29 Sep 2023

Election 2023: Māori leaders call on politicians to condemn racism

1:45 pm on 29 September 2023
Christopher Luxon, Winston Peters, and David Seymour.

The letter asks that National leader Christopher Luxon condemns race-baiting by NZ First and ACT. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone, Marika Khabazi

In an open letter, Māori and community leaders are calling for an end to a "divisive style of politics".

"Racism, in any form, should have no place in our elections," the letter starts.

"Leaders, whether it is within your iwi, your whānau or of a political party, have a responsibility to call out racism and race-baiting and publicly condemn it.

"Race-baiting for votes is not new here in Aotearoa. But this election, the dog whistling and the outright public displays of racism from political candidates have increased to unacceptable levels.

"We need to draw a line in the sand, put an end to this divisive style of politics because Aotearoa, we are better than that."

The letter acknowledged Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins calling for the end to race-baiting in election campaigns.

It also acknowledged the Green Party and Te Pāti Māori for "their anti-racism positions and respect the words of Kiingi Tuheitia Pōtatau Te Wherowhero IIV, who, at his Koroneihana called for political parties to stop using Māori people as a political football".

"It is racist to call for Māori, elite or not, to be cut out and buried."

It said it was "ignorant" to call the signing of Te Tiriti "a wee experiment".

"And it is ignorant to think you have a right to erase Te Tiriti from legislation and rewrite it in your own words."

The letter said Māori deserved better from those who wanted to lead the country.

"So we are calling on Christopher Luxon, the leader of the National Party, to condemn the racist comments made by NZ First candidates, to condemn the race-baiting policies of the ACT party and commit himself to representing all of us - including Māori."

The letter has been signed by:

Dame Naida Glavish

Ta Herewini Tanetoa Parata

Ta Mark Solomon

Archdeacon Ngira Simmonds, chief of staff, Office of the Kiingitanga

Tukoroirangi Morgan, chairperson of Te Arataura

Baden Barber, chairperson of Ngati Kahungunu

Katie Murray, Te Runanga o Te Rarawa

Professor Margaret Mutu (Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa and Ngāti Whātua)

Te Huia Bill Hamilton (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngā Rauru)

Terrence (Mook) Hohneck, Ngāti Manuhiri

Peter Lucas Jones, Te Aupouri

Pania Newton, Te Ahiwaru Trust

Hurimoana Dennis, chairperson of Te Puea Marae

Tony Kake, chief executive of Papakura Marae

David Leteli, chief executive ofBBM Motivation

Tania Rangiheuea, chief executive of MUMA

Bernie O'Donnell, Nga Whare Waatea, chairperson of MUMA

Luxon and ACT respond

"I condemn and abhor racism in all its forms," Luxon said.

Luxon said Hipkins' conversation around race was to run a campaign built on "fear and negativity".

"That is because he doesn't have a record to run on and he doesn't have the ideas to take this country forward."

Calling Hipkins a "desperate guy", Luxon said: "Race is not a conversation in this election in terms of people want us to be focused on things that they are caring about, and they care about economy."

ACT leader David Seymour has hit back saying the letter's authors "appear to fight racism for purely political reasons".

"ACT's policy, set out at some length [in] our document 'Democracy or Co-Government?', is for Parliament, not ACT, to properly define the principles of the treaty. It was Parliament that said there were principles in the first place, so Parliament is well within its rights to say what those principles mean.

"The open letter goes on to reference 'the race-baiting policies of the ACT Party.' The letter never says what they are. It is a serious accusation backed up by zero evidence.

"By misusing such a powerful accusation, they damage its meaning, and make it harder to fight actual racism."

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