Apr 30, 2013

Kua hinga he totara i te wao nui a Tane

This post originally appeared at The Daily Blog

The Hon. Parekura Horomia and PM Helen Clark

He called everyone chief: “hey chief”, “oi chief” and “shut up chief”. From the Prime Minister to the lads at the freezing works, everyone was a chief.

Born in 1950 to an ariki line, Parekura Horomia grew up Mangatuna. He was a fencer, a shearer, a scrub-cutter, a printer, a bureaucrat and an MP. Parekura never forgot who he was or where he came from. A staunch union man, a serious farmer and and a strong advocate for female speakers on the paepae, Parekura covered it all. He had (literally) a big heart – from his curls to his tiny feet – the man had time for everyone.

Parekura gave me my first job. Every morning he’d turn up at 9am, I’d hand him his mail and he’d shuffle into his office. He’d read it, he’d call people and then he’d yell “chief, chief”. I’d stroll into his office not entirely sure whether I’d be on the receiving end of a growling or a story. Most times it was a story. He’d sit me down and ask two things: where do you live and who do you live with. He liked to know those sorts of things. I’d tell him I live in Thorndon with seven mates. He wouldn’t say anything, but he’d reach for his wallet and pull out a note – it was my lunch money. It was his way of saying that he worries that I’m not eating. Being a student I think he thought I was living in poverty. That might have even being the reason he offered me a job in the first place. I’m not sure. It was hard to get a straight answer out of him; he was a politician’s politician.

Little known fact: Parekura was also a man of faith. He didn’t talk much about it – I never heard him mention it – but I knew it was there from what other people had said. I think that’s where he drew much of his generosity from. He was also from the old Maori world. He had a different code of honour and I know that he worried about being one of the last to have seen full paepae, one of the last to have seen ancient tikanga and so on. That’s the last thing he told me: he was one of the last. I think that worried him and made him happy in equal measure. He was the last to know the old ways, but also one of the last to suffer the open injustices of colonial New Zealand.

I don’t think my experiences with Parekura are uncommon. Across the motu people have their own Parekura stories. He treated everyone with the same generosity, kindness and respect. From his colleagues to his staff. From his people on the coast to Maori across the country. I don’t think we’ll see another Parekura Horomia in Maori politics. He transcended the conflict that comes with being fiercely Maori, but he also dodged the conflict that came with the foreshore and seabed and other acts of injustice. Such was the respect Maori and many New Zealanders had for the man.

The debate about his political legacy will be mixed, but the time isn't now. Now is the time to reflect on his personal legacy. One of the last Maori statesmen.

Moe mai ra e te rangatira, moe mai ra e hoa ma. Rest easy Chief.

Apr 29, 2013

Moe mai rā e te rangatira

E te hunga mate, te hunga kua whetūrangatia moe mai rā, moe mai rā, moe mai rā,  haere ki te huinga o te kahurangi, ki Hawaiki nui, ki Hawaiki roa, ki Hawaiki pamamao, haere, haere haere ōti atu ra.
I tēnēi wā ka tuku au I ōku mihi aroha ki te whānau Horomia me te whānau o Dick Grace hoki.

I didn't know Parekura Horomia well, I did, however, meet him several times at Ratana and at Parliament and he was extraordinarily gracious and kind, and very approachable. I have always been hugely impressed at the representation he provided for his constituents. For those who loved him and knew him well, his whānau, his iwi, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and the Labour Party, this is a very difficult time. My thoughts and aroha are with you all.

Shane Jones shared some memories of Parekura on Native Affairs tonight. Jones said that Parekura was “a link with the old world”.  The Native Affairs political panel also remembered the life and times of Parekura. John Tamihere and Ward Kamo paid tribute to Parekura’s amazing time as Minister of Māori Affairs and his ability to progress forward unscathed through  political controversy. Morgan Godfrey served as Parekura's intern and shared his experience of Parekura giving him lunch money every morning.

Tributes for Parekura have come in from across the political spectrum with John Key sending his respects, Helen Clark naming him as one of the kindest people she has ever met, and Metiria Turei crediting him with the establishment of Māori TV.

Much will be said in the following weeks and months about Parekura's legacy, but I would like to put on the record that I think he would probably be the most loved (by his constituents) electorate MP in our Parliament and I think he will be remembered as the most effective Māori electorate MP of his generation. He is an inspiration for those of us taiohi who aspire to represent our people in Parliament. His commitment to the social and political development of Te Tai Rāwhiti and of the Te Ao Māori was unwavering and will forever be remembered and celebrated.

Nō reira, e te rangatira, haere rā kei tua o te arai. Haere, haere, haere oti atu rā.

Apr 22, 2013

"Is New Zealand a racist country?"

That’s the moot for this week’s episode of the Vote. John Tamihere and Damon Salesa will argue the affirmative and Mai Chen and Phil Goff will argue the negative.

Is X, Y or Z racist? That’s often a subjective question. A white male from the Wellington business community isn’t going to experience racism in the same manner or to the same degree as, say, a brown woman from the LGBT community. Racism is an experience.

It’s difficult to argue objectively. Is Maori overrepresentation in crime, health and a suite of other measures a result of contemporary racism, the collateral effect of historic racism or something else entirely? Do the Maori seats ameliorate historic political underrepresentation or did they and do they entrench political advantage? Do English language requirements favour (largely) white immigrants from the Anglosphere or are language requirements a necessary control?

It’s a matter of perspective. Is the essence of racism found in impact or intention? Impact infers that racism is structural; intention infers that racism is more ordinary. The international community accepts that guarantees of legal equality don’t mean “identity of treatment”.* On that basis, none of the examples above are racist. At New Zealand law “not all distinctions (i.e. different treatment based on race, gender and so on)… will be discriminatory”.** So, the essence of discrimination lays in negative impact. On that basis, language requirements that negatively affect, say, Indonesian immigrants might be racist regardless of intention. Joking about curry munchers, Asian drivers and niggas wouldn’t be caught under the definition of discrimination at law (neither internationally nor domestically). Problematic.

I remain a little sceptical about the moot. Racism is low hanging fruit. However, last month’s episode was great and the panel (mainly Salesa and Chen) is tops. I hope the show urges New Zealanders to think more deeply about racism and what it means. For me, racism falls into two categories: personal and political. Personal racism is experience: being called this or that, having assumptions made about you and so on. Political racism is structural: politicians, community leaders and so on arguing that race isn’t a proxy for disadvantage, MPs enacting laws that unfairly disadvantage an already disadvantaged group and so on.

Thomas Jefferson was right to argue that “there is nothing more unequal, than the equal treatment of unequal people” and Babasaheb (one of the architects of the Indian Constitution and an underrated thinker imo) was right to make the distinction between “equality in law” and “equality in fact”. Will New Zealanders accept that? Or does it even matter?***

*See Quilter v Attorney-General (1998) 1 NZLR 623 CA at page 561 per Keith J 
**See page 532 per Thomas J
***The Supreme Court of the United States in Bowers v Hardwick (1986) held that minority rights are not subject to the principle of majority rules. The Supreme Court considered it illiberal and contrary to the basic democratic assumption that majorities aren't always right. I like to keep that in mind when people argue that this or that thing Maori should be abolished because the majority said so. Indigenous and minority rights are inherent (see the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People) and Maori rights are strengthened by Treaty guarentees. Something to think about.  

Apr 15, 2013

Is the Rotorua Eastern Arterial really necessary?

Opposition is growing against the NZ Transport Agency's decision to green light the Rotorua Eastern Arterial. The new road is, in effect, a bypass. The aim is to "increase efficiency, reduce travel times, and improve safety". However, the sacrifice is Maori land. The confirmed route will cut through papakainga land and other sights of cultural significance (mainly geothermal).

Te Ngae Road (the current route) handles a bit of freight and is the gateway to the Port of Tauranga. Wait times can be significant in peak hours and traffic lights, roundabouts and speed limits increase travel times. From an economic point of view, the road is sub optimal. However, the eastern arterial will, at best, shave a few minutes off of the trip. There won't be a significant efficiency gain. Rotorua's eastern suburbs are growing and the arterial will service the majority of that growth - as well as carry freight volume, tourism volume and other people who are passing through. There are a number of roundabouts that will presumably slow traffic as well. The arterial isn't the economic panacea that local politicians are claiming.

I lived in Rotorua for five years and I think Te Ngae Road operates perfectly well. An arterial is a nice to have, but I don't think it's a necessity - especially where the balance between economic values and cultural values is out of whack. The hapu whose land will be severed deserve a fair shot. After all, the airport  and other parts of the eastern suburbs have being donated or taken from them to service economic development. As a matter of fairness a compromise option should be found. There is plenty of room to reroute the road, but that would mean cutting through land that has being or is designated to be subdivided and developed. In a clash between Maori values and economic development, economic development's always going to win by knock out.

Post Script: Marae Investigates ran a good story on this issue on Sunday. Here's the link.

The latest from The Daily Blog

Here's a link to my latest post at The Daily Blog. The post tackles Simon Bridges' decision to criminalise offshore protest and discusses how that decision is a triumph of neoliberlism.

"We’re sailing in dangerous territory when the government is prepared to extend the criminal law to protect economic rights, and the economic rights of foreign companies at that, and supress social and political rights. It’s dangerously authoritarian because the criminal law is at the heart of the state’s coercive power. Usually, criminalising dissent signals a drowning order."

Apr 12, 2013

The Police: culture change edition

I submitted six OIAs on Monday: one to Te Puni Kokiri, one to the ministries of education, corrections and justice respectively and one to the Parole Board and the Police. I had a prompt response from every department – except the Police. Five days after the fact they haven’t even acknowledged receipt. Their record in responding to OIA requests is tragic, but not nearly as tragic as their record prosecuting young Maori.

JustSpeak has run through Police statistics that reveal Maori aged 10 to 16 years old are more likely to be prosecuted than Pakeha of the same age. JustSpeak compared apprehension rates against prosecution rates across 15 offence categories. Across most categories there are more apprehensions of Maori youth, but in every category the prosecution rate is higher.

This isn’t a surprise. Well, not for anyone living in or with extensive experience in poor communities. Racial profiling is common and race is the unspoken consideration when deciding whether to prosecute. Strictly speaking, the seriousness of the offence; the strength of evidence; the number and type of associated offences for which the person may also have been arrested on that occasion; previous offending; support networks and a handful of other considerations will be weighed.

I’ll admit that it’s difficult to pin causation here, but abductive reasoning suggests that race must be an aggravating factor in prosecuting decisions. The apprehension rate across many serious offences categories are similar, and in sexual assaults and illicit drug offences the apprehension rate is higher for Pakeha. Despite this, the prosecution rate against Maori is still higher.* So it can’t be said that Maori commit more serious offences. Even then, in the serious offence categories themselves the likelihood of being prosecuted is higher for Maori.** It could also be argued that there is usually more evidence against Maori offenders. There’s a racist assumption underlying that point. No Right Turn hits it:

“It’s difficult to see how… "evidence" would track so closely the colour of the accused's skin - unless it was the colour of the accused's skin… The former is simply a claim that "Maori are criminals”

If you come from a poor community, preferably a poor brown one, you know intuitively that race and class are an unspoken consideration. It’s difficult to avoid that conclusion when Maori are more likely to be prosecuted than non-Maori for committing the same crime. To argue otherwise is usually to argue from the premise that Maori are just more criminal. Auckland University Law lecturer Kylee Quince found that:

At least two thirds of the 737 police respondents reported hearing colleagues use racist language about Maori. Many reported a greater tendency to suspect Maori of an offence, or to stop and query Maori driving “flash” cars. Overall, the data suggested that about 25 per cent of police have negative attitudes towards Maori.

This is neither entirely unexpected nor does it constitute an international exception. In the US African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.*** In South Australia Aboriginal people make up 0.7% of the population but account for 14% of admissions to prison. The Australian Law Reform Commission cites research attributing the disparity to "differences in arrest, prosecution and sentencing practices". There's an element of racism that persists in former colonial societies.

There are different realities with the Police: one for white and one for brown; one for the rich and one for the poor. There’s an intersection between the two. There needs to be a culture change in the Police.

Post script: Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party are vocal on this issue which is encouraging.

*Although, in the drug offences category the disparity is only 2%. I don’t think that’s statistically significant.

**This isn’t new. Ministry of Justice figures in 1999 revealed prosecution rate for young Maori people aged ten-16 years at 76.2 per 1000 population, compared with 16.95 per 1000 population for non-Maori. Maori adults were 3.8 times more likely to be prosecuted than non-Maori and 3.9 times more likely to be convicted of an offence.

***See this very interesting fact sheet from the NAACP.

Apr 9, 2013

Imposing the market on Maori land

Neoconservatism is a dirty word. Conservatism isn’t inherently bad, but the addition of neo loans a sinister quality. The same principle applies to neoliberalism: yuck in name and wrong in practice. The sinister impression is well suited. Neoliberalism is more than an economic ideology, it’s a political theory too. Shrinking the state, imposing market imperatives and disciple on intellectualism, and supressing unions and other proletariat movements is as economic as it is political.

In poetic irony at its finest, neoliberalism best demonstrates Marx’ law of increasing poverty (the rich get richer and the poor get poorer). A 2006 report found that the neoliberal American economy “consistently affords a lower level of economic mobility than all the continental European countries for which data is available” and a comparative report from Victoria University highlights “persistent and widening inequality and increasing concentration of wealth” in New Zealand. With this and more in mind, Maori must exercise caution when applying neoliberal values to Maori land.*

The Minister of Maori Affairs and the Associate Minister of Maori Affairs (Chris Finlayson) have released an expert discussion document on Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 – the Maori Land Act. There’s a lot to like: proposition 1 will transfer more power to engaged owners and reduce the need for the Maori Land Court and proposition 4 recommends that disputes are referred to mediation (in the first instance) rather than the Court.

However, proposition 2 would allow the appointment of an external manager to “administer and develop” underutilised land where the owners are disengaged or unable to be located. That’s not wrong in itself, but shouldn’t the first priority of an external manager be to attempt to engage or locate the proper owners? Isn’t it wrong in principle to have an external manager “utilise” land that she or he has no cultural right to and might be unsure of its purpose? Land might sit idle for a reason (Wahi Tapu, Rahui etc). It seems wrong, in the first instance at least, to blithely assume that idle land must generate an economic return.

The last proposition suggests that only engaged owners with a minimum threshold interest can make decisions in their land. The rationale is to prevent fragmentation of Maori land and streamline decisions. Well, that might make utilisation easier, but it seems wrong in principle. Owners have a whakapapa right to the land, no matter the size of their shareholding. After all, some owners can possess more shares than others through accidents of history rather than legitimate claim to the land. In an effort to encourage utilisation, the proposal could throw legitimate owners out with the bath water.

On the whole, the report speaks a lot of sense. I’d like to see most of it implemented, but I’m wary of the emphasis placed on increased utilisation without a proper discussion about the reasons for idle land and the consequences of utilising it. There’s a careful line between imposing market imperatives on Maori land and destroying the mauri of the land:

"Neoliberalism encourages the privatisation of Maori communal assets, the commodification of Maori land (and) the extension of market forces into Maori areas previously untouched"

*For further reading here is a semi-recent discussion on neoliberalism from Paul Buchanan. Also see the Wikipedia entry for a neutral (albeit undercooked) outline. 

Apr 8, 2013

Reclaiming names, redneck in Palmy and the Treaty at TDB

It’s not renaming, it’s acknowledging the original names

New Zealanders might be the passionless people. After all, our main islands are named the North Island and the South Island. That says, er, interesting things about the national character. 

After receiving proposals for a name change, the New Zealand Geographic Board is going to “publicly consult on proposals to formally assign official alternative names”. The usual suspects are apoplectic, but they’re misrepresenting the issue. Key words: consult, proposals, alternative. The board’s changes will mean that the North Island and South Island is interchangeable with Te Ika-a-Maui and Te Waipounamu.

This is hardly radical; the islands carried those names for centuries and remain in informal use. Like QoT says, we’re changing the names back not giving new ones. And Marty Mars is right to advocate for the formal restoration of the indigenous names because” they mean something, they have context”. Not radical. Half of the country (if not more) is named in Maori: From Kaitaia to Rakuira, from Remuera to Waimakariri. 26 US states have their names derived from Native American languages (i.e. more than half) and Hawai’i is (obviously) from Ōlelo Hawaiʻi (the indigenous language). Many Australian place names retain their original names while other places retain names derived from Aboriginal languages too.

This is becoming a theme of my writing and feels redundant, but it demands repetition: reclaiming indigenous names doesn't make New Zealand an outlier, to some extent we already are. 

Foot in mouth:

From Stuff:

A suggestion by a Palmerston North city councillor that Maori women be sterilised to stop them smoking in front of their children has outraged councillors and Maori health advocates. 
The comment drew a shocked response from other councillors, and he quickly said he was not advocating the idea.
He also said it was not something he would say to the media.

Repeat: “he also said it was not something he would say to the media”. In other words, I’d say it and sing it in like-minded company. If Councillor Wilson realised how repugnant and inappropriate his comment was shouldn’t he have said that he wouldn’t say it to neither the media nor anyone else? Privately, Wilson will retain his racist views, but cover his redneck in public. Like Marty Mars (who's in terrific form) says, Wilson’s justifications really “mean keeping his private thoughts to himself rather than spewing them in public”. Wilson won’t let the façade slip so easily again, but the ingrained superiority complex will remain.   

Also see QoT (who's in superb form).

The Treaty at The Daily Blog

we’re expected to keep to our agreements – governments are no different. The Treaty doesn’t have a time lapse, an out clause or a guarantee that rednecks have the right to make post-facto decisions about its moral and legal force. The Treaty was created, offered and accepted under the assumption that it would bind the Crown and Maori. It’s a basic question of human decency and the rule of law: if men and women are held to their agreements, shouldn’t society and governments be expected to do the same? If anything, society and governments should be held to a far, far higher standard.

April Fools

A bit late, but see The Chur button. Did anyone fall for it?

Apr 2, 2013

The Maori seats: surveying the field

Via RNZ:

A kuia affiliated to Ngai Tuhoe suggests a member of the tribe should stand for Parliament.

Harata Williams - who lives in Auckland - raised the idea in passing while discussing the electoral roll options for Maori.

Ms Williams considers Tuhoe leader Tamati Kruger would be a good candidate.

It’s that time. Candidates are dipping their toes in the water and throwing their hats in the ring. A year and a bit out from the next election, here’s how the field is looking:

Te Tai Tokerau

Mana: Hone Harawira (certainty)
Maori Party: none
Labour: Kelvin Davis (maybe). There’s another name floating around the rumour circuit - one that most Maori will recognise - but I’ll wait for that person to confirm or deny their intention.

Tamaki Makaurau 

Mana: Too early to say
Maori: Pita Sharples (a near certainty)
Labour: Shane Jones (a high chance)


Mana: Angeline Greensill (a veteran in the seat, it’s unclear whether she’ll stand again)
Maori: Tuku Morgan (it’s on the record that he wants the Maori Party presidency, the next step is the HW seat)
Labour: Nanaia Mahuta (a more than even chance of standing. On the one hand, she’s out of favour in many Labour circles and busy caring for her new born. On the other hand, she's embedded in the seat and does't look ready to pass it on)


Mana: Annette Sykes (unless she stands in Tamaki-Makaurau or the (possible) eighth electorate)
Maori: Te Ururoa Flavell (a strong possibility, provided the party offers him a clear path to the leadership. If not, a less than even chance of standing).
Labour: still looking for a suitable candidate.


Mana: no one with a realistic chance
Maori: Na Rongowhakaata Raihania (a strong chance. A former candidate and one of the more impressive ones).
Labour: Parekura Horomia (if Parekura doesn’t find an appropriate successor, expect to see him give it one last go)

Te Tai Hauauru

Mana: Too early to say, potentially Misty Harrison
Maori: Rahui Katene has announced her intention to take the seat. Kaapua Smith is also mentioned.
Labour: The rumour circuit is running hot here too, but I’m not going to name names. It’s unlikely that Soraya Peke-Mason will stand again.

Te Tai Tonga

Mana: too early to say
Maori: Rahui Katene is the default candidate, but she appears more interested in Te Tai Hauauru.
Labour Rino Tirikatene (certainty)

Eighth seat 

Mana: Annette Sykes (potentially), Willie Jackson (potentially), Kereama Pene (potentially), Clinton Dearlove (potentially).
Maori: ?
Labour: another prominent name is doing the rounds here too. Again, I’ll hold back on naming that person.

The Greens

To demonstrate the Green's commitment to kaupapa Maori politics, Metiria Turei should consider standing in the (possible) eighth seat. That'd be a candidacy I'd support and one that could open the field. In the other electorates, Dora Langsbury and Jack McDonald have form from the last election and should consider another run. 

Other names

Moana Maniapoto is, apparently, positioning herself for a run (with Labour). People have mentioned Maria Bargh, but in a "I wish Maria Bargh was standing" way rather than "Maria Bargh wants to stand". Veronica Tawhai, an academic at Massey University, is also mentioned as a possible candidate for Mana. Meng Foon is a common name, but it's unclear whether he'd want to stand, let alone have a shot at an electorate. Marama Davidson would make an outstanding candidate too, just saying. 

General comments

The momentum is with Labour. The Maori electorate appears to be reverting to its default setting - strong Labour. Mana is in a lull, the Maori Party is dominating Maori political discourse for all the wrong reasons and the Greens - despite having well developed Maori policy and strong Maori faces - are not seen to be as committed to kaupapa Maori politics in the way that Labour, Mana and the Maori Party are.