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As a country we must get back down to work: a message to politicians racism has no place

For the last several weeks a New Zealand, an Aotearoa, has started to emerge that should concern us all with the spectre of racism once again rearing its head. From the belittling of Te Reo Maori and Maori words from politicians and business leaders who should know better to the rising tide of keyboard warriors emerging from behind their fake profiles to prosecute their misinformation using their real identities – they have become emboldened. This rising tide is exactly what happened as the result of the Don Brach Orewa speech was essentially the same. Weaponise Maori to suit a political outcome.

That sort of behaviour is nothing new but what is new is the fact that the majority of New Zealanders are simply tired of it. I would hazard to say that the vast number of New Zealanders are more focussed on the daily struggle of life and the pandemic than they are the antics of a small minority attempting to whip everyone into a frenzy. The fact is we are no where near the end of this pandemic and in some cases there are issues that have been amplified such as mental health and anxiety. But, as sure as night follows day, the same challenges that faced us going into the pandemic remain.

As a nation we face a housing crisis from home ownership affordability to rentals. In the health system we continue to face inequities, hospital waiting lists, increasing pressure to fund lifesaving and extending medications. And then there is mental health and suicide – a system under so much weight and pressure and beggars’ belief. Parents are worried about whether their children will ever be able to afford a home, grandparents asked to take up the slack of looing after their mokopuna as a result of the rising levels of meth addictions. Whanau worried about where their next meals are coming from, putting shoes on kids feet or just enough petrol to put in the car to get to work between pay days.

Then there are the big global issues – our young people worried about the impacts of climate change, the unfolding crisis, yet again, in Afghanistan and then there is the pandemic.

New Zealanders are tired and exhausted just on the daily struggle of life which is why this descent into madness over race is so unnecessary and not who we are as a majority. That is why the message to our politicians must be clear – get on with your jobs. When you take on the job of scraping the bottom of the barrel in the race debate then all you are doing is creating an operating environment through which a very small minority get to trade in their filth. Don’t embolden them – disempower them. In doing so you give nothing to racism.

For the Government; get on with the job of implementing your policies to help alleviate the daily struggles of life New Zealanders are confronting and for the Opposition – behave like an Opposition and put up alternate policies that are well thought out and costed.

Until that happens I will continue to push back against the small minority because I know the vast majority of New Zealanders do not hold those racist views – the majority of New Zealanders just want to build a better future and embrace the unique culture we have as a nation.

Matthew Tukaki is the Chair of the National Maori Authority, former Chair of Deakin University CSaRO, Suicide Prevention Australia and NewsNow. He has formerly represented Australia at the UN (2009-2013) and is of Ngai Te Rangi and Whanau a Apanui descent


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