Water and Politics

I try to swim at least four times a week. My local recreation centre has a reliably cold outdoor pool and in South Auckland, we have been fortunate to have free access to swimming pools. I swim as the sun is setting, I like the light, and the quiet; I often have the pool to myself.

After I’ve warmed up, and my body stops struggling against the cold, I start to observe my own silence. Being in between the water and the sky, I’m aware and alert. I hear differently, and smell differently, and think deeply.

Today, the singing from a church group at Otara Music Arts Centre across the road was vigorous. Perhaps a significantly large congregation, or a special occasion – the doors must have been wide open. I could hear individual voices, I could hear their faith.

Last week I could smell an umu. I was interviewed for an article a few years ago and spoke about one of the things I love about Otara being the haze of umu smoke on Christmas day. I think I was probably exaggerating, but the smell of umu or lovo, is happiness – memories of family, celebrations, love, land, home – and all from a smell.

I resigned two weeks ago from my job of more than six years. I’ve worked in the ‘change environment’ for almost half of that time. Considering my future and contemplating my own ‘change environment’ has effected my outlook in a big way. At times, everything is different – how I walk in different spaces, my language… my perspective. I’m emotional, and final. I see clearer, but also feel like I’m seeing things for the first time.

With news of a New Zealand local government reform, that will certainly affect the services I benefit from as a ratepayer in South Auckland, and my own professional change environment, it’s the moments in the pool – where I swim for free, every second day – that I reflect on what feels like the end of a golden era.

Sadly, with leaders like this, informing change that will inevitably disenfranchise some of the country’s most vulnerable sectors, migration has never looked so appealing.


Thank you Tapu Misa

Tapu Misa: Humanity versus racial one-upmanship

NZ Herald 16 November 2009

Occasionally I get emails from people who like to extol the virtues of something they call white culture and civilisation. In a kind of racial one-upmanship, they claim for themselves, as part of the “white race”, every important advancement in human history. What I see as examples of human endeavour, they see as evidence of white superiority.

I saw elements of that last week, amid the clamour that followed Hone Harawira’s expletive-ridden email to Buddy Mikaere. On Breakfast, Phil Goff railed against the apparent belief behind Harawira’s email that “all of the problems of the country can be laid on white people” and then went on to agree with Paul Henry that “we” painted the beautiful paintings that Harawira went to Paris to see. By “we” they meant white people, rather than, say, Leonardo da Vinci. Yes, Harawira started it, but it’s interesting to see how easily we slip into a “them” and “us” mentality.

Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws does the same thing when he rants against what he calls Maori racism and separatism on the one hand, and then asks a group of Maori school kids (who’d dared to write to him about restoring the “h” to Whanganui) what they’re doing about child abuse among Maori. Because, of course, you’re responsible for anything that anyone in your ethnic group does, no matter how young or powerless you might be.

Laws reminds me of the anonymous correspondent who sends me clippings in the mail whenever a Pacific Islander makes the news for committing a crime.

If I had a return address and could be bothered, I’d have asked my mystery correspondent about some of his people – Clayton Weatherston, for example, and those nasty (white) child rapists who raped, impregnated and then locked their daughters away for years to conceal their wrongdoing.

Then there’s the woman who wrote to me recently telling me how proud she is of her “white race”. I’d have understood if she told me how proud she was to be Scottish, or Irish, or Dutch – but “white race”? What does that mean?

So it’s been interesting to watch the fallout from Harawira’s Paris excursion and his angry, late-night email to Mikaere – “White motherf******s have been raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries and all of a sudden you want me to play along with their puritanical bullshit” – which has led to a record number of complaints to the Human Rights Commission and pressure from the Maori Party leadership for Harawira to go independent.

In his apology last week, Harawira tried to explain that he wasn’t talking about all Pakeha and that what he meant was that “European colonisers have been responsible for the loss of more than 63 million acres of Maori land over the past 150 years and it is inappropriate that you should be holding me to standards set by people with such little regard for Maori land and Maori custom”.

Which still doesn’t excuse him skiving off an official engagement to take his missus to Paris, even if he paid for the trip himself.

There’s no question that taxpayers of all hues would agree that if we send an MP to the other side of the world to attend a conference, at no small expense to the public purse, the least he can do is turn up.

To blame all Pakeha for the effects of colonisation is, of course, as stupid as blaming all Maori for the high rate of child abuse among Maori.

The pity of it is that there’s a discussion to be had about the impact of colonisation on Maori, but little sympathy or patience for it among many New Zealanders. As Tariana Turia knows. In 2000, she made a reference to “the Maori holocaust” that caused a furore and brought an edict from then Prime Minister Helen Clark that the word holocaust should never again be used in a New Zealand context.

And in 2002, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres found himself embroiled in an almost career-destroying row when he described the colonisation of New Zealand as “a sorry litany of cultural vandalism” and likened it to the Taleban destruction of the third-century Bamiyan Buddha images of Afghanistan.

Harawira’s outburst was stupid and intemperate, but it wasn’t hate speech,as de Bres knows.

And that’s not because Harawira is Maori but because, as talkback listeners know, our legal system places a high value on free speech – and rightly so.

Should Harawira be forced out of the Maori Party nonetheless? It seems the party leadership has had enough of him, but as several Maori commentators have noted, Harawira represents a significant section of Maori society, and the party risks losing its connection with its grassroots if he is forced out.

As Haami Piripi, a former head of the Maori Language Commission, said on TVNZ’s Tonight, it’s worrying to see a Maori voice make it on its own feet into Parliament only to “become subdued and subjugated to a coalition voice”.

Harawira’s remarks were damaging but “by the same token we’ve had hundreds of thousands of acres of land confiscated still not given back to us, people driven off their land and we’re still feeling the effect of that. So when you compare an insulting remark of that nature to some of the things that happened in New Zealand history it doesn’t even compare.”

Copyright ©2009, APN Holdings NZ Limited


No, Hell Pizza.. not funny, not clever. Just racist and ignorant.. Shame on you. Why is this OK in New Zealand?! Not good enough!!

Make a stand!
Boycott Hell Pizza!!
This special brand of New Zealand ignorance and racism is not acceptable even if we’re not your target market!
Make a stand against racial slurs and crap pizza!!

Read about this billboard here.

Dog-eating advert a stunt for TV show
By Michael Fox – Stuff.co.nz

A “racist” advertising campaign by a pizza restaurant chain was part of a stunt to promote a reality-TV show.

The Auckland billboards promoting Hell Pizza’s gluten-free brownies read: “At least our brownie won’t eat your dog”, in a reference to the recent outcry over a Tongan man who was found roasting his pet dog.

But the adverts which have prompted 12 complaints to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board and a protest planned for today are not a straightforward promotion for the chain. The chain is involved in trying to produce a TV show called Pitch produced by Pitch Television, which is owned by two of the people who are behind Hell Pizza.

In the show, 20 18-to-25-year-olds who want to break into advertising will compete to win their own business.

The Hell billboard was designed by four students applying to become contestants on the show. The billboards have now been changed to read: “Lighten up. Hell Pizzas are 90 per cent fat free. Like dog.”

Hell Pizza and Pitch spokesman Matt Blomfield said Pitch would turn the “old advertising model on its head as we go about creating an advertising agency specialising wholly on selling to the youth market”. Mr Blomfield said TVNZ had expressed an interest in screening Pitch.

Hell Pizza chief executive and Pitch owner Warren Powell said he expected the contestants to push boundaries but all ideas would have to be signed off by “a custodian of the brand”.

The campaign has been criticised by anti-racism groups and an industry expert.

Socialist Aotearoa plans a blockade and picket at Hell Pizza’s store in Quay St, downtown Auckland, today.

Protest organiser Tania Lim said: “I am opposed to companies like Hell Pizza exploiting racism for the purposes of profit.” The change to the billboard was insulting: “Don’t tell us to ‘lighten up’. You’ve already insulted our skin colour once.”

Paul White, programme leader for advertising creativity at Auckland University of Technology, believed the billboards did nothing to promote the pizza brand. “If this sets the benchmark of what they [the show producers] want people to do, it’s very stupid.”

He said putting young advertising staff under pressure and expecting them to push boundaries was normal, but pushing for outrageous advertising stunts to cause controversy was not suitable.

Racist Humour is Ironic?

Join the Blockade of Hell’s Pizza

530pm Friday 28th August
/8 Queen Street, Auckland


Affirming Pakeha identity… this from the Auckland T-shirt company, Mr Vintage who came up with the genius “Blame it on South Auckland” t-shirt in 2008.

Manukau councillors seeing red over ‘bad rap’ T-shirts
New Zealand Herald (11 December 2008)
By Beck Vass

An Auckland clothing company has upset some Manukau City officials by selling a T-shirt which they believe plays on the “bad rap” associated with South Auckland.

Mr Vintage, an online clothing store which specialises in T-shirts, is advertising a sale on a T-shirt which contains an image of a row of power pylons and a person tagging a train, that reads: “South Auckland … just blame it on them.”

The company says the T-shirt is a shot at “the pesky folk that call themselves the ‘media” who are “always pretty quick to jump on any link of criminal activity with South Auckland”.

But Manukau City’s Otara councillor, Efu Koka, said he did not believe the company and was “not happy” the shirts portrayed South Auckland as a bad place.

“It’s really utilising the bad rap that South Auckland has to profit from.”

Manurewa councillor Daniel Newman agreed.

He said if the “bad taste” T-shirt was a dig at the serious crimes that have hit headlines in South Auckland, then it was really Wellington that was to blame because that was where politicians and the police commissioner made decisions that left South Auckland with some of its social problems and understaffed police.

 Councillor Dick Quax said the shirts were “grossly unfair”.

“I guess what they’re trying to say is if anything bad happens anywhere in the country, it should be blamed on South Auckland … There’s lots of things that happen all over the country but there’s also many, many good things that happen in South Auckland. It’s a bit dopey really.”

Manukau Mayor Len Brown was not particularly concerned by the T-shirts, calling them “just plain silly”.

“We may well be shaken, but not stirred really. It doesn’t do a hell of a lot for me.”

Mr Vintage managing director Rob Ewan said: “There’s no way this is supposed to offend any residents of South Auckland, it’s just a shot at the media really.”

Mr Ewan, who is from Papatoetoe, said half his staff were from South Auckland and had lived there for most of their lives.

The company had received about 10 emails from customers “not really understanding where we’re coming from” with the slogan.

The South Auckland shirt was not the company’s most popular T-shirt but was “definitely generating the most interest”.

Following a phone call from Mr Newman, Mr Vintage will be donating some of the proceeds from the sale of the T-shirt to the Randwick School Park gala to put the money back into the South Auckland community.

100% Pure New Zealand

This note was left for two visiting Pacific Island scholars staying at The Guardian Trust Building, 105 Queen Street in Central Auckland on 5 May 2009. A police report was filed in addition to a report to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, yet the Property Manager of The Guardian Trust Building was reluctant or unable to understand the weight of what this note represents.