Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Terrorist or political prisoner?

Is Tame Iti really the bogeyman, the devious mastermind behind an elaborate plot to inflict pressure on political groups and potentially put innocent lives at risk?

Or is he a political prisoner, the hapless victim of a police-force trying to cover up a series of mistakes by pinning it on the veteran activist?

Well, it depends on who you listen to.

Ever since 300 police, that included the armed offenders and anti-terror squads, stormed properties across the country on 15 October, 2007, Iti has been the face of the Tuhoe Terror raids.

Police alleged Iti and 16 others had been involved in paramilitary training camps in the Urewera mountain range near Ruatoki in the eastern Bay of Plenty. They claimed the people attending the camp threw Molotov cocktails and fired semiautomatic rifles and pistols.

The police referred evidence gathered during the raids to the Solicitor-General to consider whether charges should be laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

However the Solicitor-General declined to press charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act, because of inadequacies of the legislation. According to Helen Clark, the Prime Minister at the time of the raids, one of the reasons police tried to lay charges under anti-terror legislation was because they could not use telephone interception evidence in prosecutions under the Arms Act.

Fast forward four years and Iti and three others were found guilty of six charges of unlawful possession of military-style firearms and Molotov cocktails at the training camps.

Iti and the man described as his “leftenant”, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, were sentenced to 2.5 years in jail last week. Their co-offenders Urs Signer and Emily Bailey had their sentences adjourned but home detention of nine months was signalled.

Since sentencing there has been much debate around the issue. Search Iti’s name on google news and you will find at least 90 articles relating to this situation. His face with the distinctive moko has stared out of television screens, flickered across websites and appeared on the pages of all of the major newspapers in the country. He has been the topic of many lunch time conversations and perhaps even for this period surpassed John Banks as the biggest news of the day.

The opinion and commentary has been diverse and covered the spectrum from the right-wing National Business Review to the pro-Maori Native Affairs but frustratingly still questions remain unanswered.

I have read many of the stories and watched a lot of the interviews and what I have been intrigued with is the choices that are being made in terms of representation.

The police are desperately trying to convince New Zealand that they were justified in what they did and the sentences handed down to Iti and Kemara proves it. Iti’s camp and Maori leaders are outraged by the sentence arguing it is harsh and the two men are being made scapegoats by the police.

Police commissioner Peter Marshall appeared on Native Affairs this week. His manner was conciliatory, while endorsing the police’s decision and behaviour.

He said police were forced to act because Iti and his group were a threat to the public’s safety.

“The definition of a terrorist under the Terrorism Suppression act is a group of people with a pre –disposition towards violence with a political agenda so it was in that context that there was concern.”

He said the investigation was worth it because the four people convicted of the firearm charges had never offered a proper reason for what they were doing in the Urewera.

Also appearing on the programme the editor of the National Business Review, Neville Gibson, reiterated points covered in this story.

Gibson said even though it had never been proven that Iti was involved in recruiting a “private militia” he was glad the police did what they did because he felt safer that those sorts of people were locked up.

“At least there has been a sentence and it is custodial.”

On the flip-side, Greens Party co-leader Metiria Turei, also appearing on Native Affairs, said the allegation of the foursome being involved in “private militia” was unproven because of a lack of evidence.

“It looks more like that because the powers granted under the Terrorism Suppression act they played FBI with the natives because they had those new powers and did so with these people here. Now much of the evidence they gathered was inadmissible.”

She was backed up by Auckland University law expert Khlee Quince who believed the sentence handed down to Iti and Kemara was harsh because irrelevant information was taken into consideration.

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell had earlier appeared on the show and made an excellent point by highlighting the case of Bernard Shapiro.

Flavell said Shapiro’s case should have acted as a precendent in the sentencing of Iti and Kemara.

Convicted of seven firearm charges which included the unlawful possession of two military semi-automatic rifles, explosives, grenades and a grenade launcher, the Christchurch man received a sentence of a $5000 fine payable to the St John’s ambulance service.

No matter who you believe, I recko we still haven’t heard the whole story of what happened in those days leading up to 15 October, 2007 and no doubt there is still more to come in this saga so I, like many, will keep following it.

However if there is one thing I learnt working in the media industry and that is the old cliché of ‘Never believe everything you read’ is true and I will always keep it in mind, how about you?

Friday, 25 May 2012

Sparking up

Did you know that smokers are poor Maori?

At least that is what a couple of the country’s reporters would have you believe after this year’s budget was revealed.
Yesterday was budget day and true to all of the predictions Bill English announced a zero budget.

It has clearly been signalled that the Government want New Zealand to be smoke-free by 2025 so it wasn’t a surprise that the budget included plans to raise the level of taxes on cigarettes
However what was surprising, and also disheartening, was the reaction from some of the country’s television reporters.

In a show of incredible ignorance Barry Soper of Prime News stated during an interview with English that the Government’s plans to increase the tax on cigarettes by 10 per cent every year for the next four years would affect people that could least afford it because smokers are low-income earners.
And then there was the interview with Hone Harawira in which he asked about affect the price rise would have on his constituency because all of his constituents are Maori and Maori are smokers. I didn’t catch the interview myself but my brother-in-law was outraged.

In his opinion the reporter may as well have said that Maori were all smoking dole-bludgers who were destined to end up in jail because that is the level of bigotry the comment showed.

Ok, so smoking is a habit that is prevalent in Maori and low-socio economic areas but that doesn’t mean that all smokers are poor Maori or that all Maori are smokers. I mean to make rash generalisations that smokers are poor Maori is, well, just ignorant and bigoted.

I gave up smoking when I was pregnant with my son, took it up again when I became a reporter and then gave it up again last week. It is a filthy disgusting habit but at the end of the day it comes down to personal choice.
And there are many, of all races and income-brackets, that make the choice to spark up – it isn’t just Maori or the poor.  

The fact that some of the country’s reporters can be so bigoted is disturbing. I once thought that those in the media were meant to be open-minded and fair but I am fast seeing that there is a lot of prejudice out there and I am starting to wonder if we still live in the 1950s.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Te Mangai

The announcement that the 12-week lock-out of some Affco workers was over was great news this week.

It has been a long and bitter fight for those workers who have been unable to work because of the protracted negotiations between their employers and the Meat Workers Union so it would have come as a huge relief that the two groups were finally able to reach an agreement on Tuesday.

The break in the long-standing dispute has been somewhat credited to the Iwi Leaders Forum however this left me wondering about a few things.
I must be honest here; I have never been a fan of this group as I see it as very subjective and selective. I think that if there is going to be a group comprised of iwi leaders then representatives must be those with a clear mandate to lead their people and I am not sure that the chairpeople of runanga necessarily have that. (Especially as much of the time those at the head of those organisations are desperately fighting to keep hold of their job, Maori politics is not for the faint-hearted.)

The question of mandate was clearly raised in the Affco story.
Former Tainui chairman Tukoroirangi Morgan was trumpeted as one of the key forces within the Iwi Leaders Forum which helped reach the breakthrough between Talleys and the Meat Workers Union.

Morgan talked about the role he played in a press release, which was picked up and replicated in a story in the Waikato Times, and described that he had talked with Affco “patriarch” Peter Talley on two occasions.

He said the iwi leaders’ job was to get both sides of the dispute around the table “and moving towards compromise and, ultimately, agreement”.

"History has been made here and role of Iwi in the modern industrial society has been forever changed," he said.
Trouble is Morgan is no longer a recognised iwi leader with a mandate from the Tainui people to represent them. Even he acknowleges this.

"Iwi exist to protect and advance the rights and interests of Maaori. While I may no longer be Chair of Te Arataura, I will always be Waikato-Tainui.”
I don’t doubt his motives in this case and good on Morgan for wanting to help his people but surely his continued involvement with the Iwi Leaders Forum leaves questions about their credibility as a group?

The Iwi Leaders Forum is a relatively new creation. Initially, when Morgan was the chairman of Tainui, it was described as the collective of the motu’s chairpeople.
They meet on a regular basis to discuss issues that are of interest to Maori but how can it be an Iwi Leaders Forum if not all members are recognised leaders?

Already their mandate to represent Maori as a whole is in doubt as shown here in this story and I believe that it is media that give this group the mana and recognition that allow them any sort of political presence.
In the past there have been stories that the group have influenced policy development around issues such as the foreshore and seabed and emission's trading scheme. The group has also been described as “the most powerful lobbying group in Wellington”.

Sure they probably assert some influence but the trouble, the way I see it, is Maori politics is a murky world and often it is a difficult area for reporters to navigate.
One of the most difficult jobs is being able to find the right person to act as a spokesperson for any group within Maoridom whether it is marae, hapu, iwi or in general. Mana-munching is alive and well so often those who claim to be the spokespeople do not represent the opinions of that group. Other times the right people do not want to talk to the media and so the reporter is left with no other option but to talk to those who will give them the quote that they need.

What is your opinion on the Iwi Leaders Forum? What about how do you think the media should ensure that they are talking to right people about issues pertaining to Maori?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Enough is enough?

I’ve been trying to avoid blogging about Louis Crimp because his statements were, well, ridiculous and I didn’t want to give him any more attention than he had already received.
However a tweet from one of the cuzzies, Leonie Simpsoninspired me to write this post.
The tweet read: “#CampbellLive why did you gave Crimp tv oxygen? More ridiculous than news”.

And that is exactly the point – why do media outlets continue to give people like Crimp space?

Almost every major media outlet has jumped on the story, which appeared first in the Weekend Herald, about Crimp’s comments that he donated $125,000 to the ACT Party because he believed the political group would stop what he considered special treatment for Maori.
I can understand the purpose of that initial article - the Banks-donation affair has been one of the biggest new stories in the last three months and here was a fresh angle which moved things forward, fair enough I get that.

I even get stories like this one where the political fall-out from such comments is analysed but what I don’t get is that you allow someone like Crimp time and space to spout his bigoted views to the nation as seen in this story by the New Zealand Herald
Sure, you may think that he is painting himself as some sort of lunatic but what is this adding except fuelling an already tense situation?

As part of the fourth-estate journalists in New Zealand have a responsibility to the public and democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context.
Far too often the country’s media indulge in Maori bashing just to lift the ratings but it is a form of the lowest-common-denominator-type journalism.

Today it is Crimp, last month it was John Ansell and next week it will probably be another raving bigot. It is nothing new – Maori have had to face these sorts of tirades ever since – but I do not think I am alone when I say that I am tired of it. What about you?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Speak up, I say

Wow, it’s been awhile.

Anyhow... I liked this story. That is not to say l liked the subject but I thought the reporter, Tim Donoghue, did a good job with it.
I thought he presented a clear and balanced story with comment mostly left for those he had interviewed rather than allowing his own opinion to colour the story. The sidebar was also a good backgrounder for the story.
However the lack of comment from one of the key players got me to thinking.

The story is about how a Wainuiomata kohanga reo could be forced to charge higher prices after being taken to court by its Maori trust landowner.

Pukeatua Kohanga Reo currently charges parents $188.50 a week for each child but a dispute with the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, over its annual rent, could force it to charge up to $230.
In the article, Trust manager Aroha Thorpe said the kohanga reo had agreed in 2009 to a “fair market rental” being determined and signed an agreement to that effect but, as yet, no rent has been paid. As a result the trust has taken the kohanga to court in a bid to force payment of the full rent.
However this is not a clear cut case of tenant vs landlord.

The story notes that this “dispute appears to be the latest battle in a feud between Te Atiawa factions in Wellington and Lower Hutt. It follows arguments over ownership of a ceremonial waka and Waiwhetu Maori raising concerns about the settlement trust's finances”.

The feud stems from the transfer of ownership of the land and buildings of the former Wainuiomata College to the trust as part of the 2009 Port Nicholson Trust settlement.

While Thorpe commented on the issue with the kohanga it was noted that Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love was unavailable for comment.
Which is a shame, the accusations levelled at the trust by the kohanga and in the backgrounder have serious undertones of disharmony and it would have been nice to hear from Sir Ngatata on the subject again.

As a Maori Affairs reporter I was often left feeling frustrated when tribal leaders either were not available for comment or simply declined. Too often my only option was to use the “not available for comment” or “declined to comment when contacted”. Which is weak, really.

I am a firm believer that tribal leaders should be accountable to their people and I think that this means commenting to the media when they have to. What do you think?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Cracking it? (Updated)

I wasn’t going to blog about the free contraception for beneficiaries’ thing. To be completely honest I feel a bit apathetic about it all - shameful I know.
But here’s the thing, I agree that it is probably not the most responsible decision to have a baby if you are on the benefit. Equally I believe that it is a decision that the would-be parents have to make themselves.

I also accept that the move could be seen as putting the responsibility of birth control solely on the woman but I think that there would be many out there who would be grateful for the option, especially if it’s free.

And the offer of free contraception is just that, an option, for now. Those women who are on the benefit and do not want to get pregnant (for whatever reason) will have to want it to ask for it.
Obviously there are many arguments for and against this policy and it is good that it has been widely discussed. I am not sure where I exactly stand on the whole debate but it was a story in the Waikato Times that got me thinking about it as a subject for this post.

Well actually it was a conversation between a DJ and a guest on Radio Tainui about the story that got me thinking.
I had seen the story beforehand, I think most in the Waikato had, but it is hard for me to be objective on this one. I have worked with Alistair Bone and found him to be a good guy. He sees things through a different perspective and I always thought that was a good thing.

His story on Huntly had clearly irked some, with the radio guest taking a swipe at the newspaper over it, while others applauded it. The diverse range in opinion shown in the posts on the bottom of the story
KMTW posted a comment, which read:

“I'm sick to death of people bagging Huntly. There are so many hardworking people here. I live down the road from where these ridiculous interviews took place and love living in this town. Come on Alistair Bone - this article is crap on a stick.
“'The rail line runs straight through Huntly West' - yes it does, well done. It is also used to transport coal. Solid Energy is a major employer of local people. 'The twin towers of the power station don't go anywhere' ???? Where are they supposed to go?? The power station employs many locals. Maybe your interviewees could get off their asses and get a job there! 'There are so many gangs locals need more than a hand to count them off and subset them into senior and junior' - Really? Where? Gangs as in Mongrel Mob or Black Power are not dominant in our streets. We are not a gang town!! Sure we have youths who wear scarves (as pictured) but I would hardly call them gangs which you could 'subset' into senior and junior chapters.

“'On paper its a terrible place'... we don't live on paper. We live and breathe in the real world. Huntly West is as safe as houses to me. I walk these streets at night. I know my neighbours and they know me. We are a proud community. We choose to live in Huntly West. “
Bryce said it was a “good article".

"There are so many people in New Zealand who think with this same mindset of "have a baby, get a payrise" that I am glad to see something like this published. Drug, alcohol & gang culture is what leads to this mindset, these are the true evils of society.”

Reading the story what I think Alistair was trying to do was paint a picture of those who could potentially benefit from National’s policy of free contraception. It is a shame that some of the people he interviewed said things like "I heard you crack it on the benefit if you have babies.
Raising children is hard; there is no doubt about that. Raising children on a benefit is even more difficult.
The problem, the way I see it, is Huntly could be any town or city in New Zealand and when you have a claim in it you become protective of it.  Perhaps that was the point, I don’t know - what do you think?

Alistair wrote an opinion to run the day after his story. Check it out here, does it change your opinion on the story?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

So what?

The opponents told you to worry about the Government'sForeshore and Seabed Law, and now politicians like Winston Peters are saying"I told you so".

What a truly hideous intro. It deserves better.
So what if Maori have made claims for customary rights to 20 beaches under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) act? Maori still cannot restrict public access if the rights are granted.
And isn’t that what everyone wanted to avoid, I mean nobody wanted to pay to use the beaches, right?

Under the new act that is what is ensured, is it not?
So, so what if a group of Taranaki Maori want customary title over Whitebait? Is that going to stop you heading to the river during Whitebait season and catching your family a feed?

The introduction of the Marine and Coastal Area act, which is the replacement to Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed legislation, was opposed for a variety of reasons but I do not ever think that they would have disputed that Maori should have a right to test their rangatiratanga over certain areas and resources.
I mean that is what the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi ensured, isn’t it?

“Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession. but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual Chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of Preemption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective Proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.”
And confiscation by treacherous means has been documented to the point it cannot be disputed. I mean, that is why the government has to settle treaty claims, isn’t it?
So, the question again: so what if Maori want to test their customary title over 20 beaches? I mean that’s not even rangatiratanga and anyway it is the right Maori have under the act, a piece of legislation sanctioned by the New Zealand government.
Passed last year the new act replaced the Seabed and Foreshore one.
Under the old legislation Maori could not go to the court for a determination of Maori customary title to the seabed and foreshore, a right confirmed by the Court of Appeal in Attorney-General v Ngati Apa.
The new act restores this right and any customary interests in land but, like the previous one, it also guarantees public access. 
It does not give Maori full title over the land and in order to gain customary title to a section of the seabed and foreshore it must be proven that their use of it has continued to be exercised since 1840 and has not been extinguished as a matter of law.
If only Patrick Gower had read Radio New Zealand’s snap on the Amnesty submission maybe he would have thought a little deeper.

Not only was his story, screened last night on TV3 news, alarmist but it missed out important facts.
From the presentation it seems Gower may have been torn between two angles for the story – whether to concentrate on the Taranaki iwi’s claim on the kiwi-delicacy, whitebait, or the supposed in-fighting over poor little Motiti Island?
In my opinion Gower shouldn’t have concentrated on either of them.

So what if Taranaki want to try and prove customary rights over whitebait in their rohe? It’s a right allowed to them under the act.

And so what if there are three groups who want to claim customary rights over Motiti? Take a visit over there and try and work out how many whanau whakapapa to that island because under this act the Motitians couldn’t legally stop you roaming up onto one of their beaches even if we were to be granted customary rights.
Wow two rants in two days, sorry. But ah well that’s what you get I guess, I am passionate about these things and I just want informed, balanced news on Maori issues. Is it too much to hope for?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

"Ka whawhai tonu mātou, Ake! Ake! Ake!"

Now here is a “Maori” issue with substance.

I had just got home on Sunday after spending the afternoon at The Point in Ngaruawahia with my family and I was already thinking about race relations in New Zealand when I picked up the story.
It had been a beautiful day at the place where the Waipa River meets the Waikato, but I had been left with a feeling of unease after reading the plaque that commemorates the gift of that piece of land from the Ngaruawahia Regatta Association to its community.
Sitting there in the heart of Tainui on the site that had once been a pa of the second Maori King, Tawhiao, I listened as two Muslim women chattered a way in their mother tongue and wondered how the Ngaruawahia Regatta Association had come to own the land in the first place.
Brewing on these thoughts I read the news that Amnesty International had told the United Nations that New Zealand is continuing to discriminate against Maori through the Marine and Coastal Area act.
Reported first by Radio New Zealand the story outlined the submission made by Amnesty to the UN committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights meeting in Geneva.
In the submission Amnesty had said the Marine and Coastal Areas Act had been intended to replace discrimination against Maori in the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act. However it said the international group believed the new act was also discriminatory because the customary interests it promotes exclude the right to exclusive occupation, preventing Maori from excluding the public as freehold owners can.
Attorney General Hon Simon Power agreed with the view in the article, but justified the act as a balance between the rights of Maori and the general public.
And this is it, the issue that probably will be debated forever; what are the rights of tangata whenua versus the right of the general public?
Obviously it is not the first time that issues concerning race relations in New Zealand have been discussed by an international organisation and yet so often you still hear people say that New Zealand is not a racist country.
Or even that Maori are racist for wanting separate rights to every other New Zealand citizens.
But what would these people know? Have they ever really asked why Maori can’t simply let things go and move on? Have they ever wondered what the Maori word and understanding is for ownership?
It is these people who do not understand this country’s history. They simply want to move forward and say things like “we are one nation, why can’t we be one people”.  Is it because they do not want to look back and acknowledge what happened?
It got me thinking back to those days of the Seabed and Foreshore hikoi in 2004. Many of those who were critical of the hikoi and its purpose were so because they do not understand the debate.
I clearly remember the prevailing thought I had then because I still wonder about it now – why doesn’t anybody ever explain that most Maori would never think about charging New Zealand families to use the beach because this debate is not about that. It is not even about ownership; it is about kaitiakitanga, mana and rangatiratanga.
It has been two days since Radio New Zealand ran the snap about the submission made by Amnesty and I have not seen any other report about it. Why has it not been discussed by more of our media? After all, doesn’t the issue strike at New Zealand’s very foundations – surely that must be important?

While I think Te Reo Maori should be taught in our schools, and good on Tim Groser for suggesting it, I also have an overwhelming belief that our country’s history should also be understood by all. Our history should also be a compulsory part of our schools and community. What better place to start than in the media?

Instead of wasting time and resources on debates like the Close Up one that featured Ansell vs Harawira or producing a show that is more concerned about ratings than informing people, we could actually be discussing race relations in this country – I mean, if you ask me, we desperately need to.
Because for me the old saying of: if you don’t know where you’ve been, you will never know where you are going, rings true.
The Point at Ngaruawahia is a beautiful place to reflect, it is also a very important part of our history that has a lot of questions which need answering. What do you reckon?

Monday, 7 May 2012

Some morning sunshine

This morninng I read Kerre Woodham's opinion piece on Groser's suggestion that Te Reo Maori should be compulsory in all schools. It was published on the New Zealand Herald website and I wanted to share a comment that was left by "Argonaut" because, for me, it summed up things quite nicely.

Argonaut (New Zealand)
02:51 PM Sunday, 6 May 2012
'It amazes me how many people come out of the woodwork that are so anti learning maori.

"They are all talk. Very few of them actually admit to living in a bilingual house.

"As for immigrants where English is their second language, they need to learn that their own language is just as important. Parents who insist their kids ONLY speak English, are cheating their kids of something precious, not only their own culutre, but the ability to learn more languages, easily, at a later date in their life.

"There is no point saying "why learn Maori, we should learn [some other language]" Well guess what. We don't have a nation filled with [some other language] speakers.

"If aunty speaks spanish, then by all means, learn spanish. Or if you are at a school that has the new Mandarin assistance (non teachers, supplied by some chinese society) then learn mandarin.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Both sides of the argument

Last night I came across an opinion piece on the Nelson Mail’s website that got my back up and I wanted to be outraged.

Written by Ian Barker the piece outlined the Nelson councillor’s opposition to the creation of a seat on the city’s council specifically for Maori representation and I was already irked by the headline of “Maori-ward unacceptable”.

I have been in a Hamilton City Council meeting and listened as one of the councillors put forward his opposition against the creation of Maori wards. Scarily bigoted this councillor prefaced his argument with the statement: “Some of my closest friends are Maori but”. The speech didn’t get much better as he continued to outline his argument; in fact, in my opinion, it spiralled downhill further and hit an all-time low spot with the comment: “Maori should be proud with such people like Kiri Te Kanawa in their race”.

So as I read Barker’s opinion I couldn’t help but feel that seething rage start to boil once again. Before I had even got to the end I was already judging the newspaper for being irresponsible because it had featured such a negative piece without tempering it with the other side.

But how wrong was I?

Well completely it turns out. Two days before Barker’s piece the newspaper had run an opinion from the Te Tonga MP, Rino Tirikatene, outlining his support for the creation of Maori wards.

And so, even though it was only to myself, I take back my criticism of the Nelson Mail. The two pieces put forward both sides of the argument in a fair and balanced way.

On one side Barker suggested if candidates display a policy that appeals to a majority of voters he or she will inevitably be successful regardless of his or her race, religion, colour or sex.

“In my view, the establishment of a race-based Maori ward in Nelson would be at odds with Article 2 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which requires equality, without any distinction based on race, colour, sex, language, religion or political opinion,” he said.

The opinion received 13 comments and Barker’s stance was supported by several people including the post below from Kate.

“Thank god. You shouldn't get a seat handed to you because you’re maori. You should become a councillor because the people of Nelson voted you in and believe you deserved a place.

“I don't see any Burmese, Chinese, Italian people requesting a personal seat. And I couldn't give a crap if you were a Burmese, Chinese, Italian councillor. Just as long as you do your job and try and make Nelson a better place. When did being a councillor ever come down to the colour of your skin?”

On the other side of the debate Tirikatene argued that Parliament has signalled Maori wards are an important part of our democracy and a mechanism for achieving equality of representation for Maori. He said Maori wards also satisfied the partnership principle under the Treaty of Waitangi.

“The fantasy that Maori wards are some sort of apartheid measure is just that, a fantasy. The apartheid regime believed blacks were lesser human beings and, as a result of this fantasy, they treated them as barely human at all. Any comparison with apartheid is plain wrong, but also offensive,” he said.

Tirikatene’s piece received 22 comments and his stance seemed to receive less support than Barker’s but one poster raised an interesting point.

“It is interesting to note that there are seven (mine makes eight) comments from non-Maori and none from Maori. Perhaps this indicates why Maori have been unable to secure Maori candidates on council. It indicates apathy and a lack of interest in doing something positive through the normal channels of the voting system to stand for and campaign for election,” wrote Jan.

The two opinion pieces were a wonderful presentation of both sides of a debate that is likely to continue for a fair while yet and I think the Nelson Mail should be commended. What are your thoughts?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Three cheers

I was so tempted to join the masses slagging TV3’s new show The GC and use this blog post to point out its inadequacies in the portrayal of young Maori living in Australia. After all the show’s creator and producer, Bailey Mackey, had said the show was ''actually a depiction of Maori presently'' and personally I feel that this is wrong.
I was also particularly perturbed when I read that the show had been sold to New Zealand on Air as a series that would "explore emigration from a Maori perspective and how Tikanga Maori supports them as they adapt to life in a new country". If that was the case what a waste of an opportunity.

However the show has already received its fair share of criticism so much so that it was one of trending topic on social networking site Twitter and so I thought that this post would be better dedicated to something else.

It has been a few days since my last post which was on Tim Groser’s comments that Te Reo Maori should be compulsory in schools and I was delighted to see the issue had picked up by several media outlets.

One of my favourite stories was one produced by Radio New Zealand. In it the radio station had spoken to Waikato University lecturer Pou Temara about his views that the National Party appears to have done more for revitalising Te Reo Maori than Labour.

I am not saying that I agree with the comments but what I did like is that Temara’s view was put forward in the article and then Labour's Maori Affairs spokesperson Parekura Horomia was given the opportunity to dispute the claim.

In less than 200 words (199 to be exact) the story presented another take on the issue while achieving fairness and balance. It takes a fair amount of skill to keep a story short and precise. Newspaper journalists know this and the constant battle in this area is to use the least amount of words to convey the exact meaning of what is intended so ka pai Radio New Zealand.

Another piece that I enjoyed was an editorial that appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times. Written by renowned journalist Keri Welham, it was a personal take on the issue and I was pleased that a newspaper had given the time and space for such a piece because seldom do we see Maori issues in such positive editorials. Too often editors and other management staff in the media only feel compelled to write about Maori issues if the subject is negative, stereotypical and sensational.

And finally the third story I enjoyed was one written by Taranaki Daily News reporter Laird Harper. In it Harper had talked to several principals in his region about the issue and it was good to hear from those who are at the coalface. Unsurprisingly, the three principals were supportive of Groser’s suggestion.
Have you seen an examples where the media has done a good job presenting Maori issues?