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Hamilton’s (NZ) Kiribati community is split over legal battle

Pacific Scoop: Report – By Taberannang Korauaba.

A small Pacific island community in Hamilton, New Zealand, is experiencing an adverse impact of a legal battle.

In August last year, several members of the Kiribati Waikato Association brought their case before the court to challenge the election of new office bearers.

Last week, the High Court formally closed the case after lawyers from both parties agreed to settle their dispute outside the court. Justice Cooper anticipated more problems that could arise to the Kiribati community if the case continues.

However, the community is already facing the consequences of this legal battle, which are huge for a small community like Kiribati.

The community is now split, forming two different Kiribati community groups in the Waikato region with substantial legal fees.

There are about 33 Kiribati households in Hamilton with many are among the low income earners in New Zealand.

Dr Kabwea Tiban, leader of the group that filed their complaint with the court, said they are no longer associated with the main body, Kiribati Waikato Association.

He has circulated a resignation letter from this body along with a list of the names of the faction’s supporters.

With regard to their legal fees, Dr Tiban says they have about five thousand dollars, and they have organised fundraise activities to pay it up.

The other party led by another i-Kiribati, Dr Tabwe Bio, is also reportedly fundraising to pay legal fees.

Dr Tabwe has earlier indicated during the Kiribati National Council meeting that the Kiribati families in Waikato shouldered the financial burden of this court case which was too much for this low income earning community.

The politics of this community did not impress Kiribati priest, Albert Rikare. “I have on many occasions appealed to them not to proceed with the case, and asked them to work together for the common interest of the community. They didn’t listen to me,” he said.

The Kiribati Catholics is also reportedly suffering from this political fallout as members of the church are also split. This has now become the headache of this Kiribati priest.

The new Kiribati community group in Waikato has also applied to the New Zealand Kiribati National Council for three seats in the council.

They have also indicated that they will participate in this year’s national day celebrations in Rodney, northern Auckland as a separate community, a request that was earlier turned down by the council to avoid disintegration of the Kiribati community.

Taberannang Korauaba is a contributing writer based in New Zealand. He specialises in reporting Pacific issues, often with relevance to Kiribati.

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