Councillor hails peace hikoi

By don.farmer@age.co.nz -
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STARTING OUT: Peace hikoi walkers gather on the first day. Among them was a Masterton District councillor. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
STARTING OUT: Peace hikoi walkers gather on the first day. Among them was a Masterton District councillor. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Peace Hikoi walker Chris Peterson has returned to Masterton humbled by the experience and optimistic for the future of race relations in New Zealand.

The Masterton District councillor, who journeyed to New Plymouth to walk on the first day of the hikoi, joining about 400 other walkers, said it had been a happy event with no aggravation or protesting throughout the walk from the starting point in New Plymouth to Oakura.

"It was all about bringing people together.

"We must have passed at least six schools along the way, colleges, primary schools and pre-schools and all the kids came out to see us go by.

"There were high-fives everywhere and whole schools came out to do a haka," he said.

Mr Peterson said he suspected history will look upon the Peace Hikoi as being as important in the nation's development as the Dame Whina Cooper land march.

A feature of the hikoi had been the spirit in which it had been carried out, and received.

"There were no placards, no protesters anywhere and no abuse from drivers who passed us," he said.

Mr Peterson said people should keep in mind the commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi was bipartisan on a national level and that as the young people of today grew into adulthood their views would be "further along the continuum" than now exists and far in advance of attitudes in years gone by.

While in Taranaki Mr Peterson had the chance to meet and talk with the organiser of the hikoi, New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, who was formerly from Masterton.

Mr Judd has gone on record to pledge his support for a Masterton District Council decision to appoint two iwi representatives to its standing committees with full speaking and voting rights.

Mr Peterson said reflecting on the debate that followed that decision, and in light of the hikoi, he feels even more confident the decision was the right one.

"I have more understanding as to why we made the decision, having had a chance to chat about it with people I know and respect.

"I know some people feel it is racist and is an erosion of democracy but it is not that.

"It does not undermine democracy," he said.

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