The announcement by New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd that he is not standing again, is a tragedy. By all accounts Andrew has been a good leader of the community and the fact that his withdrawal is over the visceral nature of some of the locals’ reactions to one of his initiatives, reflects more poorly on the public of New Plymouth than on Andrew Judd.
The matter, of course, was Andrew Judd’s initiative to create two wards on the council for Maori representation. The poll initiated by the local Grey Power group drew an 83% rejection of that idea. As it happens we at Morgan Foundation didn’t think the idea was a good way to achieve the objective Andrew had defined either [read here], although we agree totally with his objective – namely to ensure his council meets its statutory obligation and gives Maori a greater say in resource management. Just to refresh, his objective was to ensure Maori have their rights – that are well established under Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi and ratified by the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, – respected and protected. Those rights include consultation on matters around resource management, some of which Local Authorities are charged with managing.
But sadly for New Plymouth, the loudest opponents to their Mayor’s initiative objected to Maori Treaty rights being respected, let alone protected. There was, in other words, a strong element of ignorance within that community as to the rights and entitlements of the treaty partner. That was clear not only in the nature of the contributions to the public debate that the Mayor held in December 2014, but in the aftermath. The ugliest demonstration has been, as he says, the cowardly, bigoted and gross reaction he and his family have been subjected to in response.
It’s as though the hillbillies never left Taranaki, that New Plymouth hosts more than its fair share of village idiots. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that it’s the old and grey that led the opposition, given they were never taught civics or the history of New Zealand way back when they were in school. But the message sent to the young people of Taranaki, who by and large have been, is abysmal.
That would be bad enough but to then see that bastion of redneck radio Mike Hosking abusing his position as an announcer on taxpayer-owned television, was too much. To have him spew his personal preference that Maori should try standing for election if they want their rights of consultation respected, is simply unacceptable. Using State-owned media to amplify the ignorance of bigots is surely something the managers of TVNZ should be held accountable for. It is not informing the public, it is simply a shock-jock using his position to amplify ignorance – the very thing Andrew Judd has been fighting on the streets of New Plymouth.
The post-1975 Treaty of Waitangi process appears to have gone straight over the heads of many pakeha, particularly in the provinces. The blame for that has to be with the politicians of both parties, who have endorsed the process but failed to inform the constituency of the implications. They have enabled the Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal to establish the treaty principles and yet here we have State-owned television fuelling public witlessness by allowing staff to present their personal unadulterated bigotry as informed opinion. If the State broadcaster is going to allow announcers to popularise their role by injecting personal comment and opinion into commentary then it’s incumbent upon the business to ensure the opinion is informed.
The time is overdue for a Treaty of Waitangi Commissioner to augment the role of the Race Relations and Human Rights Commissioners and specifically censure deliberate denigration of the treaty. How on earth can we expect the agreement to be honoured when the bigotry and ignorance of the Far Right is allowed to encroach on the standards of public broadcasting?
Hosking’s pathetic “clarification” on Friday where he argued he wasn’t a racist but repeated his assertion that if Maori need to assert its rights it needs its people to stand for election, simply confirms his ignorance of what Maori legal rights are around resource management and protection of taonga. It does not require that they have political representation at all, it requires that Local Authorities obey the law.
Hosking needs to educate himself with what the legislation requires. Of course that assumes his employers seek him to be a neutral and informed presenter. However if his aspirations are far lower – just to maximise his appeal to the redneck radio’s crowd – then I understand why he wouldn’t give a toss, the begrudging correction simply was to protect ratings. If he had any guts he’d apologise to Maori for being so uninformed and abusing the taxpayers that own his employer. Fat chance.