as all of their team had been advised not to undertake such a practice.

Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere has denied his party's involvement. Photo/supplied

“Having spoken directly with the spokesperson for the group involved, I was given an assurance that this practice was not occurring.”

But Ofsoske said he would continue to work with all future candidates to ensure they understand how to avoid similar complaints.

“The legislation applies to everyone,” he said.

“And I am always available to discuss with candidates how the legislation may be practically applied.”

Bray also reiterated Auckland Council has complete confidence in Ofsoske - and how he handled this complaint.

“Election Services is an extremely experienced election service provider. This is a highly specialised independent service, offered by only two organisations in New Zealand, and Auckland Council remains satisfied with Election Services running Auckland’s local government elections.”

Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor and Manurewa Action Team member Daniel Newman was approached for comment but did not respond.

Manurewa Local Board Rangi McLean was approached for comment and also did not respond.

However, he did tell Whakaata Maori reporter Muriwai Hei that he is unhappy with how the recent media attention is distracting from all the good work Manurewa Marae has been doing.

“They’re not focusing on the thousands of people we fed because they had no food.

“Still to this day, our marae is sending food parcels to families living in poverty who’re hungry and homeless too.”

Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere has strongly denied allegations that Manurewa Marae misused census data.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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