4 Apr 2024

Iwi Chairs Forum reps pull out of anti-racism plan due to 'continued racist rhetoric'

7:32 pm on 4 April 2024
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Photo: Supplied

Minister of Justice Paul Goldsmith plans to continue developing a National Action Plan Against Racism, without tangata whenua input.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the National Iwi Chairs Forum said tangata whenua caucus representatives on the working group responsible for developing the plan (NAPAR) were pulling out.

Tangata whenua caucus member Tina Ngata said "continued racist rhetoric" from the current government made ongoing participation in the initiative untenable.

"Our government has signalled changes to the plan, including a reduced focus on institutional racism and colonial racism against Māori, which would render the plan pointless as all instances of personal racism result from the institutional racism of our society," Ngata said.

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith told RNZ's Checkpoint he found out about the group's decision in a press release. While he was disappointed, he said the group did not speak for all Māori.

"There are many ways to engage with Māori, they don't all speak with one voice, they don't all come from one organisation, any more than European New Zealanders come from one organisation, Māori have a wide variety of views and, just like every other group, we have to find many ways to engage with a broad cross section of views across the community and that will help inform the action plan that we've got."

Acting Race Relations Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo said she was extremely concerned over the decision, and was seeking an explanation from the minister.

The commission's tino rangatiratanga shared leader, Julia Whaipooti, backed the Iwi Chairs' move.

"Fundamentally, if you're gonna have an anti-racist plan, then you can't have racist foundation. So if you eliminate indigenous people, if you eliminate Māori from that plan, then it's enabling racism against Māori.

"You can't cherry-pick anti-racism."

National MP Paul Goldsmith

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith says the plan had to consider all communities across New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Goldsmith dismissed concerns raised and said any national plan to tackle racism had to consider all communities across New Zealand, including recent migrants.

"All we are focused on is ensuring we have a national action plan that is sound, we are going to come up with a draft and get communities to report back to that and we are focused on better outcomes for all New Zealanders."

In 2017, a United Nations committee recommended the country develop a National Action Plan Against Racism, which the government agreed to do in 2019 in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks.

Māori Women's Welfare League national president Dr Hope Tupara, who is also a tangata whenua caucus member, reiterated comments made in a press release late last year.

"League members will not silently sit by while our work on legacy issues suffer erosion by government apathy on racism - e kore ngā mema o Te Rōpu Wāhine Māori Toko i te Ora e whakaāe ana i ngā pēhitanga e pēnei ana."

Julia Amua Whaipooti, JustSpeak spokesperson and Children’s Commission senior advisor specking at the Police conference in Wellington focused on the cannabis referendum.

Race Relations Commission tino rangatiratanga shared leader, Julia Whaipooti. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Whaipooti said the ways Māori experienced racism everyday were more than skin deep.

"People think of racism as the individual name-calling based on the colour of your skin, but actually racism looks like our people dying earlier in the health system.

"The experience of that has just become so normalised in terms of outcomes for our people.

"That is the racism of the system, when you have different outcomes or different treatments in the same system as non-Māori."

On the other hand, Goldsmith said the government had a generally positive relationship with the National Iwi Chairs Forum and hoped other projects they were collaborating on would not be impacted by the decision.

"This plan is one of many things that we are working on together with Iwi Chairs and while they've decided to step back from this opportunity, there are many other areas we are working together on and I hope we continue to have a good relationship."

The National Iwi Chairs Forum said it planned to continue working on a national plan to tackle racism but would instead focus on plans at a community level independent of the government.

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