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National Iwi Chairs Tangata Whenua Caucus Withdraws From National Action Plan Against Racism

Mandated representatives of the National Iwi Chairs Forum have formally withdrawn from the working group for a National Action Plan Against Racism, noting that the current government is “clearly committed to colonial racism and in particular, targeted racism against Māori”.

The development of a National Action Plan Against Racism was a part of the 2017 recommendations to the New Zealand government by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, it was also urgently recommended by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Terrorist Attacks. A working group was convened in 2022 to develop a draft action plan for public consultation, co-led by the Ministry of Justice and the National Iwi Chairs Forum, and consisting of a Tangata Whenua caucus, tauiwi caucus and a state sector caucus. However, according to Tangata Whenua caucus members, recent moves by this government have made the continued participation of the Tangata Whenua caucus untenable.

“Our government has signalled changes to the plan, including a reduced focus on institutional racism and colonial racism against Māori, which would render the plan pointless as all instances of personal racism result from the institutional racism of our society” says Tina Ngata, Tangata Whenua caucus member. “Our committee have met and collectively decided that we will not be moving forward with the government’s proposed plan amendments. We are not interested in providing this government with a tool that it will use to cloak its own racism, particularly the very targeted racism it is exhibiting towards Māori. The signalled shifts demonstrate not only the commitment of this government to maintaining colonial racism against Māori, but how important anti-Māori racism is to this government”.

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Ms Ngata cited the Treaty Principles Bill, the Fast Track Approvals Bill, as well as the dismantling of co-governance initiatives such as Māori wards, the Māori Health Authority, and Te Mana o te Wai, along with ministerial marginalisation of Te Reo Māori and “continued racist rhetoric and gaslighting from senior Ministers of this government” as “standalone examples of this government’s commitment to upholding institutional racism”.

The concerns were echoed by caucus member Linda Tuhiwai Smith, who stated that “by singling Māori out as a group, our language and culture, this government are demonstrating how deeply their colonial attitudes still run”.

National President of the Māori Womens Welfare League and caucus member, Dr Hope Tupara, reiterated a press release from the League in December 2023 by stating that “League members will not silently sit by while our work on legacy issues suffer erosion by government apathy on racism – e kore ngā mema o Te Rōpu Wāhine Māori Toko i te Ora e whakaāe ana i ngā pēhitanga e pēnei ana.

National Iwi Chairs Forum member and Pou Tikanga lead, Professor Margaret Mutu, said “Every single government in this county has relied upon racism to not only strip us of our resources, but also keep us in a subservient space, and in service of colonial privilege.”

The Tangata Whenua caucus will still carry on with an independent anti-racism plan that it intends to bring out to communities in the near future, noting that anti-racism action at the community level need not wait for the government. “All anti-racist movements of consequence have come from the people, anyway” stated Ms Ngata – “Anti-racism has always been driven by grass-roots movements and that will remain the case – the draft action plan that we have worked on up to now includes strategies that communities can engage with now to identify, respond to, and reduce racism within their communities and organisations, as well as a series of actions that we expect from the New Zealand government, and will continue to hold them to account on”.

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