Tommy Kapai: Democracy? Don't hold your breath

By Tommy Kapai

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America's Cup racing.
America's Cup racing.

There is a cool game we play with the kids every time we cross the Tauranga Harbour bridge.

It involves them holding their breath from one side to the other and us the parents trying every trick in the book to make them take a breath.

It's a fun-filled ritual and one I thought about when watching two sporting events over the weekend.

The first was when Dan Carter went down from a nothing-in-it, totally legitimate tackle by the Springbok big boy Bismarck du Plessis. I held my breath and waited for the counter punch - and it came. Not by the jersey pulling - sheila-like shoving enforcers who did little to honour the glory days of the Te Kuiti two step - that was dished out in subsequent rucks.


My breath was blurted out by my absolute annoyance of the waha-nui - blow by blow - TVNZ commentator, who we call 'Justin case' you didn't know anything, I will tell you everything.

The second breath-holding moment was when our house tilted over like a ladder, about to fall backwards on itself with us on it, or in this case the whole team aboard Dean Barker's Aotearoa. I physically found myself leaning over in a desperate attempt to right the keel of the Kiwi boat. The big difference in the two breath-holding moments is the commentators on San Francisco Bay let us make up our own minds about the drama unfolding before us.

Surely the digital difference that the America's Cup sporting event has over the Eden Park predictable boring commentary should shake up the sponsors and promoters of our national game?

On another "full of wind" tack, local body elections need a good shake-up and perhaps the answer could be in less mouth and more mouse, if we are to even consider holding our breath when choosing the guardians of our children's future. Digital democracy via online voting could well be the voice for the lost generations who have no interest in voting.

Why don't they register or even care?

Is it apathy or a distrust driven by a generational belief their vote won't count? If this is the case then the counter punch to apathy is information in a language they can understand. Starting at school level where politics should be at the very least explained if not encouraged.

Sir Apirana Ngata once said: "The taiaha of knowledge will win the challenges for Maori in the future" and perhaps that taiaha will be wielded in the form of digital democracy where the download of a candidates' kaupapa can be delivered and voted on by the click of a mouse - in house and immediate. The other side of the candidate coin once Maori are enrolled is having elected Maori councillors who can build relationships across the decision-making table and the lesson learned from the Maori Party with National should be applied. It's all about having a seat at the decision-making table and once you're there, then it's looking for common ground to work together on.

The seat that holds most interest is the Mauao Maori seat on regional council and the Western Bay of Plenty Regional Council where two well-known Maori leaders, Te Awanui Black and Carlton Bidois, are being talked about as serious contenders. Whoever makes it to the decision-making table after the final votes are counted - the needs and concerns of tangata whenua will have to be served by strong voices standing for Maori seats on regional council and Western Bay. They will have to have the support of all hapu and iwi at marae level as there are some huge challenges for them to carry, none more so than the pirau poisons we are pouring into our harbour - and stopping it becoming like 70 per cent of the polluted waterways up and down Aotearoa no longer fit to swim in.

The true test of their election promises will be in the way they can walk their talk and work alongside their council colleagues in a cohesive non-divisive manner.

I won't hold my breath for all of the answers to the environmental and community questions local Maori are asking, but I do hope the distractions of a few honest questions will help us choose candidates who can cross the bridge of local politics and lead us into a better future for all children and communities of the Western Bay.

Tihei mauri ora

- Bay of Plenty Times

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