March to democracy

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

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…

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7 thoughts on “March to democracy

  1. Hey Tamavalevale

    Yeah you’re right. And I think that’s a feature of most protest movements. It’s usally a collection of people with different issues but against the same foe.

    Although the Hikoi was essentially about Maori representation, the organiser did open the invitation to all groups opposed to all or parts of the Super City plan.

    I think the Super City IS inevitable, as Mayor Len Brown was saying the other night. The two major parties support the unitary governance structure, and I think most people do support it too. So it’s futile to try and stop it. But it’s the form and way it’s being implemented that most people are angry about.

    Maori have realised the inevitability that’s why they’re arguing for involvement rather than total opposition to it. So our energy needs also to go towards changing the type of Super City rather than against the Super City itself.

    Cheers

  2. The only thing that I find most confusing about this hikoi is that while everyone was ‘together’ -- within the ‘togetherness’ of it all, the message in the hikoi was ‘divided’.
    There were signs stating “Maori Seats! Maori Seats!” on one side while on the other side were signs that read “NO SUPERCITY!” So the question remains -- what exactly is it that we’re protesting?

  3. Hey, Niuzila!

    Thanks much for patiently explaining to me what’s goin’ on out there. I appreciate it! Also, I just want to correct myself: “I’m actually an Insider who is on the outside looking in.”

    Until your next post, Malo Soifua!

  4. Yeah. I’ve gotta give it to Mr Key though, while I know he aint a centrist, he definetly portrays to the public that he is a centrist. It’s a sign of being a good politician I guess, but that kinda begs the question where’s the media scrutiny? I guess that’s what happens when mainstream media don’t come from an indigenous world view.

    In terms of Aboriginal people of Australia and Maori here, I think there are a couple of differences. Aboriginies are worse off than Maori in many aspects, because they don’t have a Treaty to fall back on, they were initially treated as sub-human therefore justifying the Palagi claim to the continent, and Palagi’s outnumber aboriginies by a wider margin. Maori on the other hand do have a Treaty and have been somewhat successful in pushing their indigenous rights through that document. Maori make up 15% of the population and under democracy have utilised their numbers in the political sense (Maori Party).

    On the other hand Aboriginies are more fortunate because they can have a physical separation from Palagi Australia. Whereas Maori have interbred and there’s hardly a place in New Zealand where Pakeha and Maori do not live side by side (argubaly maybe the Ureweras though). Inuits in the Canadian north have always been seperate to the urban Palagi Canadian south, therefore creating a political separation easier because it’s physically possible. Whereas Maori have integrated with Palagi thereby making their future forever intertwined. As with Hawaiians.

    So while cultural displacement has occurred here in New Zealand and Australia, I think Aboriginies have a better chance at re-building their cultural resource independent of Palagi Australians. Whereas Maori culture will forever be influenced by their Palagi counterparts (and vice-versa).

    Loving the banter!

  5. Oh, Thanks. Nice to know I have a general, albeit, elementary grasp on the reading.

    Regarding my ‘Aboriginal’ comparison, I meant in terms of cultural displacement. Considering the Aboriginal people were a nomadic tribe, ‘land’ was a cultural issue for the indigenous people of Australia;
    ‘land’ provided the basic necessities for their way of life.

    Historically, the Palagis’ cultural perspective was based on the philosophy of the ‘Manifest Destiny.’ Land was equal to financial prosperity, more ‘land’ meant more money, more money ensured a political stronghold (and other self-serving aspirations) in their community at-large.

    For me, the ‘Maori Hikoi’ echoes similarities from our global past between the Palagis and the not-Palagis. Representation of cultural perspective is the issue, and cultural-perspective certainly has an influence on present-day decision-making. What’s worth noting is Palagis’ present-day political tactic is to accuse the not-Palagis of ‘reverse discrimination’ and/or ‘racism’--smoke screen.

    By the way, isn’t ‘Monarchy’ and ‘Democracy’ a philosophical contradiction? I guess that explains why Prime Minister John Keys comes across as a ‘parent’ tolerating a child’s tantrum.

  6. Yes, much of the energy at the Hikoi was about Maori representation at the local government level, and this is one of the main issues in modern indigenous rights movements. Especially for first peoples such as Maori and Hawaiians where they are now a minority and have integrated with the modern state, it’s less about land (although still an important grievance issue), but it’s becoming more about representation.

    Maori are fortunate that they have the Treaty of Waitangi, or more importantly the Maori version: Te Tiriti o Waitangi to rely on. This Tiriti guaranteed Maori certain things and also allowed the modern state of New Zealand to be established. This has created a partnership.

    Maori argue, and rightly so, that the nature of partnership goes beyond the national level (we have seats in Parliament set aside especially for Maori), but should also exist at the local level.

    Of course it’s only in the last 30 years that mainstream society (ie Palagi’s) in those particular countries have begun to recognise the rights of the indigenous peoples. While it may seem to be “new” to Palagi’s (because Palagi academic’s have only just recognised the rights), for indigenous people it’s been a generational battle.

    Thank you for your comments, even if it was from the US of A. Really enjoyed replying.

  7. To me, this sounds similar to the Aboriginal peoples’ history; that is the Maori Hikoi’s prevention of repeating a similar fate. I don’t know if that’s an appropriate comparison, but that’s my interpretation of what I’ve read sofar.

    I’m not understanding why the government, upon realizing, that they only needed 20 seats at the new council, not 23 seats, why they opted to dismiss the Maori representatives’ seats?

    Also, I don’t understand, Prime Minister John Key. Whether or not this is an accurate print of Prime Minister John Key’s words, but this is in part what I read at, http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/key-hikoi-premature-2755516:

    “I don’t think the hikoi of itself will make any difference,” he says.

    I read that statement and thought, ‘…sounds to me like they (government) have already made up their minds. The rest of the article also reads as if the Prime Minister is pacifying the Maori peoples’ march; the article also reads as dismissive of the Hikoi protest…

    I live here in the UStatesA. This is a simplified (possibly over) attempt to understand New Zealand’s current events. But, I can’t help but feel a little bit robbed (vicariously), I mean, who better can represent/assess/advise a community’s economic developmental needs (and, in this case, sensitive to cultural issues) other than a person from that district.

    Again, this is an Outsider’s point-of-view. Appreciate your making the time to share this piece with us.

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