Craig Jepson respecting
Craig Jepson respecting

OPINIONĀteaDecember 6, 2022

A mayoral guide to celebrating and respecting all cultures and religions

Craig Jepson respecting
Craig Jepson respecting

We can learn a lot about respect from Kaipara mayor Craig Jepson, writes Leonie Hayden (Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara).

Last week newly-elected mayor of Kaipara, Craig Jepson, interrupted councillor Pera Paniora several times when she tried to open a meeting with karakia and ultimately banned the practice in order to remain “secular”.  In an email sent to me (and paraphrased everywhere else) he stated: “We should respect and celebrate the culture and diversity of all groups in our community”. 

Jepson practices respect on a quantum level that most humans can’t see or detect in any way, but my family has lived in the Kaipara region for more than 500 years so I know respect for the culture of the people there when I see it. Join us in learning the ways.

Ban the first cultural or religious practice you come across

This is known as the hadoken of respect, an ultimate power move. Like punching out the biggest guy in the prison yard, this establishes that you are in fact the fuckin’ best at respect and everyone else’s respect is a whiny little turd.

Stick to your guns

Reply to all complaints with exactly the same statement. Nothing illustrates respect more succinctly than shutting down dialogue with those who challenge your position as the arbiter of appropriate cultural practice in Aotearoa. Repeat your position ad nauseum, no matter how much of a silly sausage you sound. Important: at no point should you consult with those you work with on what they want or need to feel safe and appreciated in the workplace. Show full respect for their time by not including them in any of this. 

Be curious

Curiosity and interest in others is a sign of respect. Ask your Māori colleagues “how Māori are you?” as a way of understanding their different perspectives.

Reinvent meetings altogether

Although tikanga Māori is recognised by business experts as excellent etiquette for respectful engagement, and karakia (whether you are religious or not) is a fantastic way to focus energy and attention to the people and the issues in the room – centuries of wisdom is meaningless in the face of your MASSIVE, THROBBING RESPECT for religion and culture. Instead, consider meeting exclusively in escape rooms and opening and closing proceedings with a collective Nutri-Grain scream.

Reading is for nerds

Don’t consume any literature that deepens your understanding of the cultures that exist within your constituency – including but not limited to the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, He Whakaputanga/the Declaration of Independence, or the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which allude to the right to practice tikanga Māori in Aotearoa. Instead, listen solely to John Grisham audiobooks and the chattering, dread spectres of your impending irrelevancy that beckon from the void. 

Don’t forget to celebrate*

Along with the RESPECT comes the CELEBRATION of all religions and cultures (secularly), which should be done by consuming dry, Australian chardonnay and unseasoned food with your completely normal cohort of democracy- and culture-loving landowners. Come together to enjoy complaining that Māori wards were established without consultation, but make sure to do this on your life-style block on the stolen lands of people who never ceded sovereignty to the Crown.

*Secular holidays

Enjoy Queen’s Birthday and Labour weekend only as lovely days off for chardonnay and complaining. You will refer to the 25th of December simply as Sunday, and will sup only on foraged grasses, as eating the food of any culture would be deeply disrespectful. Let no Easter eggs pass your lips lest Jesus appear at the next council meeting to attempt a non-secular reading of the minutes. Matariki? You don’t know her.

Keep going!