Richard Moore: It's time to start taking it to the streets

By Richard Moore

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Labour's Rotorua candidate Tamati Coffey led the way in the Maui dolphin protest.Photo/Richard Moore
Labour's Rotorua candidate Tamati Coffey led the way in the Maui dolphin protest.Photo/Richard Moore

Throughout history people who feel they have been ignored have taken to the streets to publicly shout their messages to their leaders.

Those in power who were sensible listened to them and made efforts to mollify the crowds. Others, less clever, would continue on ignoring the masses until the end - be it a storming of the Bastille, a rebellion, or just a plain old electoral defeat.

I find it interesting that the National Party, which was political cactus only a few short years ago, has forgotten how it was initially elected.

Not through great policies or fabulous candidates, they won because people were tired of Helen Clark's arrogant government ignoring them.

Labour had been in power too long and had developed a "born to rule" mentality whereby it even thought it could tell people what lightbulbs to put in their homes.

Clark and co. were turfed out and in came the Nats who, in my opinion have taken less time than Labour to start ruling over, rather than for, we the people.

Now I am not sure if they are at the same stage as Labour was when they were booted, but National has a real problem with listening to voters and that was put up in lights at the march in Tauranga on Saturday to protest against allowing oil and gas exploration in the habitat of the near-extinct Maui dolphin.

The weather on Saturday morning was looking dodgy, there were plenty of kids' sports on the go and yet at least 400 people bothered to turn up to register their displeasure at local MP's Simon Bridges' decision as Energy and Resources Minister to open up the North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary.

Contrary to some views it wasn't a "rent a crowd", but what seemed to me like a good cross section of our city's community.

True there were some elements that will turn up at any rally, but they were a very tiny minority.

Opposition party representatives were plentiful - Labour, the Greens, Mana/Internet - and many of the candidates are standing up against Bridges and National's pick for Western Bay, Todd Muller.

Labour's Rotorua candidate Tamati Coffey led the way, with Tauranga's hopeful Rachel Jones, Clare Wilson (Western Bay) and Dr Iain McLean (Greens, Tauranga). Newly announced Internet-Mana Party candidate Miriam Pierard also marched and addressed the crowd, as did local Greenpeace activist Peter Bethune, who was jailed in Japan for several months for this anti-whaling protest activities.

But the vast majority of those involved in the march from the Waterfront, up Devonport Rd to Bridges' office were families.

Mums, dads, grand-folk and kids.

They carried plaques, 55 numbered red Maui dolphin shapes - to represent the number of the creatures left in the world - and little black coffins with dolphins painted on them.

The chants were, unsurprisingly, terrible with the only success being a couple of words that rhymed.

It was a shame that there was no National Party representative there to show that even we of the right-wing persuasion care about our wildlife and our environment. I guess they didn't want to have to defend the Government's policies in front of what could have been, how can I put it, a vocal crowd.

The march was uneventful, although it did block traffic for a while outside Simon Bridges' closed electorate office as brief speeches were made.

I think Simon Bridges erred badly in not being at his office to meet with the protesters. Yes, it would have been uncomfortable, but most of them were in his electorate and as one said to me "We pay him a six-figure salary to listen to us."

Listening costs nothing in my book.

During the march I only heard one person complain - an elderly woman who said huffily: "Some people will protest about anything."

Too right, I thought, bloody good cause ... there should be more of it.

More grass-roots democracy in action, I say.

As an observer, albeit one who believes in preserving maritime sanctuaries and opposes deep sea oil exploration, I would say the size of the march should have got a bit of attention from our Government.

For this town it was a big turnout.

I reckon we should be doing the same thing about the Rena.

Take to the streets people and let the powers-that-be know we will not accept anything other than total removal of the Rena from our Astrolabe Reef.

"1, 2, 3, 4 ...

"Get the Rena from our door ...

"5, 6, 7, 8 ...

"Do it now as we won't wait."

What do you know, I can't write march songs either ...

I HAVE accepted the opportunity to go and see where the Tauranga City Council is at regarding evacuation solutions for the people living along our coastal strip from Papamoa to the Mount.

The invitation was made to me by a cc-ed emailed Letter to the Editor.

The initial meeting is this Friday and I am looking forward to seeing what is what.

I am going in with a list of questions and an open mind.

If any readers wish to add to that list feel free to send some to me.

richard@richardmoore.comRichard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist and photographer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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