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

Two Wellington-based "solidarity activists" are calling on Pākehā New Zealanders to move past their white guilt because "we need to be having a productive conversation about this instead of just talking about your feelings".

The subjects of the fifth instalment of short documentary series Land of the Long White Cloud by filmmaker Kathleen Winter, Zeb Schrader and Ensai August are among a wave of young Pākehā who are questioning their privilege and becoming activists for Māori rights.

Why Ihumātao is being occupied by 'protectors'
Premium - The tragedy of Ihumātao
Mana whenua reach decision on Ihumātao land
Fletcher seeks urgent talks on Ihumatao stalemate


At 18-years-old, both are members of Pōneke Solidarity Alliance – Ihumātao, an activist group that takes their lead from the SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) campaign at Ihumātao and the Māori caucus in Pōneke.

Their episode of the NZ On Air-funded documentary series is called Confronting Colonisation and explores how the next generation of Pākehā New Zealanders feels about the actions of their ancestors and what they are doing to address their concerns.

Wellington protesters Ensai August (left) and Zeb Schrader say Pākehā need to confront their colonial history.
Wellington protesters Ensai August (left) and Zeb Schrader say Pākehā need to confront their colonial history.

Schrader says that confronting ancestral history can be uncomfortable but "whether that history is something awful like colonisation, you have to confront that".

When Schrader and August learned that the land at Ihumātao was confiscated from mana whenua in 1863 as punishment by the Crown for supporting the kingitanga movement, they felt an obligation to support the protection of the land and campaign to prevent the planned housing development by Fletcher Homes.

"It seems like the right thing to do and we're all committed to trying to do something practical" says August. And while they may be brimming with youthful hope, they are not so full of pluck that they think they know best.

"In my opinion we need to be led by tangata whenua but it does require participation from outside that sphere as well" says August.

They've marched on parliament and use their spare time to paste "Save Ihumātao" posters which according to August look "nicer when it's in colour but that costs lots of money so we just do it in black and white". They share the recipe for their paste or as they call it "sticky goodness" in the episode.

Wellington protesters march in support of the Ihumātao occupation.
Wellington protesters march in support of the Ihumātao occupation.

Schrader says he feels guilty about the way his ancestors acquired and confiscated Māori land during colonisation but feels it is his responsibility now to move past that guilt and take action towards righting the wrongs of the past, which includes protecting land that is deemed sacred by Māori.


Documentary maker Winter says she was interested in Schrader and August's story because "it speaks to generational difference in the way we might approach feelings like guilt and paralysis. I believe we're at the beginning of a revitalised and growing decolonisation movement in Aotearoa. Zeb and Sai show us ways that we can all get involved in that."

Schrader and August say it was important to them to take their activism beyond the online space. While they may be more digitally savvy than previous generations, Schraders says "we wanted to be outside amongst the community, not sitting inside posting about it".

Both Schrader and August have a pragmatic view of what needs to be done to make positive change. "The personal sort of process of working through all this stuff is really important but at the end of the day how's that going to affect what you do and how you operate in society?" says August.

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