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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Issue 3. 15th March [1976]

Maori Forum

page 8

Maori Forum

'We Are All Losing Our Civil Rights'

Cries of 'we were cheated' all but echoed around the Union Hall last week when the Maori Land forum took place. Most New Zealanders have always suspected things were not quite 'Lily-white' about the time when the Europeans made their language felt in Aoetaroa. But since it happened such a long time ago it's best forgotten. After all, have we heard any complaints from Sid Going or any of the other Maori All Black rugby players? of course not! And they're the only Maoris we take any notice of! Fine rugby players! Fine boys! Maori too!, Oh, isn't it so simple when you don't think about it

With due respect to the average New Zealanders knowledge of our colonial history, the question of Maori land is complex and important, perhaps even more so than the Maori himself realises.

Drawing of a man standing on puzzle pieces

Mr Mihaka stated that if the Maori Land Marchers firmly believe in the principle behind their protest then they will accept the consequences of their actions. That is if they get arrested they will not recognise the charge and will plead not guilty

Mr Mihaka said that many people did not know their reasons for being in Parliament grounds, and so when they were arrested immediately asked for counsel. This, said Mr Mihaka, was stupid, for if they truly believed in the principle for which they were marching, (that is, to get back what is rightfully theres) there would be no need to want legal counsel. To protest and then to be arrested for a belief in a principie and then to say to a lawyer, protect me is wrong.

Roger Steele (who was arrested in Parliament grounds) disagreed with Mr Mihaka that to accept counsel was stupid. He recognises the charges because of the seventy of the issues, but questions Mr Muldoon's actions as he believes Mr Muldoon had no authority to override the Speaker of the House and order the marchers off Parliament grounds.

Mr Steele aks the question: 'who was in control of Parliament at the time the charge of unlawful trespass was made?' Mr Steele firmly believes that because of this charge a lawyer is necessary.

The Maori must be Looked After

Titewhai Harawira made a plea for solidarity (presumably amongst both Maoris and Europeans) to fight for the retention of an existing Maori land. She suggested to the audience that the Government stop immigration until the Maori have been 'looked after'.

It does seem certain that the Maori people will be looked after, but perhaps in a different way from that which the Matakite movement would envisage as just. The arrests made at Parliament grounds may well be a definite indication of how the protest movement will be dealt with (leaving the legal issue of unlawful trespass aside).

News Media to Blame

Tite whai Harawire attacked the news media, blaming them for the situation publicised in the newspapers, that of existing disension amongst the Maori people over the whole question of Maori protest in relation to land rights.

This statement was supported from the floor by a student who suggested that the news media would present to the public their (the news medias) particular view of reality, which would be adopted as real and factually true by the public.

It is certain that there is disension amongst Maoris concerning the protest movement, but this mainly relates to methods and the extent to which these methods are used, rather than complete disagreement with the aims of the protest movement. This point bears stressing since the news media has to some extent highlighted the disensions to discredit the protesters (though of course such a claim could not be proven conclusively).

A comment from the floor suggested that Dun Mihaka was being laughed at 'downtown', and that the only place where he would be listened to was in the Union Hall. But to my regret, even in our hallowed institution there exist people who will laugh at Mr Mihaka. If he had lived in the nineteenth century the Europeans then would probably have thought him 'quaint'. How fare have we come since then?

Anger and Threats

A young Maori speaker told the audience that they would forget the Maori protest forum once they had returned to the library further up the hill. This obvious anger at the treatment of his fellow Maori people ended with him expressing some kind of threat - aimed at everybody yet at nobody in particular - a sort of if you continue to ignore us, you watch out what happens'.

It is probable that once he said that he effectively destroyed any credability or rapport which he had with the audience. In my mind, those few minutes were a minor tragedy for protest movement in general, in particular the Matakite movement.

Fighting for Justice

Don Borrie a minister associated with the Student Christian Movement, said that the Maori protest movement was not dividing the country (as anonymous shouts from the floor maintained), but was fighting for justice. Simple enough?

He saw the need for leadership (governmental) to be based on people, not power or money.

The 'justice' which Mr Borrie spoke of is not a black and white situation. It is complex - grey You have only to read an article in the weekly magazine 'Listener' (11 Oct. 1975) to comprehend how complex and delicate is the whole question of Maori land.

To give any substance to this 'ideal' justice requires on the part of the Matakite movement a sound accurate knowledge of the situation as regards Maroi land - past, present and future

The Hilda Phillips article clarifies (assuming she is speaking from a sound, knowledge base) certain misunderstandings concerning Maori' land. She examines the terms 'Maori' and European land' explains the land tenure system which operates in New Zealand today and its effect on land owned by Maoris. She questions the belief that the 2½ million acres remaining Maori land is the only land in Maori ownership. I strongly recommend this article to anyone who wishes to gain a clearer understanding of the issues involved.

Don Borrie's reference to leadership is unhelpful Since when can leadership be separate from power; how else can leadership be effective except with power to operate. Certainly abuse of power and the exercise of it arbitrarily are bad. However, the meaning of his statement (if I have uncovered it) was not conveyed clearly to those listening. The ideas and their impact were lost in the absence of offective expression

Communication Problems

This forum revealed degrees of misunderstanding and insensitivity by both the Matakite people and those who disagree or question the aims grounds and/or methods of the protesters Overall, there was an inability or unwillingness to discuss the issues at hand, ideas were thrown across the Union Hall without any coherent dialogue being established.

Sensitivity - if there is respect shown for the people you are speaking to then you will be aware of your audience; and you will have some basis for deciding what to say, and how to say it The alternative which was displayed at the forum is for the speaker to deliver a broadside of thoughts jumbled in expression.

The protest group can't disregard the precious necessity to present their case in [ such a way as to (i) make sense and be accurate in its content and (ii) respect the opinions of the audience at the same time.


Ranginui Walker, writing in the Listener (14 6 75) said that the hidden cost suffered by the European majority who were victors in the conflict with the Maoris over the land was a legacy of Maori resentment which, although covert, would become increasingly overt as the young people were better educated and acquainted themselves with the facts of our colonies history.

The resentment he wrote about was obviously present at last weeks forum but I am uncertain whether this resentment was preceded by a thorough knowledge and greater acquaintence with our colonial history'

The emotional aspect is totally involved in the issue but on its own it is directionless. It is so necessary for the movement to match 'fact for fact' if possible those people who question what Matakite present as the situation regarding Maori land past and present.

At present the emotional elements of frustrations, anger and resentment are substantially reflected in the methods used by the protesters They must be subdued (for the good of their cause) and must step aside for sensibly reasoned arguments, supported by evidence which is thoroughly researched.

There is no word for Mickey Mouse in Maori to my knowledge; and I for one do not see the need for there to be one if they can see the value of knowing what they are about if they believe they represent the Maori people then let them do so responsibly. Their cause and the ideal which underlies it is too important to be lost in emotions which can only drain the spirit.

Leigh Thomson