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Nation building at the heart of the matter

Nation building at the heart of the matter - Anderton on Brash

Jim Anderton said that Don Brash as a leader of the National Party did not improve the already tarnished image of politicians with his statements that Maori were no longer distinctively indigenous people of New Zealand.

"Dr Brash's divisive statements on bloodlines are reminiscent of a drawing room conversation between colonial settlers, or of Enoch Powell in post-war Britain, rather than of a thoughtful New Zealand politician who understands the importance of his words in nation building. To illustrate this, I want to quote from a letter to me by a small Maori boy from a primary school in a predominantly Maori community, following a visit I made to the school in 2004. It was obviously written in discussion with the whole class, sitting with the teacher. It filled me with hope, happiness and despair all at the same time," Jim Anderton said today.

"Hope, because it said, "We thought it was very cool when you said that if we put our mind to it, we can have any future we want. It was cool when you said it is your job to make sure our town is a better place so that we can have a future and that we don't have to leave if we want a job here. We might go away to study, but the best thing is we have something to come home to."

"Happiness, because it said, " We feel really excited now because we know our town can be beautiful. We have an awesome river with heaps of eels (tuna). Our teacher told us that smoked tuna is really expensive in Wellington. If you like smoked tuna, we can catch and smoke some next time you are here. Lots of people expect us to fail because we are all Maori and we are from here and it feels like no-one cared about us in a long time. We don't want to fail, we don't want to go to prison and we don't want to be unemployed when we grow up."

"Despair, because it said "Thank you for not hating us like Don Brash. We are proud to be Maori! (Note from the teacher: this feeling came after the Orewa speech, the kids kept asking why Don Brash hates Maori so much and how could he hate them if he didn't even know them – it has stayed with them.)"

"I forwarded this letter to Don Brash at the time, asking that he consider how his words impact on our communities – and especially the young. Dr Brash seems not to have heard, or cared about, that young boy. His continued, and apparently considered, attacks on Maori issues affect people all over the country. In the public arena, there are deeply significant consequences if politicians play with ethnic identity and dignity. In my view, he puts at risk decades of reconciliation that have been proudly guided by politicians in both National and Labour-led governments, and by distinguished Maori leaders," Jim Anderton said.

"I would like to ask Don Brash whether it is a just matter of 'luck' that New Zealand has largely avoided the racial conflict and sectarian violence so common in places like Palestine, Bosnia and closer to home in the Solomons and Fiji.

"New Zealand is renowned internationally for its efforts in building dignified and respectful relationships between indigenous communities and all those who have made this country their home. We stand as a model for the international community. It's time Don Brash read and learned from Michael King's History of New Zealand and understood what it means to be a New Zealander," Jim Anderton said today in Wellington.

ends

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