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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tree chopper turns tree hugger

The country's most notorious tree-chopper has turned tree-hugger.

Mike Smith, whose chainsaw protest hastened the demise of the lone pine on Maungakeikei-One Tree Hill, has joined Greenpeace as political strategist.

He follows Grant Hawke and Ella Henry in bringing a Maori voice to the global environmental organisation.

The 53 year old from Ngapuhi says he's looking forward to hold government and business to account for any environmental degradation they cause.

“You know one thing I’ll say about Greenpeace as an organization, it takes no money from the government and it takes no money from big business. It does that on purpose so that it’s free to critique and indeed when circumstances call for it, to challenge through direct action any government or any business activity that threatens the well being of our environment,” Mr Smith says.

He says Maori need to be aware of the threat the insatiable global appetite for resources poses to the New Zealand environment


Labour's candidate for Manurewa says the selection of a Maori to contest the seat is positive for the party.

Louisa Wall from Ngati Tuwharetoa and Waikato and Ngati Kuri came through after 10 hours of deliberations as local members, unionists and head office representatives considered the merits of a multicultural collection of candidates including another Maori, a Pakeha, a Tongan, a Samoan, and two Indians.

She says with the electorate's high Maori and Pacific Island population, says building relations with Maori from different iwi and different political affiliations the electorate will be important.

“I just want to focus on building really solid relationships in Manurewa and there’s lots of Ngapuhi in Manurewa, there’s a few Waikato and Ngati Tuwharetoa but I know after yesterday I’ve got to push my Ngati Kuri whakapapa through my koro Robin Abraham so I’ll be trying to connect with as many Ngapuhi whanau as possible,” Ms Wall says.

She replaces retiring MP George Hawkins in the seat, which is considered safe for Labour.


Maori medium schools will be given help to adjust to their new national standards.

Pita Sharples, the associate Minister of Education, says the standards should help improve literacy and numeracy among students in Maori language immersion classes.

He says they were designed in consultation with the schools, and they need to be aligned closely with the curriculum.

“There's 74 schools under kura kaupapa Maori and their runanga is currently, and we’re going to help them do this, finalizing their curriculum un terms of Te Aho Matua and then they can face Te Aho Matua curriculum towards Te Whanaketanga, the standards, and see how they relate to each other,” Dr Sharples says.

He says assessment tools need to be developed for Nga Whanaketanga Rumaki Maori, and teachers will need professional development to get the most out of the new standards.


Ngati Apa chair Adrian Rurawhe says the apology from the Crown as part of the iwi's settlement was important, but not to everyone.

After five years of negotiations, the iwi accepted a $28 package including a $16 million cash payout, the ability to buy Crown forest land and the right to buy assets such as the Ohakea airforce base if they are made surplus.

Mr Rurawhe says the apology acknowledges the way aggressive Crown land purchasing in its rohe from the Rangitikei to the Whangaehu Rivers left the tribe landless by 1900, creating great hardship for the people.

He says the apology was important for some tribal members, but others were more cynical, or saw it as a chance to develop a better relationship with the Crown.

Adrian Rurawhe says the settlement includes funds for cultural redevelopment and arts promotion of the arts, as part of the tribal rebuilding.


A Ngai Tahu midwife says attending an international midwifery conference in South Africa will help her better serve her predominantly rural clientele.

Biddy Sheehan from Ashburton is one of only about 185 specialist Maori midwives.

She says her colleagues in the Christchurch-based Maori Midwifery Roopu encouraged her to apply for a Cathay Pacific High Flyers Award to fund her to the conference in Durban next June.

“They wanted a rural midwife to go because practicing rurally is quite full on, they’re on call more 24-7 than urban midwives because there’s fewer of us to cover each other. It came down to me because I’m available. I’m also doing some post-grad papers towards masers, and I think that helped quite a lot as well,” Mrs Sheehan says.


Labour leader Phil Goff says Louisa Wall's selection as Labour's candidate for Manurewa is historic for the party.

He says the former Silver Fern, who served as a list MP in 2008 replacing Ann Hartley resigned, is the first Maori to be selected for a safe general seat.

The first Maori to win a general seat for Labour, Georgina Beyer, was in the marginal Wairarapa electorate.

Mr Goff says Ms Wall has the endorsement of outgoing MP George Hawkins and she’s up to the challenge.


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