Third councillor involved too

EDITORIAL

It generally takes two people or more to have a conversation.

If someone is prepared to make what most would consider to be an outrageous and racist “joke”, that’s because they expect those they are with to appreciate it. They have probably shared such comments before. If they’re wrong, they risk getting an earful.

The fact Meredith Akuhata-Brown wrote “according to a couple of my colleagues” in attributing the comment she is certain was made during a council lunch break — that “not enough were killed”, in reference to the deaths of up to nine Maori under fire from crew of the Endeavour in 1769 — implies, any possible contextual misunderstanding aside, that this was very much a shared comment.

Therefore a third councillor should be included in the code of conduct review, or at the very least be questioned about their involvement and, if required — if the allegation is proved or strongly suspected to be true — made very clear to them that this sort of conversation, anywhere, is completely unacceptable.

It is right that Mrs Akuhata-Brown is also subject to a review as she did not follow process for a complaint against colleagues, and her chosen course of action risked a loss of public confidence in the office to which they have been elected. Your editor spoke to her before publishing the allegation, and supports her action.

The key reason it is good to have this allegation laid out in the open is that such comments and the prejudices that lie behind them are, sadly, common in our community. They are also incredibly hurtful and undermine the many good efforts by individuals and groups, including the council and iwi, to increase understanding and tolerance.

Together we can make the nation proud in October next year when we commemorate the first meetings of Maori and Europeans here 250 years ago, and forge a bright future for our place. While we are separate, we will never achieve our potential.

It generally takes two people or more to have a conversation.

If someone is prepared to make what most would consider to be an outrageous and racist “joke”, that’s because they expect those they are with to appreciate it. They have probably shared such comments before. If they’re wrong, they risk getting an earful.

The fact Meredith Akuhata-Brown wrote “according to a couple of my colleagues” in attributing the comment she is certain was made during a council lunch break — that “not enough were killed”, in reference to the deaths of up to nine Maori under fire from crew of the Endeavour in 1769 — implies, any possible contextual misunderstanding aside, that this was very much a shared comment.

Therefore a third councillor should be included in the code of conduct review, or at the very least be questioned about their involvement and, if required — if the allegation is proved or strongly suspected to be true — made very clear to them that this sort of conversation, anywhere, is completely unacceptable.

It is right that Mrs Akuhata-Brown is also subject to a review as she did not follow process for a complaint against colleagues, and her chosen course of action risked a loss of public confidence in the office to which they have been elected. Your editor spoke to her before publishing the allegation, and supports her action.

The key reason it is good to have this allegation laid out in the open is that such comments and the prejudices that lie behind them are, sadly, common in our community. They are also incredibly hurtful and undermine the many good efforts by individuals and groups, including the council and iwi, to increase understanding and tolerance.

Together we can make the nation proud in October next year when we commemorate the first meetings of Maori and Europeans here 250 years ago, and forge a bright future for our place. While we are separate, we will never achieve our potential.

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Thelma Karaitiana - 1 year ago
I am partially in accord with the Editor. I agree Mrs Akuhata-Brown must be a part, along with her peers, of the Code of Conduct Review. Her willing participation will give some integrity to the process and put a light on the racist elements that are surfacing from within Gisborne District Council. There is a very public spotlight on GDC and I am sure many will keep a watchful eye on this space to see how this scandal will be resolved. To this extent, I agree a review is needed and I add, if the allegation is proved the racists must be found wanting, they should be named, and a very public apology issued to the Tangata Whenua. I would also expect they be removed from their offices. As to making a nation proud, this is a notion of pure whimsey by the Editor. The arrival of Cook to Turanganui a Kiwa was as the alleged GDC racists put it, a killing, and the commemoration of these in such an inappropriate manner is a show of ignorance and is totally disrespectful. The concept of Cook being relevant in the 21st Century is a hangover from those who still feel duty-bound to the House of Hanover or is it, Windsor or Mountbatten. There is no place in contemporary Turanganui for such archaic thinking and there is definitely nothing for the hapu and whanau of Turanganui a Kiwa to commemorate. While we continue to entertain such nonsense, the result is separatism and racism. Instead of building memorials and having commemorations, spend the money on worthy causes like the hard-working volunteers who are looking after our environment.

Tak, Wellington - 1 year ago
Councillors can't be accountable to their electorate without the ability to speak freely about any matters they see relevant to representing the people who voted for them. It is a democratic outrage that councillors are required to sign a gagging order on appointment. All councils that gag the people's elected representatives are a disgrace - as are the councillors who sign them.

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