God defend NZ from Don Brash (Te Kooanga Awatere-Reedy)

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Te Kooanga Awatere-Reedy is Year 12 prefect at St Joseph’s Maori Girls College in Napier. This speech won her second place in the Catholic Schools’ O’Shea Shield Speech competition held last weekend in Nelson. It was featured in the Sunday Star Times and Stuff online.

ON THE 27th of January, 2004, Dr Don Brash, leader of the National Party, gave an address he entitled Nationhood to the Orewa Rotary Club. This was his first major speech as leader and he was giving his views of the subject of the Maori contribution, or to be more accurate, the lack of the Maori contribution to New Zealand’s nationhood.

Brash began by asking what sort of nation we wanted to build. He posed two options the first a modern democratic society, the second, a racially divided nation in which the current generation is made to “foot the bill for mistakes our great-grandparents made”. He went on to claim that Maori, at the beginning of the 21st century, had locked New Zealand into the 19th.

He said Maori were guilty of “inventing spiritual beliefs” for money. Brash despaired that Maori now wielded unfettered power that they used to violate democratic principles. The example he cited was the upcoming Foreshore and Seabed Bill which he said set up one law for Maori and another for anyone else.

This was true, but not in the way Brash suggested. The bill became law and removed from Maori the opportunity to test their ownership in a court of law and to test that ownership against a body of New Zealand law and international precedents. This ability to test ownership in a court of law is one right that all New Zealanders enjoy. Except Maori.

There are more than 12,500 non-Maori who enjoy private ownership of the foreshore and seabed. Nothing in that act affected those non-Maori owners.

The Orewa speech was an emotional call to arms against Maori. The speech was peppered with words and phrases like violate, deeply corrupt, standover tactics, undermine New Zealanders, going downhill, invite corruption, conflict ridden, recipe for disaster, block development.

In such coded language Brash blamed Maori for the state of New Zealand’s nationhood, for its welfarism, for its poverty, for its backwardness. Without Maori contesting the forced alienation of their property, their lands, forests and waters through the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand would be, according to Brash, a “modern, prosperous, democratic nation”.

This first Orewa speech had led many to accuse Brash of racism, of fostering racial hatred and of playing the race card. Feelings among Maori were still running high a year later when Brash gave a second speech on Maori, repeating the same ideas, as part of his 2005 election campaign. Hone Harawira turned up to the second speech, cameras in tow, to confront Brash outside the venue. His words to Brash were: “Your speech belittled you.”

I urge you to read a Waitangi Tribunal Report. This independent tribunal, consisting of both Maori and Pakeha members, has investigated thousands of claims which it has found to be legitimate and proven through historical research. Our Waitangi Tribunal was the role model for the Bishop Tutu’s Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after the abolishment of apartheid.

Now, in the lead-up to his seizure of the Act Party leadership, Brash turned his sights on the Marine and Coastal Act. While the act allows Maori the right to take their claim to court, the test to exercise that right sets the bar so high few will reach it, and even if they do, New Zealand and international precedent have been disallowed. Should any iwi pass these obstacles, the act then puts restrictions on them which are not being put on the other 12,500 owners of foreshore.

This year, Brash has reprised the Orewa Nationhood speech to different forums, including the Act Party’s annual conference, where the speech so inspired one listener he called out that Maori should be shot. Brash has promised to lift Act’s vote at the coming elections, to give National the backbone to take steps to close the economic gap with Australia and to stop so-called racial privileges enjoyed by Maori.

I ask you this question: If so many Maori enjoy racial privilege, then why are so many of them now living in Australia, and enjoying economic prosperity far ahead of Maori who remain in New Zealand?

Now that Brash is Act’s leader, I feel a sense of foreboding about the safety and wellbeing of young Maori heading into this year’s election. I am worried about the impact of a campaign in which politicians compete to see who can create the most resentment over the settlement of treaty claims, the most resentment regarding imagined racial privileges, the most resentment towards Maori for allegedly causing our economic woes, and worst of all, resentment that Maori will end up owning foreshores they will exclude non-owners from.

A resurrected Brash, and an oft-replayed Orewa speech, portend rips in our nationhood’s mantle of racial wellbeing and tolerance of the past few years.

I do believe New Zealand’s young deserve better than this from its elders. We need peacemakers who will bring us together, not haters who will drive us apart. A quote from Mathew (5:9): Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

May God save New Zealand from the racist incitement as proposed by Brash.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

The Sunday Star-Times welcomes contributions of guest columns from readers. Send submissions to feedback@star-times.co.nz

3 COMMENTS

  1. Very insightful and so correct. You have Don Brash' ideology the underlying racism down pat. I will be keeping an eye and ear out for where you may be headed in the very near future kotiro. I admire you and tautoko everything you say. God bless you and your whanau.

  2. Kia Ora! Kotiro! Nga mihi! Well done …very impressive analogy & expressively on the ball ! I see an amazing rising star in the making! I applaude the school allowing this kind of material of an exceptional quality to be published! …Thru the eyes of our rangatahi GO GIRL! i congratulate You your whanau and most definately your politicalscience studies. Along side of you teachers and principal! GOD BLESS! Mauri Ora!

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