Here we go again! Kapa Haka groups in Australia are now counting the cost of our continued collective acceptance of the actions of Nga Kapa Taumata Teitei and its chair Isaac Cotter.
Just before Christmas, some competing groups, were informed that the date for the Australian kapa haka regional competitions to qualify for Te Matatini in Aotearoa was moved from April to June.
Failure to pay a deposit to secure the chosen venue was the deciding factor in postponing the event. In NSW in 2014, NKTT insisted they deposit the initial amount to secure the venue and in doing so gain control of the event.
Sacking of organizations co-opted to be the operational arm of NKTT in Perth meant that time constraints were always going to be a major challenge. I understand that one of those organizations has instigated legal proceedings against NKTT as a result of their being adversely affected by NKTT’s appalling practices.
To begin with, the dubious methods of NKTT to by-pass democratic process in awarding the competitions to be held in Perth is testament to the manner in which the group operates. Kudos to Perth, and we really look forward to seeing you there. My point is though, we don’t know how it happened! There was no application process, no requests for proposals, no invitation for expressions of interest from states or groups. Just an announcement of the done deal.
The performance of this group, under the guidance of Isaac Cotter, has been less than exemplary. It has operated against the wishes of the community which it purports to represent. Instead it operates in secret and without consultation seemingly for its own purpose, hiding behind the excuse of Te Matatini processes to not consult with Australian-based stakeholders.
NKTT operates unethically. It controls state-based groups by using its representation at Te Matatini to give it authority to act unfettered. NKTT has continually refused to provide clarification on contractual matters and instead used time constraints and such other pressure tactics to ensure the outcome favoured NKTT.
During the last regional competition in NSW, the host group was stripped of the ability to host the competitions after NKTT wanted to control operations, contracts and all funding with absolutely no liability to themselves. NKKT’s behaviour has been duplicated over time in Canberra, Melbourne, Queensland, NSW and now in Perth.
The impact on groups of moving the competition date less than four months from its original date is not catastrophic but very costly. One group has had to forfeit its deposits for air travel and possibly accommodation costing thousands of dollars. Groups are now faced with more fundraising just to cover the costs of lost deposits. The loss of community goodwill is a greater cost. That money was raised was from community fundraising events!
During the last regionals, NSW groups had an unelected representative on NKTT that did not communicate with Kapa Haka groups in the state. There was some canvassing of the groups to try to understand how they wanted to moved forward. Groups were concerned that if they speak out they would be ruled out from entering the competitions altogether. And so nothing was done about the matter. Thankfully nobody was excluded from the competition. However communication to the groups was poor at the very best and some groups were unfairly disadvantaged.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s time to bundle Isaac Cotter into touch. If I were a kapa haka group that lost deposits, I’d be presenting NKTT with a bill for those losses.
It’s time for the kapa haka community to be brave, stand together and demand change. You’re never going to satisfy all of the people all of the time. But the kapa Haka community in Australia can formulate a plan that works towards the interests of everybody.
The behaviour of NKTT has been tolerated for far too long. It is everyone’s responsibility to make the change happen. Have the conversation, put forward your views on how you want to see kapa haka in Australia run. The community must pull together. The time to do this is NOW.
I’ve heard a couple of people comment that all they want to do is perform on stage and that protests about organising (including this rant) should be silenced. This approach is just burying your head in the sand.
Avoiding the obvious need for change will mean continued costly outcomes. I think kapa haka in Australia deserves better. This time its just lucky that the outcome is only costly instead of catastrophic. Groups are able to fundraise again and still make it to Perth.
Doing nothing could mean next time missing out altogether. Doing nothing means waiting for a catastrophe before anything changes.