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Multiple campaigns declare crisis for Māori rights

New Zealand’s Indigenous rights record is being called to account from
numerous campaigns following weeks of flashpoints around the nation.
Campaign leaders are citing a lack of government leadership and
protection around Māori land alienation, state removal of children,
and water pollution as indications that the Māori nation are “under
threat from the deeply entrenched colonial racism of the New Zealand

At Auckland’s Ihumātao, local Māori descendants and their supporters
continue their occupation of lands in opposition to government
eviction for a proposed housing development. Tensions have increased
as police escalated their activity on the site in spite of a
consistently peaceful approach by the movement. Local leader Pania
Newton says these new developments have eroded the trust and good
faith in the process. A national day of action for Ihumātao has seen
protests and community expressions of solidarity across the country.

Kelly Klink from Aotea (Great Barrier Island) has highlighted that the
government’s lack of leadership is not only impacting upon human and
land rights, but also water rights. Earlier this year, despite
widespread opposition from local Māori, the Environmental Protection
Authority (EPA), granted a large corporation consent to dump 250,000
cubic meters of toxic marine sludge off the coast of Aotea, a move
that has resulted in largescale protests in the Auckland CBD.

“This is an abuse of our fundamental rights including the right of
free prior and informed consent when big corporations dump toxic waste
in our moana - it will cause irreparable harm to our beautiful marine
environment which our people have relied upon for countless
generations” says Klink.

The Ihumātao and Aotea uprisings accompany further nationwide protests
last week regarding the excessive state removal of Māori children from
homes and abuse while in state care. ‘Hands Off Our Tamariki’ Campaign
organisers Leonie Pihama, Paora Crawford-Moyle & Rihi Te Nana have
highlighted the United Nations definition of genocide, which includes
the forceable transfer of children from one group to another, and
described this ongoing issue as New Zealand’s “Stolen Generation”.

Dr Pihama notes:
“We were told in 2016 that a change in legislation would make Child
Youth and Family (CYFs) more accountable to Māori for their absolute
incompetency in supporting our people, yet there continues to be a
denial by the government of the need for significant change to be

Last week’s nationwide protests were spearheaded by a rally in
Wellington which included a large march to Parliament steps to deliver
an Open Letter with over 17,000 signatures to the Government calling
for an end to the forced removal of Māori children. It also highlights
that Māori are continually stifled by government legislation, limited
resourcing and structural racism.

The connections across these campaigns is recognised by Dr Pihama:
“What we see is a government that has said it is committed to the
Treaty but fails to make any meaningful engagement with critical
issues such as Ihumātao, Aotea, or the destruction of our children’s
lives by its own Ministry. There is too much denial and defensiveness
over the past months by this government, as was the case with the
previous National government. There continues to be a denial of
fundamental Treaty rights to do with our whanau, our lands, our seas,
everything. Hands Off Our Tamariki voices our solidarity with all
Māori and Indigenous Nations that are standing in protection of sacred
places, sacred spaces, sacred future generations.”

Tina Ngata, spokesperson for the Kia Mau campaign opposing the 2019
anniversary celebrations of Captain Cook’s arrival notes that these
are clear examples of why the events are an inappropriate and
insensitive investment by this government: “We were promised a kind
and progressive government under Jacinda Ardern, but these multiple
flashpoints amount to a nation in crisis. The deeply entrenched
colonial racism of the New Zealand government presents an ongoing
threat to our lands, waters, and to us as a people. It’s appalling and
insulting that the government would pump tens of millions of dollars
into celebrating our “dual heritage” whilst continuing the Imperial
project of Indigenous dispossession and genocide. This all
demonstrates clearly how far away this government is from truly
appreciating the depth of the issues we need to address before we can
even claim basic respect for our human, environmental and Indigenous
rights, let alone any semblance of bicultural harmony or political

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