27 Sep 2018

Rally supports Gisborne councillor who spoke out against racism

10:49 am on 27 September 2018

A Gisborne councillor plans to complain to the Ombudsman about being investigated after complaining another councillor made a racist remark.

Gisborne District Councillor (Hauora) Meredith Akuhata-Brown

Meredith Akuhata-Brown found herself in trouble for complaining another councillor made a racist comment. Photo: Supplied

Last month Meredith Akuhata-Brown said she heard a councillor saying it was a pity more Māori weren't killed when James Cook arrived in 1769.

The councillor denied saying that and Ms Akuhata-Brown then found herself in trouble for breaching Gisborne District Council's code of conduct, which said councillors must not criticise other councillors or the council.

The issue was investigated by the council's code of conduct review board.

In a statement at the time, Gisborne District Council said two councillors were found to have breached the code of conduct, which was dealt with 'informally'.

It said the council could not confirm whether the comments were made, and said it would not release the names of those involved for legal reasons.

"I can wholeheartedly assure the community the matters related to the inquiry are in no way a reflection of the views within our organisation," said Nedine Thatcher Swann, chief executive of Gisborne District Council, in a statement.

Ms Akuhata-Brown's support person, Tina Ngata, said the investigation was flawed and they wanted the Office of the Ombudsman to review the case.

"Even though we accept that the council is standing by their process, we don't happen to agree that due process was followed or that it was as transparent or fair as what it could have been," Ms Ngata said.

Ms Akuhata-Brown had also been subject to hostility from other councillors in two public meetings, Ms Ngata said.

She told Morning Report: "If anything like this happens again we can be confident that what happens from that point on is fair and transparent and just.

Protesters outside the Gisborne District Council want to make sure the conversation doesn't die down.

Protesters outside the Gisborne District Council want to make sure the conversation doesn't die down. Photo: RNZ / Laura Dooney

She organised a rally outside the council office this morning to protest against the shutting down of the case.

"We're not happy really with how the whole system has been dealt with but more importantly for us, we felt that this is a real missed opportunity for us as a community to face the fact that institutional racism occurs everywhere."

She said protesters want to let the council know that: "We're not going to go away and we're not going to let this conversation die down."

Racism is inherent in all of the council's decisions, she said.

"All councils are institutionally racist because all councils are built out of the system of colonisation."

You can't extract racism out of colonisation, she said.

She said the community needed to take this journey together.

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