PM urged to lis­ten

Central Leader - - Front Page - By David Ke­meys Ed­i­tor-in-chief

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.

Pho­tos: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Strong mes­sage: A pro­tester walks up Queen St as part of the hikoi against the dump­ing of Maori seats in the new su­percity coun­cil.

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