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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sharples says racist motive in NZ First China stance

The Maori Party says New Zealand First's rejection of the Free Trade Agreement with China boils down to election year race bashing.

Co-leader Pita Sharples says his party is voting against the deal signed this week because there's not much gain for New Zealand, the tariffs will take too long to be withdrawn, and more could have been done to address China's human rights policies.

But he says the approach taken by New Zealand First leader and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters smacks of political expediency rather than principle.

“Winston Peters is a very clever politician. He knows when to push what. Every election he plays the race card, he plays the immigrant card and the crime card. He gets the support of that sort of section of the community, the rednecks and so on and somehow manages to get his five percent,” Dr Sharples says.

He says the Maori Party has been approached by Chinese people wanting to set up trade links with Maori, and it is keen to facilitate those links.


The Green's Maori affairs spokesperson is accusing Meridian Energy is trying to revive the Think Big mentalitiy of the 1970s and 80s.

Metiria Turei this week joined ecologists and West Coasters on a rafting trip down the Mokihinui River near Westport, which Meridian wants to dam for a $200 million hydroelectric scheme.

She says the river gorge includes a pohutakawa forest and is home to several endangered and threatened species, such as blue duck, western weka, kaka, kereru, kakariki and giant snails.

“It is right up there in some of our best river ecologies and ecosystems and we don’t need to destroy it to get power, you know there are other things we can do and this is just Meridian doing a think big project and think big died in the 1970s and it should stay buried,” Ms Turei says.


New research has found Maori put their membership of iwi and whanau above their identity as New Zealanders.

Auckland University sociologist Louise Humpage is looking into how ethnicity, gender, income and geographical location affects people's understanding of citizenship.

She says initial focus group work has found that while other ethnic groups see citizenship as important in an abstract sense, Maori put their tribal and families identities first.

“Maori were very critical of this notion of citizenship and actually saw it as an alienating term in a way, largely because they associated it with article three of the treaty which is around equal citizenship rights, so Maori will be treated the same as every other New Zealander, and they saw this as marginalising article two, which is around Maori self-determining things for Maori,” Dr Humpage says.

Maori say they are treated like second class citizens, but feel they are first class because of their indigenous status.


The associate minister of health is welcoming moves by a trans-Tasman health body to upskill its members on things Maori.

The Royal Australasian College of Paediatricians has launched a Maori Health Advisory Committee, led by Leo Buchanan from Te Atiawa, to advise on ways to treat Maori children.

Mita Ririnui says the committee should give paediatricians access to research and knowledge which may not be available through conventional channels.

“The college has the link through its Maori advisory committee to community initiatives. In other words, going back to the brass roots and seeing what initiatives have been undertaken and learning from positive models, looking at what’s working and what's not,” Mr Ririnui.


Politician and culture expert Pita Sharples is endorsing an initiative to teach younger people about tangihanga.

A wananga is being held this weekend at Whaiora Marae in Otara by kaumatua from Te Aroha Otangaroa Marae in Kaeo on the rituals surrounding funerals and the treatment of tupapaku.

Dr Sharples says it can't be taken for granted that people will know what to do at what is always a stressful time.

“There are a lot of our people who do not know our death customs, and it’s important they get to know them, because we’re in that transition phase now where a lot of people are in the city who never experienced tangihanga, and it’s time to educate them. I’m very pleased with that initiative,” Dr Sharples says.

He says the tangihanga is a way Maori honour all their dead, from the highest to the lowest.


Artist John Bevan Ford has been honoured with a posthumous retrospective, opening tonight at the Te Manawa gallery in Palmerston North.

Mr Ford, from Ngati Raukawa ki Kapiti and Ngati Wehiwehi, played a major role in the development of contemporary Maori art as a carver, sculptor, painter and as a teacher to a generation of artists at Massey University.

His wife, Anne Ford, says most of the works in the show were done in the living room of the family home.

“The works really represent the entire 30 years that I spent with John and I hadn’t properly realized that nearly all the works in the exhibition were done while we were together living here in the Manawatu so it was really like meeting old friends,” Mrs Ford says.

John Bevan Ford was best known for his series based around korowai or cloaks, which he started in the 1980s.


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