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Journeying away from racism

“ENDING racism is dependent on what is within your heart,’’ says former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd.

Mr Judd, guest speaker at last night’s Tairawhiti Men of the Year Awards, earlier took part in a panel discussion on racism organised by Tauawhi men’s Centre and Tuia 250 ki Turanga.

The three mayoral candidates — deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz, district councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown and local government newcomer Jonathan Pere — joined Mr Judd in the panel discussion at HB Williams Memorial Library.

Mr Judd championed Maori representation at New Plymouth District Council when he was mayor from 2013 to 2016. He described himself as a former or recovered racist.

He asked why other New Zealanders, like his previous self, could not walk in the Maori world — a world he had not grown up around.

He was in his 40s, newly appointed as mayor, before going on to a marae. He had felt intimidated and unsure of what to do. He could not ‘‘bridge across”. At the time he could not pronounce Taranaki correctly.

The journey away from racism started “within oneself’’ and needed to be real, not “tokenistic”.

He gave an example of tokenism as someone anglifying the pronunciation of Taranaki when away from a Maori environment.

Ms Akuhata-Brown asked the former mayor if he could see change “at the end of the tunnel” in the Pakeha system.

Mr Judd said change had to start “in each of us’’, but “our’’ partnership had not yet started.

Many Pakeha had never been on a marae and it “went the other way”.

“Our council chambers are so European.

“Would you feel comfortable making a deputation on a marae?

“If not, why not?”

Mr Judd said he went on a journey to change from being a racist.

He had not grown up in New Zealand knowing his ancestral land had been stolen, and the emotion associated with that knowledge.

“I don’t have to live that fight, that experience, that loss, that pain.

“I don’t how it is to have my language removed by the education system, or to have it mocked if it comes back.

“I don’t how it is to walk around in my own country as a minority.”

He was privileged and had never looked at the country’s past.

Instead he had normalised it.

Replying to a question from Mr Pere about proposed freedom of speech legislation from ACT’s David Seymour, and barriers to eliminating racism, Mr Judd said, ‘‘You can’t legislate love and care”.

Whoever won the mayoralty would receive hate speech, he said.

Mr Judd speaks from experience. In the months following a publicly-initiated referendum on the creation of a Maori ward for New Plymouth, which Mr Judd lost in a landslide, he spoke about “a man in a Nazi uniform” coming to see him, being removed as a patron of a club, being abused walking down the street in a Santa parade, and being spat on while out with family at a supermarket. He did not stand for a second term as mayor.

A member of the audience asked how Maori change could be implemented.

Mrs Stoltz said the council needed to learn to be a good Treaty partner.

Consultation with iwi needed to be more thorough.

The council should call out unacceptable behaviour and deal with it appropriately.

Mrs Stoltz said she felt enriched by learning more about the district through tikanga and te reo training.

Ms Akuhata-Brown said people had fought to get the name Turanganui-a- Kiwa restored.

“How are we going to move forward if we can’t get excited about those narratives of the people who have lived here.

“If council is to be a partner of iwi, it has to be decided what true partnership looks like — not one seat, not one voice.”

The land, sea and people who lived here needed to be protected.

“Participation, protection, partnership are simply three Ps of a partnership treaty. If we do those three things better, with more meaning, everyone wins.’’

Mr Pere said as mayor, he would support all marae being registered as educational institutes.

That would empower all iwi in the rohe.

Mrs Stoltz said a role of the mayor was to be one of the bridges between Maori and Pakeha.

As Mr Judd had said, the mayor needed to be comfortable in any situation.

“You need to be free to listen and learn.”

A safe environment was required where people respectfully listened and tried to understand others’ “lived experience’’ and the stories of their whanau.

Mr Pere said he wanted to do his best for everybody in the district. He wanted everyone to be safe and good. Gisborne needed innovation while remaining the same.

The district was delicate, but unique.

Ms Akuhata-Brown said all present cared about “this beautiful piece of paradise’’.

“I’m here because people believe in me to make decisions.

“I’m a representative of you, you’ve been part of my story.”

CHALLENGING: Former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, guest speaker at last night’s Tauawhi Men of the Year awards ceremony.