A new seven-part video series explores what it means to be Pākehā, 250 years after Captain Cook's arrival in New Zealand.

Pākehā are the real problem when it comes to poor social outcomes for Māori, says former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd.

In a new short documentary series Land of the Long White Cloud, Judd says that during his time as mayor of the city he examined the alarming statistics for Māori in health, education, incarceration rates, homelessness and poverty.

He realised that they were doing poorly based on "policies that Europeans have created. So those outcomes for Māori are actually at the hand of us. We're the problem."

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A proponent of Māori representation in local government, Judd campaigned strongly to establish a Māori ward seat on the New Plymouth District Council during his tenure back in 2015 but in a local referendum, the public voted resoundingly to remove it.

Judd, who calls himself a recovering racist, says this is because Pākehā New Zealanders are racist but unwilling to admit it. "We haven't moved on since the arrival of Cook. We're still colonising. We're still not partners. We still don't include."

In 2001, the Local Electoral Act provided for councils to establish Māori wards but to date it has been largely unsuccessful. The Bay of Plenty and Waikato councils have succeeded in maintaining Māori wards but in many local bodies in which councillors voted to establish a Māori ward, binding public referendums were held that overturned the seats.

The equity of these referendums has been a topic of debate in parliament. As Green Party leader Marama Davidson put it, when the majority are voting about whether the minority should have a voice, Māori are "going to lose in these kinds of polls" every time.

The United Nations' human rights arm has also raised the lack of Māori representation in local body politics in New Zealand as an issue of concern. The lack of movement raises the question; "Why are Pākehā so opposed to having established Māori Wards?"

Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd says Pākehā New Zealanders don't want to admit they're racist.
Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd says Pākehā New Zealanders don't want to admit they're racist.

Judd again says it's racism. As mayor, he was "inundated with hate mail" and in a meeting with JPs in which he opened with a karakia he was called "a right little Māori boy" and told he wouldn't be voted back in because of his beliefs around Māori representation. Judd is quick to point out that "What I was experiencing was nothing with what Maori have to live with."

In his episode of the NZ On Air funded series, Judd details how his first point of business as elected mayor of New Plymouth was to visit Ōwae Marae in Waitara. Confronted by his own lack of understanding of Māori culture, Judd came to question how he could live in this country with little to no knowledge of one of the two cultures that make New Zealand bicultural.

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Creator of the documentary series Kathleen Winter says it was important for her to tell Judd's story because "he has such an insight into how our legal and democratic structures continue to uphold racism. He has used - and sacrificed - his position of power to challenge these unfair structures."

One of the primary arguments against the Māori ward seats, made by former National MP Nuk Korako in parliament, is that Māori councillors are voted in democratically anyway. However, Judd points out that those councillors are not elected to represent Māori interests, which is the purpose of the Māori ward. They are simply elected councillors who happen to be of Māori descent.

Andrew Judd's attempt to introduce a Māori ward at New Plymouth District Council building caused a huge backlash.
Andrew Judd's attempt to introduce a Māori ward at New Plymouth District Council building caused a huge backlash.

The Māori ward seats are the only seats that are able to be removed by poll. Allocated rural seats, for example, cannot be removed. Marama Davidson put forward a bill in 2017 for the Equitable Process for Establishing Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies but it didn't make it past its first reading.

Judd has also petitioned parliament to standardise the laws around special seats. He believes that either they should all be able to be petitioned or none should be, or the government should "be honest enough to say you don't actually want Māori there in a real way".

As the Treaty of Waitangi states that Māori maintain tino rangatiratanga (self-determination or sovereignty), Judd says there is a lot more work to be done for Māori to gain fair and equitable representation at a local body level.

"We have to challenge each other. Help break down those barriers and those systems that have done all this. Lobby your MP to have a better justice system, health and education system. Support the return of what was taken. You've got to stand up to racism."

Watch all the episodes at nzherald.co.nz/captaincook