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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Apologies sought for seditious ancestors

Green MP Keith Locke says now the Government has agreed to scrap sedition laws, it should consider apologies for Maori leaders prosecuted under those laws.

The Law Commission last month recommended the sedition law should go, and its report has now been endorsed by the Greens, United Future, ACT, the Maori Party, and Labour.

Mr Locke says the law was used against Parihaka leader Te Whiti o Rongomai in the 1880s and Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana early last century, when they spoke out against the Crown’s breaches of Maori rights.

“The Prime Minister’s apologies to various people around the place, Samoans and this and that, so I think an apology going way back to the misuse of the sedition laws would be quite a good thing. It would help settle things a bit,” Mr Locke says.

The only person convicted of sedition in the past half century is Auckland man Tim Selwyn, who attacked Helen Clark's electorate office window with an ax to protest foreshore and seabed legislation.


Two landmark carvings in the western Bay of Plenty town of Katikati may be relocated to save them from water damage.

The figures, known as Nga Kaitiaki or The Guardians, are currently at Tuapiro marae being repaired and restored by their creator, master carver Mutu Bryan.

Fellow carver James Schuster, a Historic Places Trust Maori heritage advisor, says the way the pou were erected in 2000 wasn't suitable for wooden carvings.

“They're set in concrete, and I said one of the worst things for whakairo is putting them down in concrete. The totara just sucks the moisture straight out of the concrete, and that’s what rots them. So I said ‘If you can, change the base of them. If they’re going to be moved, that’s the ideal opportunity to take them out of that concrete base,” Mr Schuster says.


As Reed Books prepares to celebrate its century, it may come as a surprise its most successful author ever is a Maori.

Gavin McClean, who has written the history of the iconic New Zealand Publishing house, says Reeds has published six thousand items, about a quarter of them of Maori interest.

Mr Mclean says its most succesful author is Witi Ihimaera, whose first collection of short stories, Pounamu Pounamu, was published in 1972.

“He is by far the most successful writer Reed’s has ever had. He’s far eclipsed Barry Crump, for example. Something like a quarter of a million, just for Whale Rider, but of course he’s done many other very successful books for Reed’s as well,” Mr McClean says.


A future National led government would be seeking significant changes to the laws covering Maori trusts, runanga and land.

Leader John Key says the party is working on policies around the treaty settlement process, and on the future shape of Maori authorities and runanga.

He says consultation with iwi indicates there would be widespread Maori support for an overhaul of Te Ture Whenua Maori Act, which regulates how Maori land is managed.

“Our view is that there needs to be some greater flexibility in those Acts and that more authority should move to Maori. There’s a bit of a paternalistic view taken. We want to make sure that Maori, when they get control of their assets, have the same ability to manage those assets as pretty much anyone else,” Mr Key says.

He says the changes are critical for encouraging Maori economic development.


Maori Party MP Hone Harawira is challenging Transit's decision to fly the European Union Flag to fly on the Auckland Harbour, while continuing to deny space to a Maori flag.

Transit refused to fly a Maori flag on Waitangi Day was because it said it did not represent a sovereign nation.

Mr Harawira says the organisation seems to be applying different rules on different days of the week, and he wants to take up the issue with bridge management.

“We’re taking that up with the Race Relations Office. We’d like an opportunity to sit down with the managers of the bridge and work out how best to get through this. We want to see the Maori flag flying on important Maori days, rather than not see the European flag flying on other days,” Mr Harawira says.


Noted historian, anthropologist and author Dame Anne Salmond says knowing about Maori life and culture is an important part of being a New Zealander.

Professor Salmond is returning to the classroom to teach a first year Maori Studies course at Auckland University, after almost a decade working on research, writing and university administration.

She says many New Zealanders don't understand the country they grew up in.

“I just think a lot of people have really strong opinions about things Maori but they really don’t know much about it. They will say things like Maori must have been very violent to their children, without knowing what the facts are. They will say that Maori language has no value, without understanding the ideas and the art forms that are embodied in the reo,” Professor Salmond says.

The course will cover early Maori life, the Treaty of Waitangi, the colonial period, land wars, the treaty, and the Maori renaissance to the present day.


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