Have you ever watched those movies like Braveheart? Where there’s that one inspirational moment that sends a shiver up your spine? Where you know that history is about to be made? That you’re about to partake in an important event? That you’re actions will mean something?
I got into work early in the morning yesterday, knowing I had a tonne of files waiting for me at my desk. My window looks out and down onto Queen Street, the main street in Aukilani / Auckland. The dark sky was being pushed backed by orange and yellows from the rising sun, as I logged onto the work computer.
I must’ve been working so hard that I hadn’t seen the hours fly by so fast. Because the next time I looked out my window I saw police cars blocking up Queen Street and a couple of helicopters whizzing around amongst the sky scrappers. And through the 3 inch thick glass of the window I could faintly make out a thumping sound with constant screeching and wailing in the background.
It was the day of the Super City Hikoi.
Hikoi is the Maori term generally meaning a protest march or parade, usually implying a long journey taking days or weeks. The most famous hikoi was the 1975 Māori land march the length of the North Island from Cape Reinga to the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington, organised by the late Dame Whina Cooper. More recently a large hikoi was organised during the 2004 Foreshore and seabed controversy in opposition to the nationalisation of New Zealand’s foreshore and seabed along the coastline. For maximum visibility, the marchers travelled on foot through cities and towns and in motor vehicles in rural areas.
Yesterday’s hikoi had between 7,000 to 10,000 protesters. They all converged at the bottom of Queen Street from other parts of Aukilani. A contingent from Manukau (Aukilani Saute / South Auckland) travelled from the Manukau City Council buildings to the Auckland Domain, walking 5 kms to the bottom of Queen Street. Papakura protesters trained into the Central Business District (CBD) from the deep south. An Aukilani Sisifo / West Auckland group came in the busloads from Maori marae, schools and homes in Waitakere. North Shore and Rodney protesters marched across the Auckland Harbour Bridge. An a large group walked from the Ngati Whatua o Orakei marae from the east of the city.
Reports said the numbers swelled as they all met at Britomart at the bottom of Queen Street. At 12pm they began their march up towards Aotea Square. Young and old, Maori, Pakeha / Palagi, Samoan, Tongan, Indian, South American, Asian, Union members, Gangs, University students, politicians etc.
I have to admit I had to sneak out for a quick lunch break to witness this great Hikoi. And I’m glad I did. As I saw the multitudes walk past I felt a great pride, an honour to be a witness to, and testify about the actions of those protesters that day. As the chant’s went up and the flags waved, the goosebumps and spine chilling set in. History was being made.
In my University days I would’ve jumped at the opportunity to be standing side by side next to those protesters. But there’s an uncomfortable feeling of having to be stand-offish now that I’m no longer waving around the University-rebellion-against-the-machine flag anymore. This corporate suit has almost created a barrier between the sensibilities that now have to be taken into account, compared to the desire to voice one’s opinion along side others on Queen Street.
There were a range of groups there that day, from Union members and co raging against the coporatisation of Aukilani; the Kohanga Reo kids in their water proof ponchos, hoping Maori representation will exist in and for their future; rural farmers, wondering what future they could have under a Super metropolis; the local government representatives fearful of the loss of democracy under this Super City etc.
Although there were thousands like myself, who could not be there, could not participate (or participate fully), we all understood the message behind the protest, and deep down we were proud those that could, did.
Unlike fellow 1samoana blogger Tamavalevale, I do support a unitary local government body. However, the form in which the current Government proposes to implement that unitary body I have issue with. There is a need to have a stronger unified Aukilani voice, but there needs to be direct accountability with the people of this 1.4 million city. Direct ward-voting system, guaranteed Maori representation, stronger local/community boards etc, all things that this Super City needs to ensure it is a world class city for all it’s citizen’s, not just the wealthy.
I look around at the poor state of our public transport, the disconnection between the bylaws of the cities within this urban sprawl, the unsuccessful attempts at catering and marketing for world class sporting, arts, cultural events. At the same time, there are communities of interest that cannot be sidelined under this Super City. The social (and economic) cost is too large for even the national Government to ignore. The social (and economic) wealth that these communities of interest can weild are untapped and have been neglected. To ensure these communities of interests keep Aukilani multi-cultural, there needs to be stronger democracy elements in the proposal.
But what I was most impressed with yesterday was the number of young people out there on the streets. For too long our people have been too apathetic to be involved in politics, but there does seem to be a groundswell behind issues such as the Super City which has galvanised our youth and they have heeded the call.
Faamalo lava (congratulations) to the organisers, and the participants. What an impressive show of strength and unity. Queen Street is only the beginning of the march for this hikoi…