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Mayor unrepentant to the letter -

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ASHLEY HALL: A New Zealand Mayor is refusing to apologise to a group of primary school children
he's upset.

Maori students aged 11 and 12 had written to Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws telling him they were
angry that he wouldn't add a letter "h" to the city's name to return it to its traditional
spelling.

Mr Laws is known as New Zealand's most outspoken Mayor and since he didn't like the children's tone
he wrote a letter of his own, telling the kids to butt out and concentrate on tackling more serious
Maori issues like child murder.

New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports.

KERRI RITCHIE: Michael Laws is the Mayor of the North Island city of Wanganui and he also has his
own radio show.

At the start of the week Mr Laws was on the front page of the newspapers in New Zealand when he
became the first mayor in the country to ban motorcycle gangs from wearing their insignia in public
places.

Now at the end of the week he's front page news again but this time he's being accused of being as
intimidating as any bikie.

Michael Laws is unrepentant.

MICHAEL LAWS: They are perfectly entitled to a point of view but they are not entitled to demand.

KERRI RITCHIE: A group of children from Years 7 and 8 wrote to Mr Laws telling him an "h" should be
added to Wanganui to return it to its traditional Maori spelling.

Mr Laws fired a letter back, saying he'd take their concerns seriously when the class dealt with
real issues affecting Maori like child abuse and child murder.

He told them to control their anger and sack their teacher who obviously put them up to it.

MICHAEL LAWS: I gave them a facetious reply but one that was aimed at pointing out that this was
not an appropriate way to be trying to convince persons to an alternative viewpoint.

KERRI RITCHIE: Representatives from Otaki School, students and their parents met last night at the
school to work out what to do next.

The principal Chris Derbidge says people are still a bit upset.

CHRIS DERBIDGE: Parents and our whole school are still concerned about the letter Mr Laws wrote
addressed to the students. We're concerned that he didn't address the issues the kids had put
forward and he wrote of things that were of no relevance to children of that age.

KERRI RITCHIE: He says there has been one positive spinoff of being in all the newspapers.

CHRIS DERBIDGE: It's provided an opportunity actually for the kids to get really involved in a
media study which they're going to be working on hard out for the next two weeks, so it has
provided learning opportunities for them.

So I would say no, they're not duly adversely affected by it at all.

KERRI RITCHIE: How important is it to Maori that an "h" gets put back into Wanganui?

CHRIS DERBIDGE: Not being Maori it's perhaps not for me to say. It would be similar to the
discussions that you are having in Australia currently about the Aboriginal naming of some of your
sacred sites like Ayers Rock and so on. So I think for Indigenous people it is, these things can be
very important.

KERRI RITCHIE: He says the children won't be accepting Mr Laws' offer of afternoon tea. Instead he
should come to them.

Mr Laws maintains that the children, their tone was wrong and they went too far and they should
butt out of things that don't involve them when they don't live in the town. Do you think it's
important for children to be encouraged to speak up?

CHRIS DERBIDGE: Yes absolutely, not just in Otaki but all around the world it's important that
children of that age when they are forming their opinions on issues. And it's very, very important
that as adults, as a community that we do listen and their voices are heard.

ASHLEY HALL: Otaki school principal Chris Derbidge ending that report by our New Zealand
correspondent Kerri Ritchie.