15 Jun 2016

Peace walkers warned not to react to provocation

7:52 am on 15 June 2016

Supporters of New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd's Peace Walk to Parihaka are being warned not to react to provocation from people not involved in the hikoi.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The three-day trek, which begins this morning, is a reaction to the negative response to Mr Judd's support for Maori representation on council. It aims to provoke a conversation about partnership with Maori.

Mr Judd has revealed he was spat at and abused in front of his children for championing the introduction of a Maori ward in New Plymouth, which was eventually thrown out in a citizens-initiated referendum.

Hikoi organiser Glenn Bennett

Hikoi organiser Glenn Bennett Photo: SUPPLIED

Hikoi organiser Glenn Bennett said he was aware the walk may cause tension in the community.

"We're not having signs or placards. This is a sacred walk. If there is any dissent from people who aren't with us, the walkers are being asked to quietly move on and not to interact or engage with people."

Mr Bennett said he was confident there would be no trouble.

"I don't know how people could get angry or aggressive about a peace walk, but we're definitely putting things in place to ensure the safety of the walkers and those who are around us as well."

The hikoi begins at the council chambers this morning and is due to reach Parihaka at 2pm on Friday.

The 44km trek will be undertaken in three stages, the first from New Plymouth to Oakura, then on Thursday from Oakura to Okato and on Friday onto Parihaka, the settlement famous for its pivotal role in passive resistance to land confiscations in the 1800s.

Town hall-style meetings will be held in Oakura and Okato as the hikoi makes its way around the coast.

Mr Bennett said it was difficult to predict how many people would take part.

"If we rely on social media there could be anywhere between 40 to 400, but I think being a Wednesday we can expect between 20 and 100 to begin the walk and then as the days go on it will build, particularly on Friday."

Bus loads of supporters from Wellington and Hamilton were due to join the hikoi during the week and Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy would also be taking part.

Mr Judd said he wasn't playing the numbers game and was mostly excited about the opportunity to engage in conversation with people about the kind of New Zealand they wanted to see.

"Numbers are pretty much not something to take away as any kind of message because logistically people literally can't come from all around the county.

"But it's an opportunity if you're not physically here, in your workplace or your home, to start a conversation about what this all looks like in your heart, in your home."

Mr Judd said the original question he posed about how could New Plymouth get Maori - as the Treaty partner - around the council table was a simple one.

"What was telling though was the reaction to that question not just locally but nationally and that reaction captured me because I saw myself in that reaction."

Mr Judd said Pakeha New Zealand had never had a proper conversation about the country's past.

"We know we don't talk about or teach the Treaty properly. I mean how could you have a mayor like I am who'd never been on a marae."

Mr Judd said he hoped his experience and the hikoi could form part of a new beginning for the country.

"We need to acknowledge our differences, celebrate those differences not only from a bicultural position but as we become more multicultural develop an understanding of what that means and how we manage this.

"But it has to be done in a way that reflects who we want to be. Those reactions I received, that's not New Zealand, surely?

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