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Pakeha Protest In Support Of Maori Seabed Rights

Pakeha Protest In Support Of Maori Seabed Rights

By Sarah Helm
29 April 2004

Caption: Dr Maria Bargh, and Vanessa hit Lambton Quay in a build-up protest for the hikoi.

A pakeha woman and a Maori woman reached up to fix a placard to a pole on Lambton Quay. The sign read, ''No treaty breaches on our beaches''.

The pakeha woman, Vanessa, was not alone. On a foreshore protest held in Wellington last week, around 30 people attended. Three were Maori. The rest were of European descent.

And that is just the tip of the pakeha iceberg. National groups like Network Waitangi and the Anti Racism Crew; and local groups such as Auckland’s Tamaki Treaty Workers, the Northland Urban Rural Mission, and Nelson’s Being Pakeha, are all pakeha groups concerned about the foreshore legislation. On top of that are groupings in Coromandel, Rotorua, Christchurch, and Wellington; and mixed national groups such as Peace Movement Aotearoa and ARENA.

These organisations are actively participating in organising protest, educational forums, and promoting the hikoi against the foreshore legislation.

Victoria was one of the pakeha on the Wellington protest and she said, “I think there’s been a lot of media coverage to make people think that they can’t go to the beach anymore. And when you look closely it’s never been about stopping people going to the beach.”

Vanessa said, “There is a big movement of pakeha people who do know what’s going on, and we’re all sick of this. I couldn’t live with myself if I sat back and let this go on without doing something about it.”

One of the shared concerns the pakeha organisers hold is the likelihood that the legislation will create new grievances.

“This will be the biggest land confiscation so far, and it will mean my children will have to deal with the consequences, just as I’m having to deal with the consequences of the generations before me. And it just seems really bloody stupid when it’s all just about votes and we could be moving forward together,” Vanessa explained.

Caption: 'Confiscation' speaks for itself I think. From a Wellington protest.

Hikoi organiser Dr Maria Bargh, of the Maori organisation Aotearoa Educators, said that pakeha are missing an opportunity to do the right thing this time around. “A lot of pakeha say ‘oh you know confiscation had nothing to do with me, maybe my ancestors, but not me’. This is a brilliant opportunity for pakeha to make sure this doesn’t happen again in their time,” she said.

The organisers share a sense of frustration that years of hard work are being undone.

The Nelson group ‘Being Pakeha’ held a protest which re-enacted past land thefts. In an article printed in the Nelson Mail organiser Anne FitzSimon, was quoted saying, “This is the whole point of it. I mean, we in New Zealand have spent the last 30 years turning over land confiscations, recompensing for them and looking at injustices, and this (legislation) is the same as what happened after 1840."

Anglican Priest Rev. Joan Cook says that pakeha concern about the issue is so big that they have attracted around 200 pakeha to forums in Whangarei. She said that they are “ordinary people”, not the “hippies” the public might anticipate would share Maori concerns.

She also said that politicians are behaving immorally, and seem to be more worried about votes than the shape of the future. “It would have been better if Labour lost the election than to have this immoral behaviour.”

Maori groups seem to welcome the support from European quarters. Rev Cook received a call from long-time Maori protestor Mike Smith asking for her to help organise activities.

While Teanau Tuiono from Aotearoa Educators said “I’m encouraged that there are pakeha groups that are taking this kaupapa (issue) quite seriously, especially in light of the general mainstream reaction and the comments that have been made by Don Brash. In the conversations I’ve had with a lot of Maori groups around the country, they really want to see a lot of pakeha come on board.”

However, the success of the infamous Orewa speech suggests that the pakeha involved in these groups are a minority. Victoria agrees.

Caption: 'Confiscation' speaks for itself I think. From a Wellington protest.

She said “I think Don Brash is probably voicing what a lot of pakeha New Zealanders do feel, I guess the issue I have is that in our education system we aren’t taught our own history. I had the same problem myself. I didn’t know a lot about the Treaty until I was 20-something and I’d never been given any proper information. And I think a lot of the views that are being held it’s not because people hate Maori, there’s just not a lot of good information out there to help us understand the issues.”

Rev Cook shared a story about one woman who came to a forum her organisation hosted. The woman said she had a terrible gut feeling about what the Government was doing. After the talk the woman joined a march, and volunteered in the kitchen to support the hikoi.

Rev Cook thinks that a lot of pakeha may have an unexplained unease about the legislation.

Peace Movement Aotearoa have put up a website to offer information to pakeha about the legislation:


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