Māori Party calls for indigenous debate to address NZ racism, white privilege

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer
Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer ... Seymour "launched a political missile that fast became a political SOS". Image: Māori Party

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

The co-leader of New Zealand’s minority Māori Party has launched a blistering attack on white privilege and the opposition National Party which it accuses of “igniting racism” in the framing of a debate about radical political change.

In a provocative introduction to her weekly column in The New Zealand Herald today, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer asks: “Hey coloniser, so let me get this right, you want to lead a debate about indigenous rights that you helped to destroy?”

She writes in her media message to Pākehā colonisers: “You dishonour Te Tiriti [1840 Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding political partnership document] and promote continuing to do so.

“You stole our land and our language. You denounce our history, preferring to educate on anything but us. And you have done nothing to reverse this, instead preferring to ignore the problems.

“We are in an inherently white system that you designed, yet you feel oppressed that Māori want to stop the pain of inequities. Your systemic racism continues to perpetuate intergenerational trauma, which you refuse to accept.”

While acknowledging that National Party leader Judith Collins claimed that New Zealanders “find racism abhorrent”, she added that “in my opinion she is igniting racism through a carefully deployed campaign — apparently with the help of former leader Don Brash”.

Ngarewa-Packer says New Zealanders are entitled to a conversation about radical change, but they are not “counteracting with alternative solutions”, preferring to focus on what she saw as the “misery of struggling Māori whānau”.

‘White hypocrisy’
Criticising what she describes as “white hypocrisy”, Ngarewa-Packer called instead for a “debate about the coloniser’s entitlements”.

“And rather than start on a timeline plucked out to help lift right-wing leaders’ dying polls, let’s start at the beginning: 181 years ago, and discuss the rights of tangata whenua and the radical change needed in Aotearoa to see those rights fulfilled,” she said.

“And yes, I hear you. Why should you pay for your ancestors’ mistakes? But why should we, either?

“No one can give our language, lives, and land (actually this is possible) back. There is no true price for our tāonga. But we must at least stop the lying and stop making a mockery of tangata whenua with this pathetic dog-whistling.”

Ngarewa-Packer says a debate was needed on how New Zealand economy had been built off the “displacement of tangata whenua”.

“How tangata whenua are the largest benefactors to this nation, having accepted settlements worth 1 per cent loss of whenua stolen, in a process determined by the Crown!”

Disparity in the economy
Among examples Ngarewa-Packer gave of the disparity between the Pākehā and Māori share of the economy, were the NZ$1.9m funding for Te Matatini, the “largest kapa haka event on the planet, versus $16.9m for the NZ Symphony Orchestra”.

She also cited the $250m spent on the America’s Cup this year.

Ngarewa-Packer has also called for less hypocrisy about “crackdowns needed to stop crime”

“Let’s turn our gaze to white-collar crime, which has seen an estimated $2 billion to $4 billion loss to Aotearoa, through tax avoidance and evasion.”

She added that Māori sought to “drive our own tino rangatiratanga [self-determination]”.

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