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  • Phoebe Robertson

Māori & Pasifika News


Drought hits Micronesia 

The drought in certain parts of Micronesia has worsened, with extreme conditions being reported. The US Drought Monitor states that the island group Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia, and Wotje atoll in the Marshall Islands, are both facing extreme drought, while Guam, Palau, and some areas of the Commonwealth of the Marianas are experiencing severe drought. Various state disaster coordinating offices, including USAID and the International Organization for Migration, are providing aid and support to these islands in need.

Māori and Pacific Advocates Rally for Whale Tohorā

A declaration has been signed by Māori and Pacific leaders advocating for granting legal personhood to whales, known as tohorā. The Whakaputanga Moana was signed by both Kiingi Tuheitia and Tou Travel Ariki, the head of House Ariki in the Cook Islands. The primary purpose of this declaration is to provide stronger protections for tohorā that are recognized globally. In addition, it aims to safeguard the rights of tohorā to migrate freely, preserve and increase dwindling populations, create marine protected areas, incorporate mātauranga Māori with science for improved protection measures, and establish a specific fund for whale conservation. To RNZ, Kiingi Tuheitia said: "Ultimately, He Whakaputanga Moana is a declaration for future generations. Our mokopuna deserve to inherit an ocean teeming with life, where the songs of whales continue to resonate across the vast expanse". 

Ngāti Hau occupies abandoned school

Descendants of Northland’s Ngāti Hau, a hapū of the Ngāpuhi iwi, are demanding the Crown to return an abandoned school to their hapū without any cost implications. Tōwai Primary School was closed in 2005, and later declared surplus by the Ministry of Education. In 2010, the land passed to Kāinga Ora (then Housing New Zealand), was declared surplus to its needs also, and sold by the Crown to a private buyer. Ngāti Hau asserts that the Crown's actions have led to significant losses for the hapū, and they believe the Crown should have retained the property or incurred minimal costs for the hapū's benefit. The hapū intends to occupy the property until the Crown takes action to address their demands, and invites supporters to join them in their protest.

Government Mandates Polls for Māori Wards in Councils

Government Minister Simeon Brown has announced a significant reversal in policy, stating that councils that implemented Māori wards without polling residents will now need to hold a referendum or disband these wards altogether. Brown criticized the previous government's approach, describing it as "divisive" and lacking in community involvement. 

The Labour government's decision in 2022 to abolish the requirement for referendums on Māori wards paved the way for their inclusion in local body elections, with candidates standing for Māori wards in 35 councils nationwide. This move was supported by Local Government New Zealand, emphasizing equal treatment for all wards and allowing councils to make independent decisions. However, coalition parties opposed this change, with commitments in their agreements to reinstate the referendum requirement.

Brown's announcement includes provisions for councils to either hold referendums during the 2025 election or abolish existing Māori wards. He stressed the importance of community input in governance decisions. Legislation to enforce these changes is expected to be introduced in the coming months and passed by the end of July.

Tangata Whenua Withdrawal from National Action Plan Against Racism

The National Iwi Chairs Forum announced the withdrawal of tangata whenua caucus representatives from the NAPAR working group, citing concerns over the government's handling of the plan. Tangata whenua caucus member Tina Ngata criticized the government's approach, highlighting shortcomings in addressing institutional and colonial racism against Māori. Ngata emphasized that the proposed changes to the plan would undermine its effectiveness in combating racism.

Acting Race Relations Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo sought clarification from the minister and expressed concern over the decision. Julia Whaipooti, the commission's shared leader, supported the withdrawal, emphasizing the need for inclusivity in anti-racist efforts.

The call for a National Action Plan Against Racism stemmed from a recommendation by a United Nations committee in 2017, following the Christchurch terror attacks in 2019. Despite the withdrawal of tangata whenua representatives, the National Iwi Chairs Forum expressed intentions to continue addressing racism at the community level independently of the government.


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