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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuhoe Suppression Act backfires

A Tuhoe elder and academic says if last week's police action in Ruatoki was intended to bring the people of Tuhoe into line, it has backfired.

Tamati Kruger says the armed officers simply reinforced attitudes the tribe has held towards the Crown since its land was confiscated during the land wars of the 1860s.

The people who remain in the Urewera have little time for the Crown, local authorities, or the dog control officer.

“It's almost genetic, the way in which Tuhoe displays its disrespect for the Crown, and it does go back to the last 150 years. Where the Crown can use either coercion or fear to bring the population in to line, that tactic largely doesn't work here,” Mr Kruger says.

Tuhoe knows the difference between terrorism and tino rangatiratanga, but the police don't seem to.

COMMUNICATION KEY TO CUTTING ABUSE STATS

Good communication and community support is seen as the key to lowering the number of Maori children being abused.

Anton Blank, the project manager for next month's Nga Mana Ririki summit in Auckland, says national campaigns on smoking and other health issues have shown Maori communities will respond if the message is delivered in a culturally appropriate way.

He says a lot of resources are already going into child abuse, but they need to be properly focused on programmes the Maori community will get behind to keep tamariki safe.

“When you look at other campaigns that have been really successful, like Smokefree for example, they’ve also been underpinned by really good communications, and I think that’s really important as well as we look forward, that we need good resources for families and we need to keep the message out there in front of them,” Mr Blank says.

The summit may set specific targets for iwi and health providers Waikato, Auckland and Northland to achieve.

LANGUAGE NEEDS TO BE SPOKEN TO SURVIVE

If the Maori language is to survive it must be spoken at every opportunity.
That's the warning from Laurie Bauer, a linguist at Victoria University.

He says half of the world's languages are under threat because they are not being passed on to the next generation.

While a government can provide opportunities and resources... such as schools and radio stations... there is a limit to what it can achieve.

“What the government can't do is speak the language for you. And unless people speak the language, the language is doomed. Somebody who can speak fluent Maori and doesn’t is is helping the Maori language disappear,” Professor Bauer says.

New Zealanders need to become comfortable with Maori being spoken in every setting - and Maori should encourage non-Maori to speak te reo.

BENTHAM BENEFIT BRINGS CONTRACT OFFER

Bentham Ohia has been confirmed as the chief executive of Te Wananga o Aotearoa for a further five years.

His appointment to the troubled tertiary institution last year was controversial because of his perceived closeness to wananga founder Rongo Wetere.

But Craig Coxhead, the wananga's executive chair, says Mr Ohia was won support from staff, students and the board because of his effectiveness in leading the organisation through a difficult period.

The number of full time equivalent students now stands at 18 thousand 500, and the wananga is heading for a profit after three years of losses.

“We're looking at a $3 million to $4 million surplus, which in the current environment for tertiary institutions we think is quite good, quite reasonable, because it’s tough, not just for us but for all tertiary institutions it’s tough at the moment, with student numbers a lot less than they have been previously, so we’re quite happy. We have budgeted on a $3 to $4 million surplus this year, and we will achieve that,” Mr Coxhead says.

The accounts for 2004 and 2005 should be tabled in Parliament early next month.

RIGHTS IGNORED IN POLICE CRACKDOWN

A Tuhoe academic says the police seem to feel they can ignore his people's civil rights by waving around the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Tamati Kruger says last week's arrests in the eastern Bay of Plenty were marked by what seemed to be deliberate misinformation by police.

As well as the 17 people arrested around the country and charged with firearms offences, a number of people were arrested in Ruatoki and taken to Rotorua for questioning before being released.

Mr Kruger says police at Te Ngae station used underhand tricks to deny people legal representation.

“A lawyer turns up and says I’m here to represent Mr X, would you please sir advise Mr X that I am here, the lawyer is then told Mr X does not want to see you,. After the interview we find that Mr X was not even told,” Mr Kruger says.

People were also told their friends or relatives had been released, when in fact they had just been moved to a different police station.

AIDS EFFORT SHOWING SIGNS OF COMPLACENCY

A Maori health researcher believes people are getting complacent about the spread of HIV-AIDs.

Clive Aspin says a sharp jump in the percentage of those infected with HIV being Maori could be an early warning that infection rates among Maori could be on the increase.

The AIDs Foundation says the sample is too small to be significant.

Dr Aspin says the risk to Maori of HIV and other diseases from unprotected sex is being overshadowed by the attention given to other diseases such as diabetes.

“A lot of people think that HIV is under control, but the reality is there is no vaccine in sight, HIV rates are increasing around the world, that there are more and more women getting HIV, and we are seeing some serious changes around this epidemic that people are just not aware of,” he says.

The awareness effort needs to come not just from the AIDs Foundation but from all groups working in sexual and reproductive health.

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