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Look back, then look to the future

Opinion Piece

Many Gisborne people seem stunned that our councillors voted 13-1 for the dual-name application for the city’s bay, especially when consultation feedback was 49.5 percent against the proposed Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay, versus 47.5 percent for it.

This outcome is because councillors have more information and representations to assess than the general public does before making their decisions. It is because they know how important it is to Maori to have their original name for the area recognised, along with the mana of their ancestor Kiwa who brought them here.

Future prosperity for the Tairawhiti/Gisborne District is likely but far from assured. The potential of this beautiful, fertile place with so many talented people is enormous, however there are many challenges to overcome. Some of them we erect ourselves.

One thing for certain is that a prosperous future will be a strong bicultural future; one where the cultural renaissance seen in recent decades continues and strengthens; one where tangata whenua of the Tairawhiti have overcome the deprivation and dependency that have flowed for so many from the devastating impacts of colonisation — where individuals and the state transpired to separate Maori from their land, livelihoods and culture.

The historical facts of this are indisputable, still raw, and they reverberate in the poverty, violence, addiction, crime and incarceration that afflict too many Maori. The harm caused by events and actions in this region that transgressed the Treaty of Waitangi was massive.

It seems in some conversations we have in our community that this is little understood.

The historical facts are outlined in detail in the accounts that accompanied Treaty settlements and apologies from the Crown to local iwi over the past decade. These have been the first steps towards resolution. The next steps involve Maori having a greater say in decision-making that affects their people and the environment.

A shift in the balance of power is always difficult for members of the group that used to hold sway. Understanding why the shift needs to happen, and the benefits that will flow for all of us, could help.