Thursday, December 15, 2022

Frank Newman: A great day out at the Kaipara protest

The Moa café in Dargaville’s Victoria Street was unusually busy for a Wednesday morning. A short stroll from the cafe some 200 to 300 protesters had gathered in the carpark of the Countdown supermarket. They had travelled from all corners of Northland to march the short distance to the town hall to send a message to Kaipara’s new Mayor and his council.

Exactly what that message was is unclear. Sporting a Che Guevara tee shirt and brandishing the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, the protest organiser delivered his message – which was to accuse Mayor Jepson of being a “racist white supremacist”.

Apparently, he is a racist white supremacist because he took a view that the council did not need to seek spiritual guidance to make good decisions about things like road repairs and wastewater. He therefore declined a request from the new Māori ward councillor to open council meetings with a karakia (which most understand to be Māori incantations or prayer used to invoke spiritual guidance). Presumably, the mayor would have also declined a request to open with a Christian prayer, had it been asked of him.

Mayor Jepson clearly has more faith in pragmatism than spiritualism as he made it plain that the council did not need spiritual guidance to make better decisions. (My guess is he is also the sort of bloke that does not see any need to say grace to enjoy an evening meal.)

Most people would say that’s fair enough and accept it is up to a mayor to decide how they want to run a meeting. Having served two terms on council under two different mayors, I can say that was my experience.

The first mayor was of a religious persuasion and commenced each full council meeting with a brief prayer seeking spiritual guidance. No one objected because it was his call and that was respected. On reflection, I am not sure it did help the council make better decisions because he and his team of councillors got tossed out at the next election.

The second mayor had no religious beliefs and chose to not have a prayer of any kind. That too was respected. (To be fair, in this case guidance from a greater power may have been worth a try because this mayor proved utterly hopeless and was also resoundingly defeated after a single term.)

Apparently though, respecting a mayor’s preference does not seem to apply when it comes to a karakia. Cultural offence occurred and a furore erupted, fuelled by nationwide media coverage.

The council had to do some serious thinking about how to extricate itself from the cultural quagmire.

In its wisdom, it decided to respect Māori culture by allowing a karakia, but the mayor and a majority of councillors acknowledged the fact that the Kaipara district is multi-cultural and all cultures should be valued and respected. In the interests of unity, it decided to allow each councillor to take turns to open the meeting with their own words of cultural or religious guidance should they wish to do so.

What a great initiative – to not only respect the wishes of Māori but to embrace all cultures. Clearly, councillors had the foresight to recognise their society is not simply a binary Māori and everyone else, but it is a fragrant potpourri of diverse cultures which are all to be admired and respected.

The issue is will this be acceptable to the 200 or 300 Tino Rangatiratanga flag-waving protestors complaining about white supremacism and an eternal list of Treaty atrocities committed by oppressive colonialists? Do they believe in diversity, partnership, and unity? Or does their definition of partnership mean their way or no way? Time will tell.

By all accounts, the protest was a great success. The protesters had an opportunity to shout at the mayor and wag an accusing finger at councillors, so that worked out well. And the organiser of the march was ecstatic, “Last time I organised a protest here only 10 people turned up” he said. Beating a couple of hundred will be more of a challenge.


Robert Arthur said...

Although not directly related, the Kaipara karakia incident illustrates a basic weakness which will manifest in all co governance arrangements. If the maori side do not get their way they organise cancellation of opponents. Maori have the large numbers of irrational brainwashed under employed to mount a campaign. The msm do not choose to point out the absurdity of the actions. And Meng Foon stands back. The technique worked with the adoption of maori wards throughout the country. Initially these were generally rejected.
My guess is the Kaipara councillor will devote more time and effort into honing future karakia than in positive contribution to council actions intended to be in the interest of the greater public.
The mayor should insist on a (short) maximum length and submission of the text a with a translation by an approved translator.

Anonymous said...

It's knee-jerk. That's the level of importance anyone pays to it. The 'higher power' is fed up with it too.

Kiwialan said...

It shows the rocky twisted road that our doomed Country is being driven down. The only truly racist people in NZ are the ones incorrectly claiming to be indigenous and creating a huge myth about treaty partnership and racial superiority. That a stone age bunch of warring tribes could ever be offered a partnership deal with the most powerful Empire in the world at that time is totally ridiculous. Kiwialan.