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New Zealand realtor fired for refusing to do mandatory Maori culture training course

Janet Dickson New Zealand Harcourts real estate agent Maori culture course

A New Zealand realtor has been fired after she publicly revealed she was facing a five-year industry ban for refusing to complete a course on Maori culture that was required for her real estate licence.

Janet Dickson revealed in a radio interview on NewstalkZB on Friday that she had been let go from her job with real estate giant Harcourts in Auckland, although she noted that her website profile was still up at the time. It has since been removed.

Ms Dickson told radio host Heather du Plessis-Allan that the “professional development course”, Te Kakano (The Seed), was irrelevant to her job and against her Christian religion.

“It’s nothing to do with our real estate work, there’s just no crossover in between what we do everyday and what there is in the Te Kakano The Seed course,” she said.

“We’re expected to acknowledge and accept the Maori gods and the spiritualism that goes with it.

“And I’m sorry, I’m not bowing the knee to anyone. There is one true God … and that God is colourblind.”

Ms Dickon said went on to say Harcourts management were “anxious about the situation” and that she had been “told to go”, but said she had been flooded with messages of support from members of the public and other agents.

After Ms Dickson refused to do the course, which was compulsory in 2023 but elective this year, the New Zealand Real Estate Authority (REA) threatened to cancel her licence for five years.

She responded by hiring a lawyer to fight for her rights in court, and has been supported by lobby group Hobson’s Pledge, who are helping her raise funds for the judicial review, which could cost more than NZ$150,000.

“[Ms Dickon’s] refusal is based on concerns that an industry body can force members to complete training on a subject only very peripherally connected to their job under threat of losing their right to work,” the pledge page reads.

The REA told the New Zealand Herald it was unable to comment, while Harcourts CEO Bryan Thomson told the publication he had completed the course but admitted some in the industry found the REA’s rules “draconian”.

Ms Dickson, who was contacted for comment by Noticer News, referred media enquiries to her Wellington lawyers Frank Ogilvie who told NZME: “This challenge argues that aspects of the rules are invalid, REA is acting outside its powers and its purported attempt to compel real estate agents to undertake this course unreasonably cuts across agents’ right to freedom of expression.”

“The judicial review raises important public law issues and is likely to impact all licensed real estate agents.”

The Te Kakano Diversity and Inclusion Continuing Professional Development course is 1.5 hours long and claims to “provide licensees with an opportunity to develop or deepen their understanding of Maori culture, language and custom”.

It includes lessons on Maori ritual chants, “correct” pronunciation of place names, New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi, and the “special connection” Maori people claim to have with the land.

To complete the course questions on the content must be answered correctly at regular intervals, and an accompanying video must be watched beginning to end.

Activities include reciting Maori prayers, writing a tribal expression, and practicing the Maori alphabet.

The course also advises real estate agents to recite special prayers for “spiritual protection” when entering and leaving land that Maori people consider sacred, and to avoid putting hats on food tables or sitting on pillows or cushions.

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