Don Brash acknowledges his audience at Waitangi was not 'quietly supportive'

2019-02-05 15:47:36

Waitangi's Lower Marae, Te Tii, had a raucous vibe on Tuesday afternoon with both Don Brash and Brian Tamaki making controversial appearances.

Destiny Church's Bishop Brian Tamaki roared up on a motorbike with a cohort of around 50 bikies wearing vests emblazed with his 'Raising fathers to save our children' slogan.

A divisive figure due to perceived homophobia - which he denies - and questionable financial practices, Tamaki said he was at Waitangi to bring "a message of hope". He was scheduled to preach a sermon on Waitangi day at Te Tii.

Former National Party leader Brash spoke in a tent on the grounds later that afternoon amidst catcalls and accusations of racism for his stances on Te Reo in schools and the Māori electorate - he is well known to be anti both.

Brash is the spokesman for Hobson's Pledge, a group opposing alleged Māori favouritism and advocating equality. He was pelted with mud in 2004 at Te Tii Marae over a speech he had made in Orewa about a Treaty "grievance industry".

Christchurch activist Josie Butler, who had been both invited to speak at Te Tii Marae on Waitangi Day's morning and issued a trespass notice for the Upper Marae, said she was disheartened upon learning Brash and Tamaki had also been invited to speak.

"My heart just sort of sank," she said.

"I felt concerned about the minority groups - Māori and the LGBT community - because I imagine those men's speeches will propagate discrimination against them even further. So I want to have counter arguments in place to dispute that dialogue."

Butler took the media spotlight in 2016 when she threw a dildo at then-National Party economic minister Steven Joyce at a media stand-up at Waitangi.

She had been invited to speak this year on the effectiveness of protest.

At Te Tii on Tuesday, Brash reiterated his views on the Māori Electorate, saying it was "patronising and insulting to tell Māori they can't quite make it without special assistance".

He cited the large number of current Māori MPs "who got there on merit".

"Not one of them need a Māori electorate to get in," he said.

When he spoke about how Māori language should not be compulsory in New Zealand schools, Far North woman Maki Herbert stormed out of the tent.

"I've had enough," she said. "He's acknowledging he's the same person he's always been, and I see him as very racist.

"He's essentially saying there's no room for Te Reo in the outside world - well, that's bulls.... We should be endorsing our own language. You go to France, they speak French and English. This is our indigenous language."

Event organisers cut Brash off midway through his speech to introduce former New Plymouth mayor and self-proclaimed "recovering racist" Andrew Judd.

Judd kicked off with an explanation of how he used to feel the same way about Māori as Brash, and said that "a silent majority" of New Zealanders still did.

"But I went on a journey of what I call 'challenging the Don Brash within'," he said, to laughs from the audience.

He said when he realised he hadn't lived through the post-colonialist Māori experience himself, he decided he was in no position to make calls like Brash's.

"The truth is I've never had to live in the knowledge and emotion that my ancestral lands had been stolen by my so-called treaty partner," said Judd.

"I've not grown up in a New Zealand where my native language had been removed by the education system, mocked.

"I've not grown up having to watch my culture associated with all the horrendous statistical outcomes - education, poverty, homelessness, the massive disproportionate incarceration rate."


Outside the Marae, Brash spoke to media about how he felt his speech went.

"There were a couple of very loud protesters who didn't like what I was saying," he said. "In some ways it wasn't the right speech for the occasion. I was told to prepare a one-hour speech followed by discussion. It ended up being a 25 minute speech."

He said it was hard to know what the "majority-view" of his speech in the audience was but he suspected it was not "quietly supportive".

"They clearly felt as Māori that they were not being given the appropriate respect and deference., and I pointed out that quarter of our MPs in Parliament are Māori," Brash said.

He said none of his views had changed during the day.

A Ngapuhi woman interrupted the press conference to complain that the media was focused on him instead of the positive aspects of Waitangi.

"Don Brash is the representative of the nature of racism within this country of Aotearoa and all you journalists are covering his stuff," she said.

Brash said he "obviously" disagreed with her.

Two members of Te Tii marae defended the decision to invite Brash - while saying they completely disagreed with him.

"This is an ancient Ngapuhi philosophy: We don't kill our enemy, we keep them," one of them said. "You never know when you might need them."

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