Whanganui journalist hits back at Laws
A WHANGANUI journalist is defending herself, after mayor Michael Laws targeted her in a letter directed at the local paper’s editor.
Wanganui Chronicle reporter Merania Karauria says the reason she petitioned the Geographic Board in favour of the “h” in Whanganui, was to speak on behalf of her late Father, Turanga Karauria.
The letter – posted on the Wanganui District Council website – accuses Ms Karauria and another reporter of political bias, as well as accusing new editor Ross Pringle of being the latest in a long line of “inconsequential ‘Chronicle’ editors”.
The letter says by directly petitioning the board the two went against the democratic wish of the community on the Wanganui spelling issue.
“My Dad is tuturu from the Whanganui River,” says Ms Karauria. “In the last few months of his life I could see his agitation with the things that the Chronicle was reporting on what Laws was saying.”
She says her father was an interpreter in the Maori Land Court. He was 13 before he got a handle on the English language, learned at boarding school.
“His grandparents who brought him up (up the Whanganui River at Jerusalem) did not speak English.”
Ms Karauria said her father explained to her that Maori in Whanganui had to teach the Pakeha how to pronounce Maori and Whanganui was one of the words.
“I wrote to the Geographic Board explaining this, for my Dad,” she says.
She says her father was a very private man, but two days before he died on September 20 last year, he wanted to go and tell Mr Laws what he thought of him.
“That is why I wrote to the Geographic Board. Laws tramples on people’s mana and because my Dad was one of the few remaining full-blooded Maori on the Whanganui River, I had to speak for him.”
Ms Karauria gets a second mention in Mr Laws’ letter: “Karauria was reprimanded for misrepresenting a mayoral interview to her friends using Chronicle e-mail.”
Ms Karauria told NewsWire she was not reprimanded for the email she sent, although she says she should not have sent it from work. It was not a major transgression.
“The reason I sent an email from work, which a friend forwarded on (despite me saying I did not want the people I was emailing to do anything) was because in an interview with him, he (Mr Laws) told me I was a minority and he was the majority,” she says.
The interview was regarding his behaviour toward the children at Otaki School. She said she didn’t ask about the ‘h’.
“He pilloried me on his radio show and in his Sunday column.”
In the letter to the newly appointed Mr Pringle, Mr Laws says recent editorials in the paper were misrepresenting council policy and practice, saying the Chronicle had “hit a new low”.
The mayor says he is not happy with the new editor’s take on council debt, health issues and the spelling of the city’s name.
“I accept you’re new to the job and apparently lack formal journalistic training, according to reports in your own newspaper.”
TVNZ reported last week that Mr Laws threatened to cut advertising from the Wanganui Chronicle and use council funds to increase the circulation of a rival giveaway newspaper.
Mr Laws has denied this to NewsWire (via a message from his secretary).