Preserving the mana of the tino rangatiratanga flag

By Ellipsister

tino-rangatiratanga-flag

Throughout the flag debate, I saw many Pākehā calling for the Tino Rangatiratanga flag to be an option as the national flag. Some said it was a beautiful design – which it is, but that is not a good reason to appropriate it as a national symbol without proper consideration of what this flag symbolises for Māori: resistance and resilience of tangata whenua in our struggle for, you guessed it “tino rangatiratanga. Others claimed that tino rangatiratanga represented them more than the Union Jack. And actually, that sat incredibly uncomfortably with me. I mean, Yes! please do raise our tino flag in solidarity. But your misplaced affection in appropriating our struggle and claiming it represents you is offensive and invalidating. Your lands and resources  were not forcibly taken, your culture and rights were not systematically oppressed, and you do not therefore experience the intergenerational trauma of colonisation.

For me, until tino rangatiratanga is actually achieved by Māori and formally recognised by the State, then I would never put my support behind the tino flag becoming New Zealand’s national flag. The reason should be obvious. However, to avoid any confusion – we cannot have tino rangatiratanga as a symbol of our nationhood if it is not a Māori reality. It is simply a way of feeding into the myth of partnership – the idea that Māori and the Crown have an equal share of power to make decisions that affect the peoples who are of this land – tangata whenua, and those who have settled on it – tau iwi.

I feel that if the tino flag is offered up as a national flag prematurely then it will diminish the mana of the flag and all its symbolism and deprive it of its meaning. On the other hand, if there were a policy for dual recognition of the tino flag as having equal status with the national flag, then this would perhaps enhance the mana of this flag and its symbolism as the forward-looking next step in addressing the issue of Māori sovereignty.

For the record, I didn’t vote in the flag referendum. I was ambivalent – I wasn’t prepared to vote for the dag we were offered, or the symbol of colonisation. That’s just my view. I appreciate others look at the Union Jack differently. But I felt that we should have been having a discussion about dual flags instead. I wrote about my views early on in the debate, asserting my preference for dual flags and my reasons for it. You can read that post here.

I am not offering up any new perspective either. Māori groups have been calling for dual flags and ascribing equal status to the tino rangatiratanga flag since achieving recognition as the national Māori flag in 2009 following a nationwide consultation process. I am simply attempting to advance this kaupapa alongside those who have long been championing this change and in support of those who have also been calling for this since the flag referendum began.

It’s important to note here that some Māori do not recognise the tino flag as the national Māori flag. Instead preferring the United Tribes flag (the first official flag of New Zealand) or their own independent hapū/iwi flag. So we need to discuss as independent hapū/iwi and urban roopu whether we can unite ‘under the korowai of kōtahitanga’ (as Hon. Te Ururoa Flavell calls it) to take our struggle to the next level and place Māori sovereignty at the forefront of this country’s political discourse. Additionally, whether we can agree to do this under this symbol of tino rangatiratanga.

As a sidenote, I am mindful of how our values as Māori are shared and also distinct, adaptable and variable. How we prioritise which values will direct our dialogues are deeply personal. We form them, and they are shaped through what we bring to the discussion as individuals and through our place in our different collectives. In my observation, many of our disagreements fuse around our competing tikanga priorities and the resulting tensions expose what appear to be disagreements about what these values mean, or how we interpret them in a contemporary context.

I imagine it was no easy feat for those who negotiated and lobbied to get the tino flag recognised by the government as an important step in acknowledging the partnership that was intended as forming out of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and credit must be given to those who led that effort. However, the time is ripe for a more ambitious attempt to achieve equal status of our flag, moving from symbolic to constitutional recognition and preserving the mana of this flag as we ramp up our drive for mana motuhake and forge our path to reassert tino rangatiratanga.

 

 

 

 

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About Asians. Again.

On occasion, my American friends wonder out loud to me: “Is there racism in New Zealand?” It’s a great story. Sure, I tell them. In recent years, our centre-left party’s been running on anti-Asian rhetoric, allowing our governing centre-right party to take the moral high ground. The shock on their faces is priceless. The right, the moral high ground against racism? Isn’t that the wrong way round?

That’s only half the story, of course. Labour vehemently denies that it’s racist. But then, so do Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. No-one thinks they’re racist, because everyone thinks racism is bad, and no-one thinks they’re bad. And anyway, personally, I try to avoid using the word “racist” as a shortcut for criticism. I just think it’s lazy, like the phrase “politically correct”. I mean, sure, Andrew Little’s words seem to target certain groups of people. Sure, that probably makes people of those races feel a little bit upset. But the real question is whether those opinions are justified, or policies sound. That was the stance I took towards their housing “analysis” last July: that I would look past the race relations, and towards the statistics. (I concluded their conclusions were bogus.)

What, then, do I take of this most recent episode about chefs?

Here’s the problem. Labour can say as much as it likes that its anti-foreigner policies “aren’t about race”. It can be proudly nationalist without being racist. It can publish policies that don’t mention the words “Chinese” or “Asian” once, and just refer to “foreign” or “non-residents”. It would apply just as much to Canadians as to Croatians as to Chinese. I get the concept, really, I do.

But when their rhetoric consistently centres around the Chinese, it’s very hard to take their pleas of race-neutrality seriously. In the 2014 election campaign, they constantly made reference to investors from China. When they talked about housing last July, they focussed, again, on Chinese buyers. This isn’t some sort of one-off out-of-context quoting. This is a theme in Labour’s rhetoric, and it’s been going on for years, long preceding Mr Little’s leadership. Their policy might be race-neutral, sure. But their rhetoric most certainly isn’t.

And they might have noticed that they get the same reactionevery time. Mr Little can plead about how “baffling” it is that his comments “may have offended anyone”. But I mean, really? After what happened last time, and the time before? I realise that people are often misconstrued, and I empathise. But there’s a limit to how many times you can plead this before you should probably start wondering if it’s actually you.

Personally, I’d rather that we threw this whole anti-foreigner sentiment out altogether. But if non-racist anti-foreign sentiment is going to be a cornerstone of Labour Party policy, I have a challenge for Labour. Next time a Canadian investor strikes a $1 billion deal, or an American company increases its stake in our third-largest forestry estate, or just any time Canada, America, Australia or Europe do any of their 59% of all foreign direct investment, or America does any of its 46% of all land acquisitions by foreigners (both statistics from 2013–2014)—would they mind making some noise about how Canadians or Americans are taking opportunities away from hard-working Kiwis?

It’d still take some work to convince me that a New Zealand economy less open to the world would be better off. But I’d at least be able to take them seriously when they try to tell me their desire to reduce immigration and foreign investment holds for all foreigners equally.

Recounting why I left school

By Ellipsister, Co-Editor

Aaron Smale at Mana Magazine wrote a conversation starting article on the PPTA and what he argues is its failure to date to lift achievement of Māori students. As a Māori school leaver, I sympathise with his argument.

I left school exactly the day I turned 16 and was therefore legally allowed to drop out. My Dad was livid and I could tell he was also deeply disappointed. I enrolled in a couple of tech courses in art and design. Turns out, I wasn’t particularly talented – nor committed. My attendance rate was appalling. Eventually I completed a hairdressing course (and worked as a hairdresser for a few years). It seemed the thing to do – and I was obsessed with creating my own identity.

On reflection that speaks to the struggle I endured throughout my life – was I Māori or Pākehā (Mum is Māori, Dad is Pākehā)? For years I refused to identify as Māori because of all the negative stereotypes that were thrust on me. And also my schooling experience taught me it was better to identify with my Pākehā heritage, than with my Māori heritage. Although, that was a tight rope to walk given I was so obviously brown. It has taken me my entire adult life to disentangle those colonising notions.

Why did I leave school?

When I was 11, I had wanted to be a Lawyer or a Cardiac Surgeon. I was a pretty good student and believed that I could do it. Before you think I had a sweet as home environment – I didn’t. I’m not going to divulge details. Those dreams of becoming a Lawyer or Surgeon were my escape from the poverty trap. I also had supportive teachers that invested time in my learning.

Life changed just as I started High School. I had stability at home for the first time in a long time – but sadly that came with some drawbacks, that one day I may open up about here, but not yet.

I struggled in my first year – I did ok, but not great. I remember feeling like a massive failure. The next year my grades got progressively worse and I started acting out and got into trouble a few times. By the time I got to School C, I was completely lost. I couldn’t actually comprehend what was being asked of me. I didn’t understand how to think. I didn’t dare ask for help, for fear of being told I was dumb – and actually, I’d never been taught how to ask for help. During my time at High School not once did any of my teachers take me aside to see how I was doing and if I needed help with any of my work. I was simply ignored. I wasn’t one of those boisterous students. I was a nobody with nothing constructive or insightful to offer. I was mediocre and lost sight of all my aspirations. A piece of paper with a few letter grades, and a brief comment about me being ‘a quiet student’ was the extent of their feedback. As if somehow I wasn’t self-aware of my quietness. It is in fact, crippling shyness – a trait that I struggle with daily.

So I left school because in my mind, I was too hopeless to achieve the grades I needed to get into University. When some of my friends left (to pursue hairdressing apprenticeships) or dropped out to do a tech course, I followed suit.  I had lost complete faith and confidence in my ability to achieve in that environment.  Sure, I had gotten through School C but barely. I did half of sixth form and on my 16th birthday cleared out my locker and left. Also, I had become increasingly truant – hiding out at a friend’s house, so I imagine I was getting pretty close to suspension or expulsion.

Now, I get that the system failed me. And while I can appreciate that in many cases teachers are under-resourced and overworked – my experience was not just about that. There was no effort by teachers at my High School to try to understand the lived experiences of urban Māori in the small white provincial town I grew up in. Not once, did a High School teacher give me some hope that I was capable of achieving my aspirations. Instead, I sat in class feeling like the walking talking stereotype that I was labelled as in the primary school playground and harassed with on the street by the local skinheads.

It absolutely was my choice to leave. But that choice was complex. I had been ground down to a point where I had zero confidence. I felt my choices were leave and save my dignity or subject myself to the utter humiliation of total failure proving right all those who had ridiculed or ignored my existence. I know now how wrong that all sounds. But those were my thoughts. Turns out, my giving up and leaving had pretty much the same effect.

So the point I see Smale make is that despite the long history of involvement of the PPTA in the education system, a disproportionate number of Māori schooling and education experiences are not positive and this has an effect on our mana. I don’t blame the PPTA for the outcomes of Māori, but I certainly question the monopolising of teaching (gatekeeping) and the ‘qualification requirement’ for a function or role that our tīpuna and many others throughout history have performed ‘unqualified’.

My view on this will likely infuriate those with a vested interest in the ‘qualification’ aspect of teaching. Do I think just anyone can teach? Absolutely not. I would certainly encourage safety checking to ensure students aren’t put at risk. I would also think employers of ‘unqualified’ teachers would ensure that those applying to teach were recognised as competent to do so by their peers. Noting, there are some subjects in which I consider it is inappropriate to require a formal qualification, especially with regard to Te Reo me ōna Tikanga Māori. Many of our kuia, koroua and rangatira have years of experience transferring that knowledge – and in a culturally appropriate way. I also think someone who has worked in a particular field, who has a strong practical understanding of a subject and has demonstrated strong leadership and mentoring in their roles could also make good teachers.

Yes, I get that a teaching qualification sets a professional standard that teachers are expected to comply with and there are absolutely benefits in that, in particular accountability. I disagree however that only teachers with a qualification will adhere to those professional standards. Sure there is a risk of rogue unqualified teachers, but the same is true of qualified teachers.

I said this on Twitter and will repeat here: I have no interest in pursuing a socialist versus capitalist narrative. My interest is in finding ways that will enable Māori to be designers of our own solutions – no matter what system we have because in my mind, this is one of the key ways we can exercise our tino rangatiratanga to improve outcomes for all our whānau.

When we can build alternative social institutions that are not reliant on the State (our oppressor) and not susceptible to the corruptive practices of corporatisation (our exploiter), then we can begin to dismantle the disparity. Dismantling began with the Kura Kaupapa and Kohanga Reo movement. It’s about time the State and gatekeepers recognise the legitimacy of our epistemologies and pedagogies and stop perpetuating the myth that mainstream approaches are superior to our indigenous practices. Its time for Māori to advance that movement further.

 

Note: 

I went to University at 23 when my first baby was 18 months old. The first year was really hard. I didn’t even know how to write an introduction for an essay. Since then, I have completed a conjoint BA/LLB, my law Profs and an LLM with First Class Honours. LOL at those teachers and all those people who didn’t believe in me.

 

“Go back to where you came from.”

When I was 9 years old, I went to a friend’s house to play Age of Empires. Some of his extended family happened to be there at the time, and his step-father asked me “where are you from?” Truthfully, I answered “Birkenhead”, the suburb where I lived. His response was “Don’t you be cheeky, where are you actually from?” Confused, I answered “Here?” Suddenly, he held me in a headlock and shouted “you bloody well know what I mean, where are you from?” The sounds of laughter from the rest of the room rang in my ears. I managed to mumble something like “my parents are from Taiwan.” He let go and said “that wasn’t that hard, was it?”

When I was 13 years old, I was a patrol leader at my local scout troop. One of the other scouts was sitting on an empty wooden box and swinging his legs against the sides, creating a lot of noise. I asked him to stop because the constant banging was making me uncomfortable and a little bit anxious. He said “you can’t tell me what to do, this is my country.” I had to go sit somewhere else.

When I was 15 years old, I was sitting in math class at the desk closest to the door. It was open, and a breeze was blowing in. While the class was working on some exercises, I asked the teacher if I could close the door because I was getting a bit cold. He said “If you think it’s too cold maybe you should go back to Asia.” I replied with “I was born here” and shut the door. When I later told a friend that racism was well and alive within our school she told me to “stop being ridiculous”.

I am relatively lucky because I live in comparatively multicultural Auckland, study and work in an environment where immigrants outnumber non-immigrants, and nowadays am largely safe and isolated from these sorts of interactions. Ron Mark’s comments during the first reading of the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill brought all the memories rushing back. He told Melissa Lee “if you do not like New Zealand, go back to Korea.” I sat in a laboratory quietly seething, unable to do any work. I don’t like these memories. I don’t like sharing these memories either, but maybe this can demonstrate to some people why the statement to go back to where you came from is offensive. I cannot bear to imagine what life must be like for migrants living in less ethnically tolerant areas of the country.

We cannot simply write this off as more of the same from New Zealand First. This is a party that has been polling between 5 and 9 percent. That’s a sizeable chunk of the electorate that believes in this party. 67% of respondents on a RadioLIVE poll said that Ron Mark’s comments were not racist. Every time any of our elected representatives engage in this kind of rhetoric, it signals to the population that this behaviour is okay. To be clear, that time Maggie Barry told Russel Norman to go back to Australia was just as wrong. But let me also say that just because one side was racist, that doesn’t give the other side free license to say whatever they want. An eye for an eye only makes the world go blind.

For Ron Mark’s NZ First colleagues to back him up only further reiterates that this behaviour is apparently okay. Winston Peters said that any claims of racism were “poppycock”. Barbara Stewart said that the comment was not racist and was “taken out of context” (when his comments were very much in the context of a racist speech targeting public holidays in Korea and India and implying that these other countries have too many public holidays; in fact his entire speech was laced with derision and offence). Pita Paraone said “it was said in the heat of the moment as part of the theatre of Parliament.” None of these statements are anywhere near satisfactory for a parliament that seeks to represent an increasingly multicultural nation. The closest we got was Tracey Martin saying “it’s not a statement I would have made.”

I can appreciate that Ron Mark didn’t like being told that New Zealand should “grow up”. That’s possibly a fair point to make (just because other people do it overseas doesn’t necessarily mean we should do it here), but the way he addressed that point was completely wrong. Never mind that the claims made by Ron Mark about public holidays in Korea and India and shops being closed were factually wrong anyway. As Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi said, “Your knowledge is totally zero … on any religious day in India, on a holiday, shops open.” It’s the fact that his approach makes migrants feel unwelcome, that their opinions are not valid, that they should just “shut up and conform” that is deeply problematic.

Ron Mark makes it clear that Lee and Bakshi are not real New Zealanders when he says in his speech “while we know certain people are toeing the National Party line like a little bunch of whipped puppies, back in their world they would never, ever dare stand up and say this.” His use of “back in their world” effectively says that the fact that Lee and Bakshi have been in New Zealand for 27 and 14 years respectively is worth nothing. “Go back to where you came from” is a phrase that has always been loaded with xenophobia, and I really don’t see a context where it could be used to mean anything other than “you’re not welcome because you’re not from here.”

It doesn’t matter to me that Ron Mark was directing his statement at migrants and I was born here. The common racist usually doesn’t take the time to establish my place of birth. His comments to “go back where you came from” were of the same vein as statements directed at me throughout my childhood that made me feel as if I did not belong. The intolerance and xenophobia is an ugly side of New Zealand that degrades the experience of living in this country for many. I’m sick and tired of hearing it from our MPs. They should simply be better.

In my opinion Dame Susan Devoy has been doing a great job in her role as the Race Relations Commissioner in giving some marginalised groups a high-profile voice. Earlier today she said “Kiwis born overseas have a right to a say over the country they call home, where they work, vote, pay taxes and contribute: overseas born Kiwis are not second class citizens who have fewer rights than other New Zealanders… We’re at a crossroads when it comes to race relations, we either get on with each other, and lead the world in race relations: or we take pleasure in prejudice and leave our children with a race relations crisis to deal with, it’s up to us.”

When the current generation of parliamentarians put their prejudice on display as Ron Mark did on Tuesday, it makes me feel like I shouldn’t participate because my voice is not valid. Personally, I would actually quite like the shops to be open over Easter. It would be a lot more convenient, and if someone wants to stay closed for religious reasons they can stay closed. I guess if I don’t like it the way it is now, then I should go back home… to Auckland. I’m grateful to the various people, both in and outside of the House, who have criticised the comments and refused to let it slide. It helps me to feel a bit of hope that one day this type of racism and xenophobia can be eliminated. It strengthens my resolve to stay here and try to make New Zealand a better place.

There was a small ray of humour arising from all of this for me. When the clip of Ron Mark came on the news, my Irish flatmate who moved to New Zealand recently was shocked. “Oh my god. Is that the Prime Minister?” Thankfully, thankfully not.

The Māori Party will survive the shade

By Ellipsister, Co-Editor

Whether the Māori Party will survive the next election is a question often on the lips of many pundits. Given the landscape, there will be a lot of work to do. After all, throwing shade on the Māori Party occurs from the hard left, to the hard right and everywhere in between. That’s not to say that the Māori Party are immune from all criticism. Far from it. As a kaupapa Māori political entity, being open to transformation through critical reflection is imperative to its survival.

However, the narratives spilled across social media and news media pages allege sell outs, separatists, many invoking racial slurs – intended and unintended, and spit insult after insult. All that coupled with the intentional act of trying to misunderstand the Party and their kaupapa makes for a tough road ahead. Unsurprisingly, many who engage in said hostility have never sat kanohi ki te kanohi in a marae, or stood shoulder to shoulder in a hikoi to advance the interests of Māori, or soaked in the whakapapa of the party, or the aroha that every single person involved has demonstrated for whānau, hapū, iwi and hapori Māori. 

 As Māori its natural to look at the whakapapa of things. Tau Henare pointed out at the Party’s AGM that the seeds of the Māori Party were planted long before it manifested itself in 2005. He alluded to the fact that the party has an enduring whakapapa, and is born of many decades of resistance, from He Whakaputanga in 1835, to the Māori seats in 1867, the 1975 land march led by Dame Whina Cooper, to the days of Nga Tamatoa and Patu, the struggle for kohanga reo and kura kaupapa, through the rise and deminse of the Mana Motuhake Party and more. Knowing, understanding and appreciating the whakapapa of the party, will be instrumental in changing hearts and minds.

I have to agree with a remark I overheard a couple of kuia agree on:

It takes courage to be a member of the Māori Party

They were not criticising the party, they were referring to the political landscape Māori who advance kaupapa Māori are subjected to daily. They were acknowledging the assimilationist rhetoric, that many Māori are also championing – that we can’t trust ourselves and must invest our trust in the State, and invest our minds in ideologies that have not stemmed the flow of cultural loss and devastation. So I am comforted by the fact that there are many kuia and kaumatua who have and who continue to fight for kaupapa Māori, and many more people still who continue to mahia te mahi – not just in spite of, but because of the hostility. 

THE NATION ERASES MĀORI FROM THE YEAR IN POLITICS

By Ellipsister (Co-Editor)

This weekend TV3’s The Nation made a conscious and unapologetic editorial choice to exclude the Māori Party from an episode looking at the state of NZ politics one year on from the election. The explanations given on Twitter for this exclusion were twofold:

  1. The focus was on the performance of the ‘main’ parties and ‘most improved player’
  2. The choice was dictated by time

The main parties as decided by The Nation included: National, Labour, Greens, NZ First and Act. Even the Conservatives got a mention. However, the Māori Party were not invited (because ‘time’) and then were expunged from the entire dialogue despite polling consistently higher than Act in the past 12 months, and having two MP’s, one of whom holds important Ministerial portfolios (Māori Development, Whānau Ora, and Associate Economic Development).

This isn’t an attempt to censor or dictate what The Nation should be delivering to their audience. But it is an unapologetic criticism of their editorial choice. The Nation hasn’t merely silenced Māori voices that champion the rights of Māori living as Māori. Nope. They erased those voices and perspectives from the entire segment in the interests of time and on a weak justification that they only saw value in the perspectives of those parties who they arbitrarily defined as the ‘main’ parties. This in my view revealed the implicit attitude of the programme that Māori perspectives are unimportant and not valued in our political discourse.

One might be tempted to respond with either:

  • Both Winston Peters and David Seymour are Māori, so the criticism is categorically false; or
  • The Māori Party and other Māori MP’s have appeared on the programme numerous times, so therefore it’s false to say The Nation think Māori perspectives are unimportant etc.

However, neither Peters nor Seymour champion indigenous or indeed Māori rights as tangata whenua. That’s not to say that they don’t represent the views of some Māori, nor that they are any less Māori. I am reiterating that the indigenous rights movement is weaved into the political space in Aotearoa and the Māori Party are one influential roopu of that movement who happen to wield a not insignificant level of influence in government. To ignore their contributions and excise their influence from the dialogue on a national media platform is an example of the structural muzzle that Māori advocating for indigenous rights have struggled against for decades. It also, as implied above, reinforces the erroneous view that Pākehā perspectives are more valuable than Māori. So lets call it what it is: racist. As Maisha Z. Johnson of Everyday Feminism writes:

Sometimes it’s obvious and you can easily point out that it’s wrong. But a lot of the time, it’s subtle, playing right into the implicit biases you don’t even know you have to make you believe in ideas you don’t even realize are racist.

It is not a conspiracy that corporate media outlets privilege white voices and white perspectives. But it doesn’t mean it should go unchallenged. The editorial choice of The Nation is an explicit example of Māori being consciously excluded from participation and the programme flouting their responsibility to present a balanced and representative view of  the political landscape in Aotearoa.

And while I’m on this grind, the lack of noise coming from those incredibly vocal about ‘media bias’ of the left/right division, when Māori voices are erased has not gone unnoticed. On that note, I leave you with this to ponder:

Image source: http://41.media.tumblr.com/326ac357f16cd52671c9ecaf143cc05d/tumblr_ntnvns4uY91qdpj5so1_1280.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More manaaki needed for our refugee whānau

By Ellipsister (Co-Editor)

On Friday 4 September 2015, the National Party confirmed it would deny leave (this coming week)  for both the Labour Party and Green Party to table emergency legislation in the House that would allow for an emergency intake of, and an increase in the annual quota of refugees accepted into NZ (respectively). Many opposition supporters and media have criticised this decision by the government demanding immediate action to proactively respond to this humanitarian crisis.

One of the concerns of the National Party will be that a win by the opposition would make the government look ineffective and not in control and this is a perception they’ll certainly want to avoid. There is also the fact that the government can respond to the situation without introducing any legislation into the house, and without conceding a win to the opposition, since the refugee programme is primarily a Cabinet decision and under the current cabinet agreement, the government can already accept 50 individuals as part of their emergency intake programme. I’m unsure, however, whether this would be similar to Helen Clark’s decision to accept an emergency intake of 150 refugees on the Tampa in 2001, where those individuals formed part of the existing 750 annual quota. Regardless, given the slow response by the government, it is difficult to believe that any measures that may be taken will be the result of genuine concern, but rather because of both public and international pressure to take action.

On the basis that there is increasing public interest in raising the annual refugee quota, there is a high probability that the planned 2016 review will simply be brought forward to quell the disquiet. Of note, in 1987 the refugee quota was set at 800 individuals and in 1997 was reduced under a National led government to 750 where it has remained since. There is here then, an opportunity for National to remedy their contemptible 1997 decision to reduce our refugee intake. As others have pointed out also, with NZ holding a seat on the UN Security Council, there are likely expectations from the international community that we take a lead (with the other UNSC member states) in the response to this crisis. The fact that all three confidence and supply (C & S) parties support an increase in the annual refugee intake as well as emergency provisions, is perhaps another aspect that will likely influence whatever action National may take this week.

What I remain mindful of, is how we manaaki refugees on arrival in NZ. At the moment, the primary provider for receiving refugees accepted by NZ is the Red Cross who run a ‘six-week orientation programme at the Department of Immigration’s Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre’ before resettling refugees in five communities around New Zealand – a decision that is made by the government.

As the Red Cross explain:

Resettlement is a life-changing experience as refugees are often resettled to a country where the society, language and culture are completely different from their own and much is new to them. It is both challenging and rewarding for these individuals.

There are good reasons for the six week orientation programme that deals predominantly with practical matters such as setting up bank accounts and understanding the local laws, but also physical and mental health checks to determine the care needed (if any). However, often when people talk of resettling refugees it is sadly in assimilatory terms where the things that matter are how well refugees can speak English, and their willingness to walk the Pākehā world.

It is for this reason that I consider Māori could actively participate in resettlement initiatives to help heal the wairua of our refugee whānau, and to awhi their connection to our whenua so that they can rebuild their lives here supported by our enduring customs. Through the principles of whakawhanaungatanga (establishing relationships) and manaakitanga (care, generosity and hospitality) and whakapapa we could ensure that retaining a connection to their whenua and whānau abroad, while rebuilding their lives in this country is an important part of the resettlement process. This could potentially be achieved through multilateral partnerships between hapū, iwi and hapori Māori, the government, (relevant) embassies and local organisations that provide services to and for refugees to deliver resettlement initiatives.

We cannot forget that refugees arrive here through reasons beyond their control and as such are forced to live in a new land and within a culture alien to their own.  As tangata whenua we have an obligation to ensure that people arriving in this country – especially those who were forcibly disconnected from their whenua through the trauma of armed conflict and/or persecution are received with the care, generosity and aroha, that our tikanga demands and are supported to achieve their aspirations.