Thomas Wynne has advice for his grand-daughter.
My daughter rang me a couple of nights ago, and asked me about my position and thoughts on the protests going on at Ihumatao and at Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
We spoke of the complexities and similarities and why it is that people protest and what value it may bring to their cause. We spoke of Aotearoa land confiscation by the Crown in 1863, and the ongoing effects of colonisation and land confiscation for Maori there, and what they are doing and have done to rectify this in their own way.
We spoke about tino rangatiratanga and self-determination and what that means and looks like in a 21st Century world for indigenous people. That indigenous communities must be able to self-determine their future and what that looks like because only then can power be truly shared. Because power-sharing is necessary when it is not and when it is accumulated by one group and maintained and perpetuated through legislation and the abuse of power.
We spoke of my own protest when I was 15, marching against the Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand, because the team was racially picked and because apartheid was still at work in the Republic of South Africa.
A number of my family marched on Eden Park that day and it was violent at times, dangerous also and yet we knew it was right. And as with any protest there were those with their own agenda, who maybe just didn’t like the government of the day, those who came for a scuffle with the Police and those like myself and our family who were clear that apartheid was wrong and the government’s decision to allow them to tour New Zealand was wrong.
The Springbok Tour divided New Zealand, and I went to a rugby school where the game was worshipped as were the many students that went on to be All Blacks and Kiwis. It wasn’t easy at times being at school and taking this stand but I knew in myself that it was right and that apartheid was wrong, and that rugby teams that benefited from it and supported it were not welcome in the New Zealand I was living in. And of course, at least half the country disagreed with me and that is their right also.
My daughter will take my ina, my granddaughter with her today down to Ihumatao and show her support for the iwi and tanagata enua there. My granddaughter will not know the reasons why of course, but she will feel the mauri of the people there and she will have that as a reference point for when her mother, and our family, stood with them.
Ihumatao has its own complexities with iwi also agreeing to the sale and that sector of Iwi agreeable to the building of the houses by Fletchers because of a deal they have struck with them. Again, the issue may seem straightforward, but binary them-and-us thinking only ever feeds the media and contributes little to the needed discussion or of making a way forward.
Nonetheless, it is our right as citizens in free democracies to express our views and to do so publicly and this is often used as a measure of the health of our democracy and of its openness.
I am so proud of my daughter joining with the protest today, because she has thought the issues through and is clear why she is there and what that means for her and for my granddaughter.
For me, as her Dad, that was essential, that she knew why she was protesting and what the cause was and how this affected her and her daughter as Maori, which my granddaughter is also through her father, and as a Cook Islander.
As the sun rose today, Kanaka Maoli gathered at Mauna Kea, with other sons and daughters of the Moana gathering with them to ask for the protection of this sacred mountain from development.
At that rising of the sun, tangata whenua and Maori from around Aotearoa are gathering at Ihumatao and they too want this land to not be desecrated by development, and the issue of land confiscation amongst others rises its ugly head again. Radio New Zealand has reported that over 10,000 will gather at Ihumatao this weekend, as this call to protest resonates further and further.
But in the end it is dialogue that will bring the change we all desire and not just protest alone, though protest is essential when dialogue has in fact broken down.
Dialogue between Crown and iwi, and dialogue between stakeholders will bring resolve to this situation at Ihumatao and the protest at Mauna Kea. And I am relieved that the New Zealand Government has already begun that conversation by halting all development till more dialogue can happen.
It was dialogue between then President De Klerk and Mandela that brought the change desperately needed for South Africa. And it was dialogue between the Crown and Maori that saw the beginning of Treaty settlements and this ongoing discussion on sovereignty and self-determination for Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa.
Dialogue is essential for real and transcending change, and protest, a necessity when it is clear that dialogue for one party has broken down.
Nonetheless, it is at the table of dialogue that the change we all seek is only ever achieved and dialogue, should in my mind be our goal, and our resolve to work towards whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in. At the table of understanding, of listening and of negotiation, nothing is impossible.