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Newman: Whangarei people duped over name change

Whangarei people duped over name change

Dr Muriel Newman Monday, 11 July 2005 Speeches - Treaty of Waitangi & Maori Affairs

Speech to the Whangarei ACT Electorate Committee

I would like to use this opportunity to discuss the Parahaki/Parihaka name-change debacle and to reflect on the future of race-relations in New Zealand.

Having taken a public stand against the onslaught of political correctness in New Zealand, I was asked by constituents to get involved in the name change fiasco because they believed it was political correctness gone mad.

On investigation it appeared that a small group of local Maori had claimed that Mount Parahaki had the wrong name and they wanted it changed. As far as locals are concerned, no-one can recall this issue having been raised seriously before. The first they knew about it was when the council recommended that the mountain’s name be changed.

The suggested name change proposal came from the Whangarei District Council Parks Division who, in 2003, accepted a request from local Maori that the pa site Parahaki be changed to “its correct name Parihaka, as the current name Parahaki is a misnomer”. The Council applied to the New Zealand Geographic Board with the name change proposal, without consulting with local residents, who are the official owners of the Mt Parahaki public reserve. One can only speculate on why they failed to consult and on the outcry that would have erupted if the council had backed a name-change proposal without consulting with local Maori.

Being a strong believer in the fundamental principles of grassroots democracy, I decided to consult with the public over whether they supported the name change from Mt Parahaki to Mt Parihaka. Of the 2,500 people who responded to the citizen’s referendum, 94 percent opposed the name change.

Armed with this new information that an overwhelming majority of locals opposed the name change, I requested that the Mayor ask her new council to reconsider their application to the Geographic Board, since it was the previous council that had supported the name change proposal. She refused.

The council’s name change application was based on the Te Parawhau tribe’s claim that the present name is a “misnomer", when it is a re-naming. The Geographic Board then advertised it as a “spelling correction" instead of a re-naming. The fact that both advertised it in a misleading way renders the whole process invalid. Just as in private enterprise false advertising is against the law, I believe that these official bodies should not be above the law and that the present name-change process should be abandoned. I have written to both the Mayor and the Geographic Board in that regard.

Investigations show that Mt Parahaki has always been the name of the mountain since records first began. Official maps and Maori Land Court documents identify the mountain as Mt Parahaki. Maori history researched by respected local historian Nancy Pickmere, through the Maori Land Court, shows that in the 1700s the original owners of the Whangarei District were Ngai Tahuhu. They called the mountain Mt Parahaki.

In light of this evidence it is clear that neither the Council nor the Geographic Board adequately researched the authenticity of the name- change proposal. If they had done so they would have rejected the proposal on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to back up the claim. That neither organisation reached this conclusion demonstrates profound negligence.

When I called a public meeting to discuss the name change proposal some 250 local residents attended. Sadly the majority of those attending, who opposed the name change, were too scared to have a say because of the domination and intimidation of those radical Maori who want the name of the mountain changed. On radio that day they called me a racist, and accused me of Maori bashing and bullying. All I had done is stand up to them on behalf of my constituents who overwhelmingly disagree with what they are trying to do.

On that day, I was told by Te Parawhau - the group pushing for the name change - that it wouldn’t matter what I or anyone else did as the name was going to go ahead.

I have to surmise that they hold this view because of changes introduced into the New Zealand Geographic Board Act in 1998 by the National Party - supported by all other parties except ACT - which require that the Board use ‘original’ Maori place names where possible. However, that does not give the Board the right to accept the word of local Maori without a rigorous investigation and nor should it mean that they consult only with local Maori and not with other locals who share a deep concern about this issue. If the situation was reversed and the Board had consulted with non-Maori but refused to consult with Maori, there would be an enormous outcry.

At the public meeting, Te Parawhau challenged opponents of the name change to explain the meaning of Parahaki. In order to answer that question I contacted historian Nancy Pickmere who replied: “I favour the following explanation of “Parahaki” that it means “pa” or ‘fortress’, and “rahaki” which means ‘on one side’, according to the Williams Dictionary of the Maori Language. I think this describes the pa which has terraces mostly on one side”.

In comparison, three versions of Parihaka have emerged: one involves a haka on top of the cliff performed by Para the chief of the Parawhau tribe, in another version the haka was performed by Kukupa, and in a third version, a chieftainess commanded the pa and insisted that her warriors perform a daily haka before they were lowered down the cliff face on flax ropes to work in the plantations. Nancy Pickmere believes that the meaning of Parihaka “could be based on fable, not on factual history".

I believe that the people of Whangarei have been duped over this name change issue. Aided and abetted by the District Council and the Geographic Board, Te Parawhau are attempting to change the name of our beloved Mt Parahaki to that of a Taranaki mountain better known for its long-standing role as the centre of radical Maori activism. I believe one of their motives is to strengthen the case for their three land claims - for the whole of the Whangarei district - which they have lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal. Their last claim was lodged just before Christmas.

Clearly, if the name change goes ahead, Te Parawhau’s version of the history of the district will become the official one. That will not only substantially strengthen their land claim, but it will also extinguish the real history of the mountain and the district which saw the slaughter of the Ngai Tahuhu people with their lands and fisheries being confiscated, at a time when a barbaric lifestyle of slavery and cannibalism of Maori by Maori was common.

Given the overwhelming public opposition to the name change, the final decision is now in the hands of the Minister of Land Information, Pete Hodgson. I have written to him to urge him to reject the application on the basis that it was falsely advertised, that there is no official documented evidence that Parahaki is the wrong name since the so-called justification is based on fable and that the majority of local residents - who are the real owners of the mountain - are overwhelmingly opposed to the change.

I feel very angry that the people of Whangarei have been duped by a group of powerful Maori, who are using this issue to progress their Treaty of Waitangi land claim agenda.

They have been duped by the Whangarei District Council who did not properly investigate the proposal nor consult with the owners of the mountain.

They have been duped by a Mayor who was not prepared to let the new council have a say when she knew that the proposal did not have public support.

And they have been duped by a government agency that not only falsely advertised the change but also failed to properly investigate the proposal.

This whole issue highlights the double standard that now exists, where officialdom bends over backwards to appease Maori but doesn’t care about the view of anyone else. This is now widespread: in health and education, in welfare and housing, in prisons and the probation service, everywhere you look, Maori privilege is alive and well. At the rate it is going, the name change debate won’t be about Parihaka but Aotearoa.

ACT was the first party in parliament to draft a law to repeal all of those racist clauses in legislation introduced by Labour and National, that established Treaty principles and the first to put time limits on the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process. When the bill was debated in 1997 all other parties called us racists and voted against the bill. Now, not only have all other parties adopted our ideas, but they pretend that they invented them.

If all Waitangi claims that are in the pipeline were lodged within twelve months and the Crown given five years to settle those that are legitimate, the Tribunal could be abolished.

If private property rights were enshrined in New Zealand’s Bill of Rights, then the Treaty of Waitangi, which was never meant to be a ‘partnership’ nor a ‘living document’ but an agreement where Maori accepted the Queen as the Head of State, that private property rights should be protected and that there should be one law for all - could be relegated to the status of a monument to commemorate an important event in our history instead of being used as a vehicle for minority rule and privilege.

After the election, I look forward to helping the new government make these changes.


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