It’s a strange co-incidence that Kāpiti Coast Mayor K Gurunthan is once again getting tied up in the struggle to protect Maori land rights at the Kāpiti Coast Airport.
Last week he vowed to join a sit in at the Airport if necessary to win the land back.
This could be a defining moment in his Mayoralty if not his career.
The Airport — a key motif in Guru’s life
But how many locals realise, or remember, that it was this same issue that got him sacked from a well-paid job as a reporter on the Observer?
Here’s our report from June 15, 2009 —
“Kapiti Protest Meeting Backs Sacked Observer
Monday, 15 June 2009, 4:23 pm
Press Release: Kapiti Independent News
Kapiti Protest Meeting Backs Sacked Observer Reporter
A capacity crowd at the Kapiti Community Centre has voted unanimously to fight for the reinstatement of sacked Observer reporter K Gurunathan.
Mr Gurunathan – known as Guru – was sacked by Observer owners Fairfax Media after he wrote a controversial article about Maori disagreements over development plans for Paraparaumu Airport.
At the meeting, called by Kapiti Open Forum, Guru spoke to 140 people from a wide cross-section of the Kapiti Coast community. Five KCDC councillors, half of the total number, were present.
Many speakers, including four of the councillors, spoke in Guru’s support.
The meeting voted unanimously to call on the Observer’s owners to reinstate him immediately.
It also agreed to send a small deputation to Fairfax media to register the community’s concern.
In his address, Guru outlined how he came to say, wrongly, that he had tried and failed to get comment from two local Maori who are supporting the Airport development.
He also explained how he had covered the controversy over the development, reporting faithfully on claims by the original Maori landowners.
He also spoke about the difficulties involved in reporting on divisions among iwi groups over supporting the Auckland developers.
A member of Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ani Parata, who backs the original Maori landowners, spoke emotionally of Maori admiration for Guru – and her role in trying to sort out alleged mis-management in Whakarongotai affairs.
Other speakers suggested various forms of direct action, including advertising boycotts, a march on the Observer offices and a mass campaign of protest letters to the Observer editor, Diane Joyce.
Many stressed Guru’s commitment to community issues and the fair reporting of a wide range of local stories.
June Rowland, a founding member of Kapiti Environmental Action, said that, though she had sometimes disagreed with Guru’s reporting of KEA activities, she admired his commitment and expertise in covering environmental issues.
K Gurunathan worked for the Observer as a senior reporter for nearly 14 years before being dismissed by Fairfax Media.
In earlier meetings with the Observer editor and manager before his dismissal, he had been told that it was not necessary for him to resign.
The article at the centre of the controversy followed a press release from the kaumatua (elders) council of Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai.
The article slated three iwi members for an alleged ‘secret deal’ with the Airport developers, accusing them of ‘treachery.’ (This has been denied by the three).
Guru referred in his speech to legal action being taken against the paper over the story.
Kapiti Independent News has approached the Observer editor, Diane Joyce, and the manager, Tony Young, for comment but both have refused to speak on the issue.”