Sometimes the news provides the best of stories. And so it was this week with former Maori Party President Pem Bird blaming his speeding on Pakeha.

He told the Teachers' Disciplinary Tribunal a Pakeha driver was at fault after a dangerous driving conviction last year. As a school principal he fell within their jurisdiction.

But his excuse was not what you might first think. The blame didn't lie with colonial Pakeha but modern-day ones.

"The white car however continued to tailgate me all the way to the end of the double line and beyond to the roadworks at the bottom of the hill," Bird said in a statement to the tribunal.


"There were two Pakeha youths sitting in front, although I could not make out who the others were in the back. It began to dawn on me then that it was perhaps my [Tino Rangatiratanga] flags that had caused them offence, hence their tailgating of me."

Bird said he gave the car numerous opportunities to overtake him, but did not want to stop.

"I seriously believe I would have been in danger . . . hence my foolish and stupid decision to try and outrun them to the not-too-distant turn off to Murupara. Just before the entry way I accelerated hard, hitting the speed I was clocked at in a matter of a couple of seconds. My car is a high-performance SR8."

He said the "souped-up" car followed suit, tailgating him for at least a kilometre. He was clocked by police at 169 km/h as he sped around a sweeping bend.

It seems the tailgaters weren't caught which, a cynic might say, proves institutional racism. It's the Maori who gets copped, not the Pakeha chasing him.

Bird had a lot of options that day and took a bad one attempting to outrun the tailgaters. What makes the his excuse so noteworthy is it demonstrates, in my view, how practiced too many Maori leaders have become in blaming Pakeha for their own situation and actions.

Bird is a grown up and a school principal. And here he is pointing his finger at others. It's not leadership to be blaming others for your folly.

It's not his speeding that should be bothering the tribunal but Bird's failure to accept responsibility for his own actions and his rather poor attempt to shift blame.


It has been my good fortune to know some great Maori leaders. Without exception they accepted responsibility, even when reasonable explanation was available. Indeed, accepting responsibility defines leadership.

I shudder that students these days learn little personal responsibility. Not many of us can sail through life always blaming others.