Ihumātao: a Struggle for Justice

Protectors march for Ihumātao

By Josh O’Sullivan and Lozza Kiff

 

The fight for land rights in Aotearoa is the essential question for radical social change for both mana whenua and tau iwi. To resolve this question requires challenging some of the most fundamental aspects of capitalism in New Zealand – the rule of private property. Property held purely for profit, for factories, for land farming and for speculation. This struggle is crystallised in battle over Ihumātao.

Ihumātao is considered to be the oldest settlement in Auckland, and holds cultural and historical significance as an archaeologically rich landscape. It holds evidence of early Māori agricultural activities and is one of the last remaining sites of stone field crop propagation, for which it has been recognised as an at risk site on the United Nations International Council on Monuments and Sites. The whenua tells us stories of the origins of Tāmaki Makaurau. It is the only place in Auckland where pre-colonial stone structures can be found, all other stone garden complexes in Auckland have been destroyed, and it contains the oldest example of pre-colonial architecture in the remains of the Whare. Ihumātao is Waahi Tapu, a sacred place to Tangata Whenua.

Ihumātao was stolen from Māori in 1863 during the Waikato Invasion, along with 1.2 million hectares across the North Island. The Waikato invasion was a premeditated war of conquest directed against the Kingitanga. Their land expropriated and military conquest birthed what we now call Hamilton. The Crown did this under the New Zealand Settlements Act, a parliamentary act that confiscated land owned by anyone deemed to be rebels. In the government’s eyes anyone who associated with the Kingitanga movement were rebels. The Mana whenua of Ihumātao went from feeding and protecting the fledgling town of Auckland, to being accused by the Crown of plotting to massacre those very same pākehā. A desperate lie by the Crown to fuel greed of land speculators, who expropriated all of South Auckland, forcing the Māori to become refugees in their own land.

The land remained in private hands for over 130 years until in 1999, as historian Vincent O’Malley writes, “Manukau City Council, Auckland Regional Council, the Department of Conservation and the Lottery Grants Board jointly purchased a 100-hectare site from several owners and two years later officially opened the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve”.

The treaty settlement with one of the iwi, Te Kawerau a Maki, was completed in 2014.  The land however was not returned. Originally, the Manukau City Council tried to make the land an open public space, but after the merger into the Supercity, legal action forced the council to rezone the land. As a result Ihumātao was designated a Special Housing Area (SHA), and was sold from the Wallace family in 2016 to Fletcher Residential. It was at this point that SOUL was formed. Since that point SOUL has occupied the land and laid challenge after challenge in every possible legal avenue, through the environment court, the Land court, the Waitangi tribunal, and even the UN. [Read more…]

Questioning The Terrorism Suppression Bill

2007 Auckland protest against “terror law” attacks on Māori and peace activists. Photo credit: Joseph Barratt / Scoop

By Serah Allison

On the 16th October 2019, Labour government Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill to Parliament. Media suggest this Bill is targeted at one man, New Zealander Mark Taylor, who travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State, and who has been more recently held captive by Kurdish forces. With the withdrawal of the United States military from Syria and the possibility of Turkish incursions into Kurdish-held territories, it appears that Andrew Little perceives the possibility of the release of prisoners such as Mark Taylor, and their return to New Zealand.

 The proposed Bill will allow the New Zealand Police to request the New Zealand Court to impose a control order on an individual “to protect the public from terrorism.” The need for a control order will be decided by the Court on “balance of probabilities” – that is, a lower standard of proof than the “beyond reasonable doubt” level required to convict people of a crime. The default is for the identity of the relevant person to be suppressed, but the affected person can overturn that if they wish. When originally proposed, accusations of terrorism by overseas authorities could be considered evidence, and evidence could be withheld from the relevant person and their legal counsel. In Andrew Little’s words on 16/10/2019: “It would limit where people could go; it could require them to for example go to the Police station once or twice or more times a week; it could restrict them from having access to the Internet; it could provide a level of curfew but not a 24 hour curfew. So, restrictions from quite severe to quite relaxed.” As Radio New Zealand host Lisa Owen said during that interview: “And it’s going to be done behind closed doors isn’t it, because it’s going to be prohibited to report on these cases unless expressly given permission by the judge. So you’re going to make what you’ve described as perhaps draconian measures behind closed doors in the absence of the person you’re making the order against and with a lesser level of proof.”

 This legislation would sit alongside existing legislation that addresses terrorist activities. The Crimes Act 1961 section 7A allows New Zealanders to be charged for certain crimes committed overseas, including acts of terror. The Terrorist Suppression Act 2002 section 6A allows imprisonment of a person who commits a terrorist act for up to life, while section 13 allows imprisonment of a person who participates in a terrorist group for up to 14 years. Section 5(2) includes the following definition of a terrorist act: “[an act which is] carried out for the purpose of advancing an ideological, political, or religious cause, and with the [… intention …] to unduly compel or to force a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act.” Section 20 gives the Prime Minister power to designate any entity as a terrorist organisation if they have “good cause”. This very broad definition makes me wonder whether a person peacefully participating in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (Rojava), a person participating in a Peace Flotilla to highlight the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, a person present in Hong Kong or Chile during protest activities, or a person participating in protest activities in New Zealand, might be at risk of having these same laws applied to them in the future. [Read more…]

State ‘care’ and stolen generations

By Romany Tasker-Poland

Poster advertising the rallies from this winter

 

“Oranga Tamariki told me I had five minutes to say goodbye to my baby and then they were going to take it… I hung onto my baby but I was worried they were going to hurt me and the baby.” These are the words of a young mother who in May resisted multiple attempts by Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry “dedicated to supporting any child in New Zealand whose wellbeing is at significant risk of harm now, or in the future,” to take her newborn baby from her hospital room in Hawkes Bay. During the standoff, whānau and midwives were shut out of the hospital. The grounds on which the Family Court ordered the “without-notice custody order” have since been called into question. University of Auckland law professor Mark Henaghan has told the media that it was “doubtful” that the custody order used by Oranga Tamariki should have been granted in the first place.

Two midwives, Ripeka Orsmby and Jean Te Huia, of Māori Midwives Aotearoa, were there at the Hastings Hospital, and tried to prevent the baby from being taken. Te Huia described to Newsroom how at one point the mother was left on her own:

 

the police stationed outside her room and a hostile case worker in her room. Her mother and her Māori midwife spent the night outside in the hospital car park. The DHB locked everyone out. This is a 19 year old girl enduring day three of Oranga Tamariki trying to rip a baby from her, alone.

 

Footage of the incident was shared by the media in June. The media coverage, along the resistance from the baby’s whānau, midwives, and iwi leaders, resulted in Oranga Tamariki abandoning at least 3 attempts to take the baby from the mother. Instead, she was allowed to go with her baby to a care facility, ahead of a new Family Court hearing.

[Read more…]

Battling for Abortion Rights

ALRANZ President Terry Bellamak addresses a Wellington pro-choice rally in July (image credit: NewsHub)

By Andrew Raba

 

Anti-abortion politics have taken centre stage in the media following the passing of “fetal-heartbeat” laws this year in several US states: Ohio, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky. The new laws ban abortion beyond six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant. Alabama has passed an even more restrictive law that bans abortion at any stage of pregnancy. None of these restrictive laws are in effect because they are under legal challenges.

 

The real target of these state-level laws is the 1973 Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade that established the right for all American women to obtain an abortion. Alabama state Representative Terri Collins, who sponsored her state’s anti-abortion law, said “What I’m trying to do here is get this case in front of the Supreme Court so Roe v. Wade can be overturned.” These moves follow Trump’s appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to give it a 5 to 4 conservative majority.

 

So where did these new state-level laws come from? The attacks in the US are a backlash against the gains of the women’s movement won out of the battles of the 1960s and 1970s amidst the general rise in the class struggle. The American conservative right would dearly love to turn the clock back but it is countered by lasting mass support for reproductive rights. Abortion has become a central issues in US politics. According to a poll taken on behalf of the pro-choice organisation NARAL, 85 percent of voters believe that abortion should be legal. [Read more…]

Support the Climate Strikes!

There’s a climate crisis, and Labour and the Greens are failing to act.

The climate crisis is upon us, but on some more than others, as more frequent, more extreme weather events take place. In March this year Cyclone Idai affected three million people in Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Malawi, including over 1,000 dead, over 2,000 missing and over 2,400 injured. Yet these Black African victims did not cause the rulers and carbon emitters of the Global North to lose any sleep. Even when the United States was violently affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 the American ruling class displayed heartless indifference to the mainly Black low-lying neighbourhoods around New Orleans and were not jogged into action on global warming.

Human victims of climate change-induced catastrophes are more likely to be in equatorial latitudes where the pre-change climate was already very wet. It is not only a matter of geography. The unequal world market, which has been determined by the whole history of imperialist capitalism, puts people in harm’s way. This capitalist world order of economic inequality between nations and between social classes has condemned millions of people in the tropical latitudes to live in dangerous locations in poverty. Millions of people living in river deltas, low-lying coastal littorals, or in river valleys below deforested hills, are already vulnerable to inundations, mudslides and extreme heat. Poverty-struck states in vulnerable regions that have emerged from under imperial subjection, such as Mozambique, lack the infrastructure that could be used to rescue victims of extreme weather events or mitigate effects. In these circumstances Cyclone Idlai brought cholera in its wake.

If catastrophes threatening people living in such places as Pacific atolls or the deltas of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) and Mekong are more immediate, catastrophe for everyone, and for many animal and plant species on the planet, is set in train. Extinctions are underway, ecosystems are collapsing. Disaster for humankind looms at frightening speed. Yet at governmental levels worldwide there is deadening complacency.

Regarding sea level rise, in May this year the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) published a report that predicts a global sea level rise of over 2 metres by 2100, double the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate.

[Read more…]

Cannabis: End Prohibition!

Helen Kelly’s fighting stand for cannabis law reform pushed the issue centre-stage.

There will be a referendum on cannabis reform at the same time as the 2020 general election. There will be a yes or no question on the legalisation of cannabis use, but the wording of the proposed legislation is not yet known.

The criminal justice system is racist. This has to be our starting point. Māori are more likely to be stopped, questioned and searched by police than non-Māori. They are more likely to be arrested. If arrested, they are more likely to be charged. If charged, they are more likely to be convicted. If convicted, they are more likely to be jailed. Jail time is psychologically scarring and sets someone up for problems all through their life. It is hard to get work again with a criminal conviction on your record. Poverty, abuse, hopelessness and long-term unemployment are all products of the prison system. This system is biased against working-class people generally, and especially prejudiced against Māori. It is destructive of human potential.

Our attitudes to drug laws, therefore, start from our opposition to racism and the racist justice system. The amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act that allows greater police discretion to consider a “health-centered or therapeutic approach”, for us, is no solution. It will be little help to Māori, who will still face discrimination. As Fiona Hutton, a criminologist and expert on drug laws, points out, police discretion powers can actually increase inequalities. In a racist society, Māori are less likely to find “discretion” working in their favour. Current laws on cannabis give powers to the state to harass workers. Police can search your home, car, or person without a warrant if they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect you have illegal drugs. This is a huge intrusion on our liberties, and is used disproportionately against workers, youth, and people of colour.

Cannabis use is a fact of life in New Zealand society. Most people will have used cannabis by the time they are in their mid-twenties. Around ten percent of the adult population, according to the Ministry of Health’s most recent figures, use cannabis regularly, with 87 percent of them reporting no concerns from others about their drug use. Just like alcohol and tobacco, cannabis is a drug people use in a variety of ways. Many of these are harmless. Some self-destructive use is connected with coping with harm: alienation and the pressures of living in a capitalist society. The harm is going on anyway, but only cannabis is targeted by the law’s prohibition regime. Decriminalisation will take a power away from the state to regulate, control, and oppress workers. [Read more…]

Solidarity with Grant Brookes

Grant Brookes is the democratically elected President of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. The NZNO last year went through a major industrial struggle to win much-needed pay increases. This included strike action, the first such action in almost three decades. Many thousands of health workers were energised by this process, and the campaign, naturally, involved heated debate, discussion, and controversy. Nurses acted together. And they acted for themselves, voting down bad deal after bad deal.

Not everyone was happy with this flowering of member participation, however. For many years the top leadership of the NZNO have emphasized collaboration with the bosses and have treated rank-and-file activity as a threat to their control. Nurses are being punished for their rebellion last year, and Brookes is being targeted. He was elected, as one public letter of NZNO members puts it, as someone who “has openly championed a modernized, democratic, transparent union which fights for positive change and decent pay increases for its members.”

If the Board of Directors get their way, however, he will be removed in the middle of his term. Why? “Misconduct”. Sounds serious, but what are the details? That, over a year ago, Brookes sent this text late-night text to NZNO’s industrial head Cee Payne: “So you hitched yourself to the wrong wagon? Everyone forgives a single mistake. I’ll be in touch. We need you back.” This in the context of an ongoing industrial dispute, and after Payne had, as the public letter points out, cancelled the first DHB strike “without consulting members”.

For the Board to use this as an excuse to take legal advice and make these bureaucratic moves to oust Brookes is simply outrageous. Debate, open discussion and political accountability should be the norm in our union movement – and Brookes is accountable to the NZNO members who elected him. [Read more…]

Solidarity with Hong Kong from Auckland University

Hong Kong protests, July

By Tara Dalefield

Despite the cold and the scheduling in the middle of a weekday, around a hundred people gathered in Auckland University’s quad on 11am, August 6th to attend an information session concerning the protests in Hong Kong against the Chinese extradition bill. Journalists from Radio NZ and One News took recordings while Amnesty International members and Free Tibet protesters raised signs and banners of solidarity. Police and campus security also looked on, as the campus assault on a pro Hong Kong student by pro-state assailants was fresh on everyone’s minds.

Several videos explaining the history of the bill, the strikes and protests against it, and the police brutality and mob violence by pro-state gangs played on a screen. Beneath the screen, five students sat, facing the crowd, wearing gas masks and safety goggles similar to the ones seen on the videos. Included in the video line-up was a recording of Jacinda Ardern’s milquetoast response to a question about freedom of expression in Hong Kong. “Ultimately, for extradition for other countries, that’s a matter for them [other countries]”.

We in the ISO stand in solidarity with the rebellion in Hong Kong. It is a rebellion against oppression and, as Marx wrote, “whenever one form of freedom is rejected, freedom in general is rejected.” But we recognise too that the movement is drawing in mixed backers. David Seymour from ACT, for instance, spoke at this event.

The protest was interrupted by a man in the back holding up a sign in Chinese, saying “Hong Kong independence mob” according to Newshub. Thankfully there was no disruption that stopped the event proceeding.

The next day, it was reported on Newshub that an Auckland University Lennon wall in support of Hong Kong protesters had been vandalised. Such actions have a disturbing resemblance to anti-union violence, in which hitmen have been hired by companies to intimidate, assault and even murder workers for unionising and striking. But supporters are staying strong, and another solidarity event in Auckland will take place tonight.

Chernobyl

Chernobyl, written by Craig Mazin, dir. Johan Renck. A co-production of HBO and Sky UK.

Reviewed by Keith Davies

This outstanding TV miniseries covers the accident that occurred in the early hours of 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, then part of the USSR. From the confusion in the control room straight after the explosion of Reactor 4 to the truth being revealed at the trial of those who were deemed responsible, the show keeps you gripped with its human-centric retelling of events.

The show excels at bringing forward the tremendous human cost and heroics that such a disaster entails, whether it be the firefighters first on the scene battling the initial blaze, unaware of the radiation that would ultimately take their lives, the scientists and bureaucrats tasked with creating a plan to contain and clean up an event that had never occurred on this planet before, or the legion of liquidators tasked with carrying out said plan in the now most dangerous place on earth.

However, I believe the show’s main strength is how it portrays the Soviet government from top to bottom and what appears to be the culture at the time of downplaying setbacks to appease higher ups and to keep the true significance of the disaster ambiguous.  This is shown via cognitive dissonance of plant management refusing to believe that the reactor had exploded, despite the clear evidence that it had, and through the unwillingness of officials to call for the evacuation of the nearby city of Pripyat until 36 hours after the explosion, for fear of causing a panic. With this culture in place, it is easy to see how the events portrayed occurred and the struggle of the chief scientist Valery Legasov to prevent further catastrophe and get the truth out.

In all aspects of its production the show excels at bringing out the sense that you are really watching the events unfold in mid-1980’s Soviet Ukraine.

Chernobyl is a poignant reminder of the terrible outcomes that can arise from design decisions made to cut costs, covering up the flaws that arise from such decisions and a culture of workplace hierarchy and bullying. I think it is essential viewing as it demonstrates the critically high cost to the environment and humanity that can arise if any of the above reasons are left unchecked.

Chernobyl is available for streaming on Neon, Sky Go and Sky OnDemand.

Britain’s Brexit Crisis

By Martin Gregory

Don’t be fooled by Boris Johnson’s jovial act. Britain’s new prime minister is a nasty hard-right Tory whose elevation has been welcomed by Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. The change over from Theresa May’s to Johnson’s government is radical. In British politics, a Cabinet reshuffle in 1962 has gone down in history as the “the night of the long knives”, a reference to Hitler’s 1934 purge. In the 1962 reshuffle seven ministers lost their Cabinet seats. In Johnson’s reshuffle seventeen lost their seats, eleven sacked and six by pre-emptive resignations. Britain now has a more rightwing government than any of Margaret Thatcher’s administrations; and that is saying something.

Johnson has rewarded Tories who backed the 2016 Vote Leave campaign. The qualification he set for Cabinet office was endorsement of a “hard Brexit” on 31 October, come what may, deal or no deal, “do or die.”

Sajid Javid has become Chancellor of the Exchequer. He’s an extreme neoliberal, a very wealthy former banker.

Priti Patel has become Home Secretary. Control of immigration is part of the role. As International Trade Secretary she had to be sacked by May for unauthorised dealings with the Israeli government. She’s the daughter of capitalists who own a chain of shops. Patel has called for the introduction of the death penalty.

Dominic Raab, the new Foreign Secretary, completes the appointments to the “Great Offices of State”. Before his political career, Raab was a high-flying lawyer and Foreign Office official. He helped pull the plug on May’s administration by resigning as Brexit Secretary to oppose the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

Johnson’s appointments to these top jobs cannot be faulted for lack of ethnic diversity. Javid is Muslim, Patel the child of Ugandan-Indian immigrants and Raab’s father Jewish. This line up does not signal an anti-racist government; quite the opposite. Johnson’s team selection is an object lesson in class prevailing over all else.

Johnson has appointed the ever-so-posh Jacob Rees-Mogg as Leader of the House (responsible for Parliamentary business). Rees-Mogg is leader of the far-right ERG faction of the Tory Party.

[Read more…]