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Communication Key to Resolving War Memorial Crisis

Maori Party: “‘Communication’ the Key to Resolving War Memorial Crisis”

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Maori Party Co-leader, Dr Pita Sharples, has urged all parties to respect the need for communication regarding the removal of war memorial pillars from Greymouth.

“I have read comments from the Greymouth Mayor, Historic Places Trust, RSA, Police, Deputy PM, the local MP, and residents - all condemning the actions – but to date, what has been missing is any explanation or context to be put forward from those who have actually removed the gates” said Dr Sharples.

“Clearly, if - as has been suggested - the Mawhera Incorporation is responsible for removing these pillars off their land, everyone is interested in understanding their reasons for doing so” said Dr Sharples. “As far as I am aware, that explanation hasn’t yet been presented to the public – and I would think understanding the rationale for this situation must be a priority before we can make any progress”.

“The Maori Party respects all taonga and historic artefacts as reflecting the cultural richness of our nation” said Dr Sharples. “And we are always cognisant of the legacy left us by those veterans of the armed services who have served to protect our country through their efforts at home and abroad”.

“But we cannot ignore the reality that the people of Poutini Ngai Tahu have another history also - a history of over a century in which they were deprived of their rights to protect the unique nature of pounamu and its deep spiritual significance for their people” said Dr Sharples. "For the mana whenua, the long-standing lack of respect for their treasured taonga, has shaped the environment for Ngai Tahu as an iwi and will not be forgotten easily".

“I do not know the details of the specific situation that has occurred since Sunday, other than what has been reported by media” said Dr Sharples.

“But I know that for five generations of Ngai Tahu, they have suffered from the failure of the Crown to protect their right to regain possession and control of all pounamu. While the Ngai Tahu Pounamu Vesting Act vested pounamu in the Arahura river catchment in the Mawhera Incorporation some ten years ago, the history of denial and desecration of their taonga is still raw” said Dr Sharples.

“My call is for some real effort to be put into open dialogue between the various parties” said Dr Sharples. “The suggestion that all effort goes into retrieving these historic gates, without giving space and respect to the need for communication between both sides, is ill thought through”.

“We need to consider two important principles – the principle of respecting and protecting taonga; and the principle of healthy communication” said Dr Sharples.

“The Maori Party is willing to play a part in facilitating any such communication, should both parties see this as helpful”.


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