September 18, 2014

An open letter to the Councillors of New Plymouth District Council re Māori wards in Taranaki

I had the privilege of living in Taranaki for ten years amongst the people of Te Atiawa, Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Ruanui. It is an extraordinary corner of New Zealand rich in beauty with resilient, resourceful and patient locals. For me it is a place where the land speaks and history bubbles up – a potent history of dispossession, violence, treachery and resilience, hope and resourcefulness. I always find it comforting to see the feathers of Parihaka and remember the unique courage of the ploughers and the prophets. I am writing this because I believe Taranaki Māori have waited long enough for justice and a voice in how their community is run and it is time for the stalwarts of the NPDC to ensure Māori voices are always at the decision-making table. Democracy does not work for an indigenous minority rather it provides a structure barrier to representation.

Today is suffrage day a day to reflect on power, decision making and voice. Despite the fears of many men the world didn’t end when women got the vote. Despite the fears of Grey Power and the some of the Pākehā business community the world won’t end if Māori wards are established. Rather it is an opportunity for decisions informed by Māori perspectives. These perspectives might consider the impact of decisions on Papatūānuku (the health of the mother earth) or on mokopuna (the next generation). The might look different to the old decisions they may be similar but the conversation will be richer for having more voices at the table.

From a Te Tiriti o Waitangi perspective it is the tika (correct) thing for Māori to be at the decision- making table. It’s time for Taranaki to find its courage and demonstrate its commitment to tangata whenua. Vote for Māori wards.

Naku noa na

 Dr Heather Came

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