A reluctance by Maori rugby officials to apologise over past treatment of Maori rugby players has prompted Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples to raise the prospect of setting up a separate sporting administration.
That national Maori administration would be a voice for Maori in sport, and would work alongside and in conjunction with the Maori arms of national sports organisations to advance Maori sport, Dr Sharples said.
He said on Friday he was pleased with a recent apology from South African sports officials and another this morning from the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) over the historic treatment of black and Maori players who were blocked from representing their countries.
Maori players were left out of tours to the republic in 1928, 1949 and 1960, and a Springbok tour here in 1981 sparked huge anti-apartheid protests.
The NZRU apology came despite the Maori Rugby Board advising against it on the grounds it might have the effect of unfairly condemning past Maori administrators — a stance Dr Sharples described as “toothless”. “This happens when you get other organisations appointing Maori to represent Maori views.”
“For Maori, the reluctance of the Maori Rugby Board to apologise underlines how they have lost touch with Maori community opinion, and failed to represent Maori rugby supporters.
“Perhaps the time has come for Maori, and the nation, to reconsider an idea promoted by the late Albie Pryor, Dr Henare Broughton and others, to set up a national Maori sporting administration, to be a voice for Maori in sport, and to work alongside and in conjunction with the Maori arms of national sports organisations to advance Maori sport,” Dr Sharples said.
He said it wasn’t about special treatment, but that sport was vital to Maori development and could lead to careers and livelihoods in a global village.
“This is not a separatist move, but would build on kaupapa Maori to unleash the full potential of Maori sport — the huge contribution of Maori to sport, and of sport to promote Maori goals. This would be a win-win for the country.”
Apologies over treatment of Maori All Blacks were also welcomed by the Green Party, whose members were heavily involved in historic anti-apartheid protests.
Greens foreign affairs spokesman Keith Locke said it had “ended a shameful chapter in the history of New Zealand rugby”.
“The contrition will be much appreciated by those Kiwis, both Maori and non-Maori, who protested at the time.”
Mr Locke called for recognition from National and Labour “of their own parties’ failings in dealing with the repugnant policies of apartheid-era South Africa”.