Indigenous | National Iwi Chairs Forum

Why did the Iwi Chairs Forum walk out on the national anti-racism plan?

Yesterday it was revealed that the National Iwi Chairs Forum had walked out of the government’s National Action Plan Against Racism project, which aims to establish a new approach on racism, particularly given the terrorist attacks on Christchurch mosques.

Tangata whenua caucus member, Tina Ngata (Ngāti Porou) told Te Ao Māori News everyone in the forum collectively decided to leave.

“I think there had been a rising level of concern from last year over the number of actions and the type of speech this type of government was engaging in.

“There was signals that were being sent to us by the minister [of justice, Paul Goldsmith] and his initial feedback to the current draft was layered upon the pre-existing concerns and so it’s been an ongoing concern and it was shared among the committee.

“Our participation in that space was premised upon a level of good faith and partnership and there’s been rising concerns over continued actions from this government that continue to exhibit a high level of racism.”

She listed “racist” things the coalition government did that “targeted Māori”, citing the Fast Track Aproval Bill, the Treaty Principles Bill, and the recent controversy around Auckland University tuākana rooms.

‘The most explicit racism of this generation’

“I mean we are experiencing the most explicit racism of this generation in the current government that we’ve seen and they have been called to account upon it numerous times now and they don’t seem to be willing to make any changes.”

She is open to rejoining the plan but said there would need to be significant changes in how the government operates for them to come back.

How did the justice minister react?

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith was certainly disappointed to find out about the National Iwi Chairs Forum leaving the anti-racism plan.

He said he only found out today through a press release he had seen.

Ngata told Te Ao Māori News the committee was going to send him a letter but was unsure if it had actually been sent.

The comments made to the forum were to “provide direction” for the plan to focus on racism against all ethnicities.

“There’s an impact that racism has on Māori and that has to be a big focus but of course, it’s much more [of] a universal issue for many communities in New Zealand, so we want to make sure that plan takes account for all of those concerns.,” he said.

Ngata was made aware of the comments about three weeks ago.

She said there already was a tauiwi caucus and a state sector caucus, who shared their kōrero on the type of racism they experienced but Goldsmith wanted to “water down” and “reduce” the “specific and distinct colonial racism against Māori”.

Goldsmith told Te Ao Māori News he or the people working on the anti-racism plan couldn’t dictate which ethnic voices were heard the most.

“All we do is come up with a plan of action and we’ll be bringing it out in a draft form and people will have the opportunity to have their say about it.

“It’s not going to be perfection in the outcome but it will be the best that we can [do] and we’ll have a series of steps that we can do to continue to improve the country that we live in.”

So what happens now?

The Ministry of Justice will continue with the National Action Plan Against Racism. Although the National Iwi Chairs Forum has left, Goldsmith said Māori voices would still be in the plan.

“We still have Pou Tikanga, which is one of the work streams of the relationship between the Crown and the Māori iwi leaders forum and we’ll continue on as best we can.”

While the government is working on its plan, the forum is going to carry on with an independent version, using the draft action plan it has been working on for the past two years.

“That plan will continue to hold [the] bottom line, such as constitutional transformation, and [be] treaty centred, and be He Whakaputanga-centred, constitution for Aotearoa, which is a non-negotiable bottom line for a national action plan.

“All anti-racism movements have really been movements of the people, they’ve never come from the government, they’ve certainly never come from colonial governments because they’re so heavily invested in their own privilege and maintaining and protecting their own privilege.”