A leading proponent of Māori wards in councils is challenging the public to learn and understand the history behind the horrendous outcomes Māori have had to endure, in order to end racism.
Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd was invited to speak at the Race Relations Day event at Forum North in Whangārei yesterday, alongside Singapore-trained lawyer Sue-Anne Moo and Ngatiwai kaumatua Hori Parata.
"I speak to you as a Pākehā. And I say we are the problem. We always have been. And all those horrendous outcomes that Māori have to deal with in health, education, poverty, homelessness, disproportionate incarceration rates, they are the result of policies that we put in place and we excluded Māori from ever being a part of the discussion,'' Judd told an audience of about 60.
"And then we blame Māori. Even the Māori ward seat was designed by Pākehā. Pākehā are also the solution. We have to be."
Until he became the New Plymouth mayor, Judd said he'd never been on a marae or engaged with the Māori world in any way.
But what he experienced in those visits and engagements after becoming mayor was something that clashed with his inner thoughts on who Māori were. He realised the way he'd been raised in his thinking towards them was not the experience he was getting.
"I've never had to live or be raised with the experience and the knowledge that my ancestral land had been stolen by my Government. My so-called Treaty partner. Sold off to fund the infrastructure that we all enjoy.''
"I have no experience of how it must be to have my native language removed by the education system. I don't know how it must feel to walk around New Zealand as a minority in my own land.
"The thing is, if we're honest with ourselves, as Pākehā, do we really, with each other, talk about how we present our racism? Can't, can we?
"Because we react in such a horrible way. The mere mention of it: 'Oh I am not. How dare you?" How do you know you're not racist if you haven't experienced true racism?"
Moo said she believed New Zealand was a humane and compassionate country and was moving forward in the right directions with laws to counter hate speech.
However, she said, the country still struggled as a society to cope with diversity.
Race Relations Day, which is officially March 21, marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.