PM urged to listen
PROTESTERS at this week’s hikoi in support of Maori seats on an Auckland supercity council weren’t surprised Prime Minister John Key had already dismissed their efforts.
“Why wouldn’t he? The guy is not listening,” marcher Martin Wilson says.
Mr Key said on breakfast TV that the hikoi would not make much difference to government plans, saying it was the wrong forum to raise concerns.
But Mr Wilson says that came as no surprise to anyone.
“This government couldn’t care less and its pathetic community meetings are nothing more than window dressing. Mr Key claims he is listening and that he has an open mind but that’s just a lie.
“The select committee process is a complete sham and he knows it despite denying it,” the Greenlane resident says.
About 6000 marchers rallied from across greater Auckland and the hikoi took more than an hour to travel up Queen St to a temporary marae opposite Aotea Square.
The city quickly returned to normal and traffic was flowing well by early afternoon.
Police reported little trouble along the route and the good-natured marchers were cheered and clapped along the way.
Broadcaster and columnist Willie Jackson was on the hikoi.
“It’s tremendously important that we are here today,” he says. “We want real democracy and to get our people involved.
“That hasn’t happened and it isn’t going to after the nonsensical decision to get rid of Maori seats after the Royal Commission said we were entitled to them.”
Tino Rangatiratanga flags flew alongside banners from marae from all over the region but the crowd was far from totally Maori, with members of the Pacific community joining Chinese, Pa- keha and Sikhs on the hikoi. Rousing haka rang out as various hikoi came together at the bottom of Queen St after arriving from the east, west, north and south.
The hikoi was arranged after the government dumped a Royal Commission proposal to have three Maori seats on a 23-member council, two elected and one appointed by local iwi. It opted for just 20 councillors, none directly elected by Maori.
Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said the government was listening and discussions with the Maori Party were continuing but he also dismissed the hikoi.
“I have to say though, it’s pretty tough to imagine a situation where you have a reserved place or places on the council for a local tribe.”
Hikoi organiser Ngarimu Blair from Ngati Whatua o Orakei said the aim was to “galvanise” Aucklanders in supporting the inclusion of Maori seats.
“It’s also giving them a voice for their concerns about how their democratic rights are being ridden roughshod over through this very rushed process.”
Marching on: The hikoi travels up Queen St.
Strong message: A protester walks up Queen St as part of the hikoi against the dumping of Maori seats in the new supercity council.