This Wednesday, Thursday and Friday New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd is leading a Peace Walk from New Plymouth council offices to Parihaka. This 44km hikoi is aimed at launching a new national conversation about Maori and non-Maori’s shared history and finding ways to move forward together. The Peace Walk has arisen out of the furore around Andrew’s attempts to improve Maori representation on the New Plymouth Council, and his decision not to run for Mayor again after the backlash he faced.
The comments from Mike Hosking on Seven Sharp displayed a complete lack of understanding of New Zealanders’ obligations under the Treaty. Regardless of whether Andrew’s proposal is the best way to deal with the representation issue, the fact remains that under the Treaty local authorities must ensure Maori involvement in decision-making. To understand why requires understanding our shared past, the Treaty of Waitangi and the principles of the Treaty that have emerged from case law. Raising the understanding of these issues by the citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand is an ongoing process – that media announcers on main channels still struggle to get their heads around this, suggests there is some way yet to travel.
Taranaki has always been central to the history of the Treaty partnership. In 1860 a dispute over land sales at Waitara sparked armed conflict, which lasted 3 years. A series of conflicts were experienced over the next 21 years. Parihaka in particular has a special place in our history. Under the leadership of Te Whiti and Tohu, Maori used non-violent non-cooperation methods to protest the confiscation of land – ploughing and fencing land that was being surveyed and settled by European settlers. In 1881, 1,600 armed Europeans entered the settlement, and the inhabitants were arrested or driven away. Only very recently has this inconvenient truth become mainstream history material taught in (some of) our schools.
This particular conversation began with Andrew Judd declaring himself a ‘reformed racist’. Andrew has said:
“I’m addressing Pākehā, and I’m saying: ‘We’ve got it wrong. We’re a major part of the problem. We’ve never acknowledged it because we don’t talk about our past. But we need to talk about it in order to understand.’ If you can identify with what I’m saying, then come with me. And let’s see if together we can change this.”
This message is very similar to the address I gave at Ratana last year. I called upon Pakeha to raise their understanding of the Treaty. Understanding our history is essential to understanding and respecting our obligations today. This is a conversation the Morgan Foundation has contributed to. In the Talk Treaty project we interviewed more than 50 prominent New Zealanders, asking them about the Treaty. After all, the central idea of the Treaty is that we agreed to share this country, to look after each other, and talk through our issues.
One of the other messages that emerged from that process was the importance of language. A better appreciation of te reo by Pakeha would go a long way to bridging the divide between the Maori perspective on life in New Zealand and the perspective from the rest of us. As Nelson Mandela said when asked about his conciliatory approach to the racist South African regime and why he’d bothered to learn Afrikaans:
“If you speak to a man you speak to his head, but if you speak his language you speak to his heart”.
I encourage you to check out the Talk Treaty site, and watch some of the videos there.
I support Andrew’s attempts to continue the korero. Many Maori understand the issues, but more Pakeha have to get schooled up to ensure our opinions are informed. After all, we are all Treaty signatories, we all have a right to live here and for our cultural values to be protected and nurtured.
People can walk as little or as much of the hikoi as they like. The Peace Walk programme is:
Day one – Gather 9.30am, New Plymouth District Council then walk to Oakura Hall, with a community forum 3pm-5pm.
Day two – Gather 9.30am, Oakura Hall, then walk to Okato Hall, with a community forum 3pm-5pm
Day three – Gather 8.00am at Okato (Hempton) Hall to Parihaka.
A full breakdown of the timetable for the Peace Walk will be available on the Peace Province Initiative Facebook page. Unfortunately I am overseas during the hikoi but the Morgan Foundation will be represented by Nick Tansley on the Wednesday leg of the journey.