New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd announced this week that he would not seek re-election, due to the abuse he has received after his campaign to introduce a MÄori ward representative to the New Plymouth District Council. You can hear his interview with John Campbell here.
Nobody deserves to be spat at on the street. The tragedy is that the spitters, of insults and of phlegm, don’t realise what a favour Andrew Judd has done them.
Much has been made of the favour that Judd’s stand has done for MÄori. But two MÄori candidates for that council have said Judd needs to go further. They rejected his call for a MÄori ward, but they believe he should stand by his convictions and keep fighting. MÄori do not have the privilege of walking away when it all gets too uncomfortable.
Bill Simpson: “If Mr Judd was MÄori, and he came up with the same issues, do you think this would be publicised as strong as it is now?”
John Campbell: “My honest answer is probably not.”
Simpson: “Maori have been saying what Mr Judd has been saying for a number of years but no-one has actually paid attention.”
This is typical of the Indigenous experience: their histories, their stories and their lived reality is disregarded until it can be corroborated by white folks, and often not even then. It all goes double for women and other power minorities.
It’s not new, or isolated. White society systematically disregards Indigenous views, and not just for contentious, contemporary stuff. In 2003 Australian university researchers led by Heather Builth demonstrated using geographical, chemical and computer analysis that the Guditjmara people of what is now called southwestern Victoria had, for about 8,000 years, constructed and maintained a vast system of weirs and canals to farm eels. Eel farming is something modern societies struggle to do effectively, and 8,000 years is a long time ago — roughly at the same time as humans first domesticated chickens. This was an achievement of incalculable value for hundreds of generations, not only the Guditjmara, but also their trade partners and the other mobs who adapted the technology for use in their own country. But its very existence needed to be anointed by the proper authorities before it would be recognised. Guditjmara man Ken Saunders:
We weren’t nomads. We didn’t wander all over the bloody place and gone walkabout. We had an existence here … Well you couldn’t have a blackfella telling that story. So to prove it we had to have a white person doing the scientific research to say this is real
The dynamic is insidious. In Aotearoa we have come a long way from the bad old days of being caned for speaking te reo MÄori, changing names and trying to pass for PÄkehÄ, and most of that progress has not been due to the efforts of woke honkeys, but by the dogged struggle of MÄori swimming against a white tide. But little gets done in New Zealand without at least the acquiescence of the dominant White society, because white society only listens to itself. And so it often takes people like Andrew Judd and Heather Builth to usher these contraband discussions past the sentinels of public discourse.
I used to write a lot about this sort of thing, but I have no real standing to talk about this stuff, except that I am PÄkehÄ, and therefore less easy to write off as another crazy radical. It’s easy for woke whiteys to pat ourselves on the back for and doing those poor brown folks a favour, bestowing our privileged advocacy on them, but the only way it works is if we talk to ourselves. Indigenous people are better at fighting their own battles than we are. But because little happens without our acquiescence, there is a role for woke whitey race-traitors working to change our own people.
So from my perspective, Judd’s stand is of greater benefit for other PÄkehÄ than it is for MÄori. As I wrote earnestly in 2011, honouring the Treaty is not simply about doing what is right for MÄori, but about white New Zealanders honouring our own principles and standing upright on this ground that we occupy.
So itâ€™s really very simple: as Tau Iwi, if we live here in Aotearoa, we have an obligation to do our bit in ensuring the Treaty gets honoured. Because to the extent it remains unhonoured, weâ€™re in breach of the only thing which grants us any enduring legitimacy, the only agreement which gives us a right to be here. One of the basic, fundamental principles of the English civil society which Hobson represented, and which New Zealanders continue to hold dear today is the notion of adhering to oneâ€™s agreements; acting in good faith. In fact, Hobsonâ€™s instructions were to deal with the MÄori in good faith as equals. … Iâ€™m PÄkehÄ, and even if those other pricks wonâ€™t live up to their own declared standards, I want to honour my agreements, and those of my forefathers; and those made by people from whom Iâ€™m not descended but from which my 20th-Century immigrant grandparents benefited. This PÄkehÄ, at least, pays his debts.
Andrew Judd is a good model for this. I am not. I had the fortune to be brought up by a mother who lived with MÄori and grew biculturalism into our bones, and I have never been properly able to grok people who think the Treaty is a farce, that bygones should be bygones, or that MÄori should just be more like “us”. Judd came to it as an adult with his eyes open to the monoculture that grudgingly permits biculturalism to exist, and he tried to change it in a meaningful way.
Another good model is Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy, who was roundly mocked (including by me) as a part-timer with no credibility for her role, but who has repeatedly proven her ability to learn and own the job. These are the people white New Zealand needs: people who know that insidious racism isn’t just a redneck thing, or a Tory thing, or a South Island thing, but something intrinsic to society that is, nevertheless, curable by honest engagement with the historical facts. The people who hold these views are, by and large, just ordinary decent folk afflicted by banal prejudice and ignorance about the realities of a divided society.
White Aotearoa is right, in its way: these divisions harm us. New Zealand would be a better country without racism, without the poverty and crime and dysfunction that results from racism and from the systematic exclusion of a small but growing proportion of our people from full access to education, healthcare, prosperity and influence. Quite apart from the value of basic justice, there are more measurable benefits: the greatest gains begin from a low base, and there is a vast opportunity for Aotearoa’s underprivileged and under-utilised Indigenous people to make enormous economic, cultural and intellectual contributions to the nation. Some already do, and what a difference it makes.
Judd’s bid to ensure Indigenous representation on the New Plymouth District Council failed, and it seems certain that even were he to stand for re-election he would be beaten, because what Mike Hosking said is basically true: he is out of touch with middle New Zealand, and thank goodness! Middle New Zealand is wrong, and it needs to be told so by people whose views it cannot dismiss out of hand. Judd has showed White Aotearoa a way forward. Not an easy way, but an honest way to be true to ourselves, and we owe him our thanks.