Parliament – ‘anti-Māori’ and racism implications

The referencing of referencing family of MPs, plus hints of and MP being ‘anti-Māori,r arose in an exchange in Parliament today, in relation to the appointment of Wally Haumaha as Deputy Police Commissioner. There’s co clear conclusion (to me) but some interesting discussion.

It came out of this primary question:

8. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does her Government expect high standards from all Government departments and Ministers?

It starts at 2:36…

Chris Bishop: Does she have confidence in her Government’s professional independence from Mr Haumaha when her police Minister gives him a shout-out in his workout videos, her Deputy Prime Minister attended a celebration on a marae for his appointment as assistant commissioner, her foreign affairs under-secretary has whānau links to him, and he was previously announced as a candidate for New Zealand First?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry, I am going to go back to that question and not require but ask the member to think very carefully about rewording it. We have had a tradition in this House, wherever possible, of not including the actions of family members—certainly within question time. I’d ask the member to reflect on his question and, if he agrees with me that that is unhealthy, to rephrase it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely we have to have some accuracy in the questioning in this House. Mr Bishop began by talking about what, in effect, is an allegation of witness tampering. So the real issue, sir, for you to judge is: who is this witness who is being tampered that he talked about? The fact is the person is not a witness. The person may be a complainant, and there’s a huge difference. He’s putting the two together quite naively and mistakenly and getting away with it in the House when he should be stopped.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I think if we had the degree of exactitude that the Deputy Prime Minister is advocating, we’d have quite a few members on both sides of the House who wouldn’t be able to answer or ask a single question. Mr Bishop—going back to where we were at.

Chris Bishop: Did the panel convened by the State Services Commission to interview the short-listed candidates for the job of the Deputy Commissioner of Police recommend that Mr Haumaha be the preferred candidate for the job?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m not going to get into elements of an issue that is now being independently assessed by an independent inquirer.

Hon Paula Bennett: When the Prime Minister just previously said, as she did yesterday, that, actually, he cannot be either stood down or on garden leave because it would be the decision of the commissioner and that she can’t do it, is she aware that under section 13 of the Policing Act, the deputy commissioner’s role is a statutory appointment that holds office at the pleasure of the Governor-General on the advice of her, the Prime Minister, and that she has the power to act?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That includes them acting in that role of employment. What the member was asking about was whether I had the ability to stand someone down when there had been no formal process, and we’re undertaking an inquiry to ensure natural justice provisions apply, because the threshold test here is incredibly high. If the member is asking about gardening leave or temporary stand downs, that threshold, of course, is very different, and that is employment matter for the Commissioner of Police.

Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise an issue that is troubling a number of us on this side of the House: the regularity with which those of us who enjoy Māori ancestry—and I direct your attention to Speakers’ rulings 39/4-5. I accept in the roundhouse of politics it is tough, but I am particularly irked by the allegation that Mr Bishop made, enjoying private briefings from dissolute elements in the police force, that he has labelled those of us, essentially, by talking about Fletcher Tabuteau and Winston Peters, as somehow not passing the test of parliamentary probity. And I’d invite you to reflect on it, because it will lead to a substantial bout of disorder from the House. Now, I’m not suggesting that Mr Bishop is anti-Māori, and, quite frankly, I don’t care if he is, but it is an important principle, with the number of Māori in the House—whether they’re urban Māori or broader traditional Māori—that you contemplate that situation, because we’re not going to put up with it for one more day.

Hon Paula Bennett: As one of those Māori, there is actually also a convention that we express our conflicts of interest for our whānau and particularly when we are looking at making statutory appointments, and this side of the House has a right to question that.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, yes, I would have made the same point that the Hon Paula Bennett has made, because what Mr Jones is effectively doing is saying that if there is a statutory appointment that involves someone who identifies as being a Māori New Zealander, then that process can’t be questioned and nor can anything that would make the suitability of that person appropriate for that. But further than that, sir, you sat there while Mr Jones referred to another member of this House, effectively, as having some racial bias, and that’s a completely unacceptable thing for him to do.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The allegation that someone is a cousin and therefore is biased in the choice of someone in a governmental job is so demonstrably false when the person doesn’t go to the lengths to describe how far removed that relationship might be. If he were Scottish or Māori, he might understand that this would include 7,500 people. But no such attempt is made. It’s the insinuation that because that relationship, distant though it might be, nevertheless corrupts the member’s mind in being impartial, and that’s unfair.

Mr SPEAKER: I am in a position to rule. Members may have forgotten that I intervened on Mr Bishop’s question and asked him to reword it, because I thought the tone of it was not consistent with the way that we have gone as a country over the last number of decades. He reflected on that and, despite the opportunity, decided not to repeat the question in that form and I want to thank him for that.

There are a lot of elements of judgment in this. I, of course, don’t want to indicate that people cannot be questioned where there are seen to be untoward influences and of course that is the case, but what I did indicate was that I thought it was particularly important where family matters are being brought into account that people are either very specific or very careful and not general in allegations.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Precedent in rulings in this House are very important, because they do guide the House. I’d ask that you have a look back through, I think, the mid-part of 2015 when a then prominent member of the Opposition, now a very, very prominent member of this House, was asking questions of a Minister of the then Government that related directly to a family member. Those questions were allowed, they stood, and they went on for quite some days. When you’ve gone back over those transcripts and perhaps reflected on the wisdom of the course of action taken by the prominent Opposition member, now a very prominent member of Parliament, could you perhaps bring down a ruling that brings all of these things together. I think the general allegation made against the Parliament by Mr Jones today that it is somehow racially selective to bring up an issue that relates to the appointment of a person who is of New Zealand Māori descent is a very, very backward step for this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER: I don’t feel any need to bring back a considered ruling on it. I think the matter is pretty clear. Speaker’s ruling 41/1 makes it clear that people should avoid referring to MPs families in their private capacities. It is all right to refer to family members who have official roles, and that is a ruling of long standing. It is also all right where there is a clear intersection of the public business of an MP and a Minister and the actions of a family member, and that is an area of longstanding ruling where there is a suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on the part of a Minister in favour of a family member—that is the subject of questioning in the House and will always continue to be.

 

Infidelity, assault, discharge, appeal

An interesting case down this way involving a family, infidelity, multiple assaults when discovered, a prosecution, a discharge without conviction, and now an appeal against that discharge.

Discovering infidelity of a spouse or partner would understandably be upsetting to may people, but is violence an unacceptable response?

We have a major societal problem, especially involving men, where adverse situations result in violence against others or against themselves (like suicides ,and domestic assaults including murder).

ODT:  Appeal sought on assault discharge

The Crown has applied for leave to appeal discharges without conviction granted to a man who assaulted his best friend, wife and daughter in Queenstown last year.

The 58-year-old Central Lakes man, who has name suppression, had earlier admitted assaulting his wife, daughter and best friend on September 14, having discovered a text between his wife and friend declaring their undying love for each other.

Ultimately, Judge Brandts-Giesen found the gravity of the man’s offending was low to moderate and the consequences of convictions were out of proportion.

A problem is that “low to moderate” violence can easily have serious unintended consequences, and can easily escalate  into very serious situations.

At the time he said while on one level it was a ”nasty assault”, on another it had to be seen in context and there would be ”many people who would have done exactly what you did, even though it might be against the law to do so”.

That is alarming. He is excusing violent assault on a highly questionable “many people who would have done exactly what you did”. Many people have to deal with infidelity and relationship breakups, and the vast majority don’t lash out violently, and that sort of reaction should not be portrayed as a normal reaction by the Court.

The man left the bar when he saw the text message, but then encountered the male victim in the CBD.

He assaulted his friend and then when his daughter intervened he grabbed her around the throat, pushed her down and held her there, causing bruising.

When the defendant’s wife stepped in, he pushed her and she fell to the ground.

Ms Thomas submitted the matter ”became derailed” during the gravity assessment because Judge Brandts-Giesen appeared to consider the offending or surrounding circumstances ”unusual”.

”Infidelity of itself is not an unusual phenomenon in society.

”Nor, in my respectful submission, is the discovery of infidelity.

”Nor is it … in the context of domestic violence, or when assessing gravity, unusual that there may be actions arising … out of what’s seen as infidelity and the finding of infidelity.

”The sad reality … of domestic offending that the courts grapple with daily … is that it’s not unusual at all.

”The learned district court judge erred in … allowing mitigating factors to be taken into account … that he ought not to have.”

Having made that error, she submitted he erred further in assessing the consequences of convictions.

That will be for the appeal court to decide, if leave for appeal is granted – the High Court judge reserved his decision.

Although Ms Denton agreed infidelity was not unusual, ”in [the defendant’s] world, it was”.

The defendant had known the male victim longer than his wife, his reaction that night ”was very unusual” and described it as ”visceral”.

”He did not see the situation coming”.

Many people do not see situations like this coming, but most do not react violently.

With regard to the more serious assault on his daughter, Ms Denton said it was not ”a traditional domestic violence incident” and he had no idea whom he had grabbed until after the incident.

”He only became aware it was his daughter when she came up to him afterwards and said. ‘Dad, look at what you’ve just done to me’.”

That sounds like he was out of control. Anything could have happened – anyone could have been harmed, potentially very seriously.

People get convicted for far less – for example for things like momentary carelessness when driving. They are prosecuted for the potential risk to others, even if there is no actual harm done.

It will be interesting to see how this appeal progresses, if leave for appeal is granted.

Family violence response guides launched

Amy Adams, Minister of Justice and Minister for Courts, and Anne Tolley, Minister for Social Development and Minister for Children, have launched family violence response guides at a Family Violence Summit in Wellington.

“Family Violence is a complex issue in New Zealand with no single solution. We are making it our priority to help reduce the rate of family violence in New Zealand.”
Hon Amy Adams, Minister of Justice

“We want to draw on the expertise of NGOs and the frontline sector to inform our efforts to build a more integrated system and break the cycle of violence.”
Hon Anne Tolley, Minister for Social Development


Family violence response guides launched

New guides to support the family violence sector to provide consistent and effective help to victims and perpetrators are being launched today by Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley at the Family Violence Summit in Wellington.

Over 120 key players in the family violence sector are attending the Summit today to build on conversations to date about how to work together better to tackle New Zealand’s horrific rate of family violence.

“Thousands of New Zealand families are affected by family violence every day and too many of them are not getting all the help they need,” Ms Adams says.

“The current system for dealing with family violence is too fragmented so in addition to the work we’re doing to improve it, including the Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill and the Integrated Safety Response pilots, we’ve developed a framework which sets out common understanding of family violence, a clear protocol for assessing risk, and a consistent approach for supporting victims and perpetrators.

“The Risk Assessment and Management Framework aims to ensure that no matter who a victim or perpetrator approaches for help, the risks they face will be consistently identified, assessed and managed.”

Alongside the Risk Assessment and Management Framework, a guide outlining the capabilities needed by those in the family violence sector to successfully support victims, perpetrators and their families is also being launched.

“The family violence workforce is large and complex, involving government agencies, family and sexual violence specialists, NGOs and practitioners. There is a wide range of different practices and understandings, resulting in varying degrees of effectiveness,” says Mrs Tolley.

“The Workforce Capability Framework outlines the skills, knowledge and organisational support the workforce needs in order to provide an integrated, consistent and effective response to victims, perpetrators and their families.

“Both frameworks have been developed with the help of the sector, some of whom are at the Summit today. By working together we stand a much stronger chance of achieving better outcomes for victims and their families.”

Outcomes from the Summit will feed into and inform the work of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. Sector members who could not attend the Summit are invited to give their views via an online survey.

The frameworks can be found here.


See NZ Herald:  Family violence: New holistic approach announced

Kids forced to spend time with abusers

Newshub reports:  Kids forced to spend time with abusers, damning Family Court report says

An independent anti-violence group has released a damning report on the Family Court system.

More than 600 women spoke out in the report, compiled by lobby group Backbone Collective, with more than half saying their experience of abuse wasn’t believed or responded to.

It found abuse victims are more fearful for own and their children’s safety after turning to the court, and co-author Deborah Mackenzie says the process is so draining it affects their health.

“Women talked about having anxiety, PTSD, being suicidal, miscarrying pregnancies, not being able to sleep, having eating disorders – all as a result of being stuck in the Family Court for many, many years.”

Respondents also reported being forced into mediations and children were in some cases pushed to reluctantly spend time with their abusers, the report says.

There appears to be a lot of work needed in sorting out how violence, domestic abuse and abuse of children is dealt with.

The Backbone Collective is a national coalition of survivors of Violence Against Women in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We need to call out to each other – the survivors – the women who have the words and understanding to make sense of the Violence Against Women problem.  WE can do this.  We can create a new backdrop to the way Violence Against Women is responded to. Together we can make sure that the dominant voice being heard is that of the survivors rather than the abusers…Let’s turn up the volume so the deaf ears hear us

But in April  Family court strikes back at the Backbone Collective

The Principal Family Court judge has refuted criticisms of the court made by a group of women known as the Backbone Collective, set up by a domestic abuse survivor.

The women claimed they were re-victimised by court process, that the court was not open to public or media scrutiny, and that their complaints had been brushed off.

The Backbone Collective submitted 160 questions to the Government, demanding to know why the system was letting them down.

But Family Court Judge Laurence Ryan disregarded their allegations as “premised on erroneous or flawed interpretations” of the court’s legal framework, or as having been dealt with by Parliament already.

He said that he would not respond in the way the collective sought because “combative debate that pits the judiciary against those who rely on the court’s help” would not improve outcomes.

He highlighted that the womens’ “anecdotal evidence” was a small fraction of about 60,000 applications lodged with the court each year.

The Backbone Collective called the court out for minimising allegations of family violence during periods where parenting access was being considered.

“We are not entering into combative debate as Judge Ryan suggests,” it said in a statement. “We are providing a safe way for women to tell those in authority how the system responds to them when they experience violence and abuse. We thought the Family Court would want to know that currently many women feel they are put in more danger when the Family Court is involved.”

“Surely when systems aren’t working well and safely those in charge want to know how to fix it?”

However, Ryan said the court had “mechanisms” to prevent parents who had been in violent relationships from meeting during this process.

Some of the collective had said they felt legislation meant the rights of abusive fathers trumped the safety of their children.

“Many of the questions addressed to this office relate to matters either already being actively considered by Parliament around family violence, or which have been dealt with by Parliament relatively recently,” he said.

Ryan disputed three of the collective’s broad claims.

On the court’s alleged secrecy, he noted that “more and more” court decisions were available online and that “many” of its proceedings had been reported publicly since law changes in 2004 and 2008.

In response to allegations of absent independent monitoring, Ryan said that all of the court’s decisions were open to appeal – and that judicial conduct was held accountable through an independent complaints body.

“This is the safety valve inherent in the New Zealand justice system,” he said.

Dealing with family violence will always be difficult and imperfect, but improvements should always be sought.

Ryan admitted that the court was not a perfect solution for everyone: “Not all people who are enduring broken, painful or damaged relationships and who come to court seeking resolution or justice will go away satisfied,” he said.

Societal and law enforcement attitudes to family violence have changed significantly in the last forty years in New Zealand, but rates of violence are still terrible so much more needs to be done.

See Family violence response guides launched

Reaction to Family and Whanau Violence Bill

The Family and Whanau Violence Bill that was introduced into Parliament yesterday.

Family violence is a big issue. Violence not only affects the well being of adults and children in families, it has adverse flow on effects in health, education, crime, imprisonment rates and employment.

I can’t find any reaction from Labour.

Green MP Jan Logie in Stuff – Overhaul of family violence laws goes before Parliament:

Green Party women’s spokeswoman Jan Logie said the Government’s reforms were “an important first step”, but she still had concerns about inconsistencies in ensuring the safety of children.

Logie wanted the reinstatement of the Bristol clause, which would refuse abusive former partners access to their children until their safety was assured, and was also concerned about a lack of funding for support services like Women’s Refuge.

“If we’re going to be asking these organisations to do this extra service and they’re struggling to stay open and meet the demand, then it’s not going to work.”

Justice Minister Amy Adams…

…said the safety of children was an “absolutely paramount consideration” both in existing law and the family violence reforms.

“We’ve done a lot more in these reforms, but broadly speaking, the underlying rationale still remains, which…has always and continues to put the safety of children right at the forefront of decision-making.”

Then-Prime Minister John Key announced the overhaul last September…

…saying the Government would not “shy away” from tackling family violence.

“The challenge of reducing family violence lies with all of us, with the Government, the police, social agencies and with everyone who knows that violence is occurring.”

Police Commissioner:

At the time, the announcement was welcomed by Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who said being able to identify family violence offenders more easily would make it easier for police to provide support.

Women’s Refuge media release:


Women’s Refuge welcomes The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill

The introduction of the much anticipated Family and Whānau violence legislation has been warmly welcomed by family violence organisation Women’s Refuge. The legislation introduced to parliament today places a far greater emphasis upon victim safety – a long overdue and applauded move. This change will see the justice sector required to place victim safety at the heart of much of their decision making, especially in to care of children and bail issues.

Women’s Refuge Chief Executive Dr Ang Jury says “we are very pleased to see the government has taken seriously the concerns and suggestions from those working at the coal face in crafting this comprehensive piece of family violence legislation; the strong emphasis on the safety of victims and their children is a great move”

Under the proposed legislation, processes around the granting and policing of Protection Orders by the Courts have been significantly strengthened. Information including risk factor information will now be made available to Police Districts when an Order is granted and breaches of Protection Orders will now be treated as aggravating factors at sentencing. In addition all bail applications before the Court must include careful consideration of victim safety.

“Incidents of family violence and abuse including breaches of Protection Orders are rarely isolated or ‘one off’ incidents, they are deliberate and frequently repeated. To see this reflected in the way the courts sentence is a significant step towards ensuring a victim’s safety is paramount”

Legislation changes will also include better recording and acknowledgement of family violence, better information sharing provisions between government and family violence agencies, the introduction of a code of practice across the sector, and the inclusion of new classes of offences. While Women’s Refuge has yet to see the details of all of these, they are positive about the proposed changes.

“We are pleased to see focused attention to strangulation and marriage by coercion with the introduction of these new offences. The inclusion of animal abuse in the new definition is also extremely pleasing as we know that threats of harm to pets are a frequent control tactic utilised by perpetrators; to see this explicitly recognised is a great step forward.”

The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill was introduced to Parliament today to overhaul the Domestic Violence Act, amend five Acts and make consequential changes to over thirty pieces of law.

Turei on landlord v. tenant rights

In Parliament today Green co-leader Metiria Turei asked a contentious question about landlord family’s rights versus tenant family’s rights.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister arguing that a landlord’s family has more rights to that home than the tenant’s family, who may well have been living in that home for many years, built their lives around the schools and working community there—that those tenants have fewer rights than those other families?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, we believe in property rights. The landlord owns the property, and if they wish it for themselves or their family then they have to give only 42 days’ notice, so yes.

Either the landlord or the tenant giving notice to vacate a rented property has been fairly common through my lifetime.

I don’t know if it is happening elsewhere but in Dunedin 12 month tenancy agreements have become common, tying them in with annual turnover of student accommodation.

I believe the Greens are pushing for virtually lifetime guarantees for tenants.

Full transcript:


Residential Tenancies (Safe and Secure Rentals) Amendment Bill—Support

5. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Building and Housing: Ka tautoko ia ia taku Pire e hoatu nōhanga wā roa ana, ngita ana, tū roa ana i runga i tana tohutohu ki te hunga hoko whare tuatahi, ko nāianei, “probably not a good time for a young family to buy”; i tētahi whare i Akarana?

[Will he support my bill to provide more secure and stable long-term tenancies, given his recent advice to first-home buyers that now is “probably not a good time for a young family to buy” a house in Auckland?]

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing) on behalf of the Minister for Building and Housing: Although we certainly respect what the member is trying to do as far as tenants’ rights are concerned, we will not be supporting the bill, with the reason being that we are genuinely concerned that it might drive up compliance costs and actually end up harming tenants more than it ends up actually helping. The Government, however, is open to reforms that would encourage longer-term tenancies, and work is under way on setting up a stakeholder group on these very issues.

Metiria Turei: If the Minister is telling first-home buyers now not to buy a house, because homes are too expensive, will he at least support better tenancy rules that will create transparency around rent rises, given that rents are increasing at twice the rate of wages and families cannot afford that level of increase?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The first part of the member’s statement, I believe, is taken a bit out of context, and we are certainly not telling first-home buyers not to buy. In fact, we are seeing the opposite happen, and even in my own electorate of Hobsonville Point you can see many new homeowners buying there. However, in relation to the transparency and to some of the clauses in the bill, as I say, I think they need careful consideration. We have concerns on this side of the House about unintended consequences and those not being positive for the tenant.

Metiria Turei: If the Minister is encouraging people to stay renting because housing is so expensive to buy, will he give renters more security in their homes by removing the 42-day eviction notice, which is leading to increased levels of homelessness?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not support the first statement by the member, but in relation to the second statement, 90 days is actually the norm and there are exceptions that can be the 42 days. The exceptions to the 90 days are where the landlord’s family or themselves want to move in, or an employee, and then in the cases of where they might have sold. Where it is sold, it is when there is an unconditional agreement actually signed and the new owner wants a vacant property. It is 42 days from then, not from when it goes on the market or anything else, so, actually, 90 days is the norm.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister arguing that a landlord’s family has more rights to that home than the tenant’s family, who may well have been living in that home for many years, built their lives around the schools and working community there—that those tenants have fewer rights than those other families?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, we believe in property rights. The landlord owns the property, and if they wish it for themselves or their family then they have to give only 42 days’ notice, so yes.

Metiria Turei: Has the Minister talked to the Minister of Education about the effect on children from having to move schools every year because their parents cannot afford stable long-term tenancies in homes because of rent increases and 42-day notices?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I have, and actually we agree with, and share, her concerns around those who are moving a lot and not actually getting settled in their communities. That is why we have a number of things that are in place that are leading towards that—whether it is around social housing, whether it is around the work that is going on via schools and social workers in schools and other sorts of programmes. What we are concerned about is that some of the policies that the member is trying to put through, in her bill, potentially could have landlords withdrawing houses for tenants and, as a consequence of that, we think that that of course will mean fewer homes and actually lead to more disadvantage for those very people whom she is trying to help.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister not understand how irrational it is for the Minister of housing to be telling families not to buy a house because housing is too expensive and yet to stay in rental accommodation when renting is, as she has said, insecure, unstable, and expensive?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I know it is hard for the member to appreciate, but actually I think that there is probably agreement across the House on what we want to see as the outcomes for these people. What we disagree on is actually the venue and the vehicle for doing that, and the member’s bill, at the very worst, is actually careless and could lead to more actual vulnerability for those very families whom she is trying to help. We have said that we are looking at setting up a stakeholders’ advisory group where it can be carefully considered and we can make sure that we have got the interests of the tenants foremost in those views. We already made changes to the Residential Tenancies Act earlier this year, which I think go some way towards protecting some of the tenants’ rights—

Metiria Turei: No, it doesn’t.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: —well, they do, actually—and that is what we will continue to do, but it will be in a careful and thoughtful manner that actually leads to better outcomes.

Councillor’s family racially snubbed

The Samoan family of new Auckland councillor Efeso Collins were refused allocated seating at his swearing in ceremony. This is appalling in the city with the largest Polynesian population in the world (about 200,000 or 15% of the population).

efeso-collins

RNZ: ‘Racial discrimination’ mars Auckland councillor’s swearing-in

The Tuesday evening ceremony was a proud moment for Efeso Collins, who was the first in his family with a university education and was sworn in as one of two representatives in the Manukau Ward in south Auckland.

But the joy wasn’t fully shared by his wife, daughter and elders, who were refused their allocated seating in the councillor’s family area at the Auckland Town Hall.

“My family was told that they couldn’t sit where they were because that was reserved for council guests, and that’s when my wife said ‘We are council guests’, but no one believed them,” he said.

In the formal atmosphere of a gala-style ceremony, Mr Collins had no doubt as to what happened to his Samoan relatives.

“The fact that we don’t look ‘normal’, and that’s the problem – too many people offering the suggestion, which is essentially racially discriminatory, that brown people don’t belong there.”

The lack of Polynesian representation is in part due to ongoing racism.

He said Auckland Council needed to break down racial preconceptions.

“If I’m still being challenged like that now, you can imagine the experience of the very people I represent, where every day we’re confronted with this type of thinking.”

New Zealand and Auckland in particular are multicultural by numbers but  entrenched European attitudes are still apparent.

The council’s general manager of democracy services, Marguerite Delbet, said she was appalled and mortified after looking into the incident, calling the staff member’s behaviour “completely unacceptable” and has apologised profusely.

Ms Delbet said the usher, who was employed by a council agency, had been very rude and tried to push away Mrs Collins.

“There really is no excuse,” she said.

There would appear to be no good excuse.

Mr Collins noted the strikingly Anglo-Saxon tone of the the inauguration ceremonies, of which this week’s was the Auckland Council’s third.

From the opening fanfare to the now customary performance of Handel’s Messiah, there are few signs of the evening being the work of a council elected by one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities.

Māori protocol is a given at council functions and the ceremony included a rendition of Pokarekare Ana by the Stellar Singers.

Mayor Phil Goff thought the evening’s mix was appropriate.

Tradition can be important but if Auckland is serious about wanting multicultural representation then the city has to move with the times.

The make up of Auckland population (from the 2013 census):

  • European 59.3%
  • Asian 23.1%
  • Pacific Island 14.6%
  • Maori 10.7%
  • Middle Eastern/Latin American/African 1.9%
  • New Zealanders 1.1%
  • Others 0.1%

I’m surprised so few identify as ‘New Zealander’. It’s likely that quite a few putting themselves down as ‘European’ have a mix of ethnicities.

Auckland Council recently spent $1.2 million in a voting campaign trying to convince the city’s different communities that it was relevant and important to them.

Perhaps they should spend a bit of time convincing their staff  of the importance of different communities.

Mr Collins wants to see future council inaugurations do better.

“Because it’s important that the wider population feels that they are being represented, that they can see their colours and flavours in it, and I think we need to do better to ensure that everybody feels a part of it.

“I don’t think we’ve got the diversity right in those inaugurations.”

Now he is a councillor Collins can perhaps push for deal with diversity better.

Watch: Efeso Collins makes his maiden speech at Auckland Council

A crime problem moved, not cut?

An odd report from the ODT: One family’s departure expected to cut crime

The departure from Wanaka of a single family is expected to improve the town’s crime statistics.

Speaking at the public forum of the Wanaka Community Board on Wednesday, Sergeant Aaron Nicholson, of Wanaka…mentioned a family, whom he did not name, which had made a “significant contribution to crime” but had recently left town.

As a result, he said, police expected to see a reduction in crime in Wanaka.

Not only had the family gone but also their “associates”.

Unless they have all moved to a secure location like the Milton Hilton then it’s likely the crime problem has just moved, not been cut.

From things I have heard it may not be uncommon for small town police to encourage people associated with crime not to settle into a town or to move out.

It may be easier to move a problem than solve a problem, but this just makes them someone else’s problems – just a change of town and a change of potential victims.

Blind to torture, revolution required

Emerging details on the torture and death of three year old Moko Rangitoheriri’s death is damning of those who could have intervened, or at least could have tried to intervene.

And it’s damning of a culture of violence alongside a culture of turning a blind eye to violence.

Will yet another case of abuse, violence and killing finally provoke a serious standing up against these cultures?

Stacey Kirk: Many knew of Moko’s torture – now they’ll have to live with his death

OPINION: Would you call CYF on a hunch? We must all act to help our abused children – because getting outraged afterwards can’t save Moko. That’s why we are calling for a ministerial inquiry to discover how we can do better to protect our most innocent.

It was not just the two people who beat, tortured and eventually killed three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri who knew the little boy was at risk. There were others.

Kirk highlights a big part of then ongoing problem.

This public culture of not intervening is beyond disgraceful, so here’s the list of people and organisations that we know knew something – there are likely more:

Her list:

  • The Maori Women’s Refuge social worker: she followed up the seven-year-old’s claim by ringing Shailer. Shailer lied and blamed Moko’s sister. She said she feared for Moko’s safety once he was back in the hands of his mother.
  • The refuge was aware Shailer herself had escaped from a violent relationship with Haerewa and had returned to that relationship after Haerewa was let out of prison.
  • The same social worker was there when Shailer went in to CYF to say the children were at risk of being exposed to domestic violence.
  • Shailer told CYF she wasn’t coping with Moko, 11 days before his death. CYF denies being told Moko was being hurt.
  • Shailer told a friend Moko had fallen from a woodpile, when his situation was becoming dire. The friend was concerned, but never spoke up when Shailer declined her offer to drive them to the hospital.

At no point did anyone go to see Moko.

Had they done, they’d have seen damage no seven-year-old could ever inflict.

This is far from just a  Government problem, although they have to find ways of trying to address this better.

This is a family problem, a whanau problem, a community problem, a country’s problem and a country’s shame.

The trouble is, all named in the above list had at least one small piece of the puzzle. So why did no one seek Moko’s voice? Should they have done? Should the Government go knocking on doors at the slightest hint of trouble?

It’s a difficult and complex problem.

In the 1980’s social welfare visited me because a flag was raised about one of my daughters – she had been to A & E three times in a year. Being routinely checked out didn’t worry me because the accidents were easily explained – and no action was taken.

But still, thirty years later, the system is not protecting children at risk.

These are questions that needs answers. That is why the Sunday Star-Times is calling for Tolley to step in and call a full and independent inquiry.

Another Government inquiry? Is that where change should come from?

Isn’t it time families and whanau and communities stopped leaving it to another lengthy hand wringing inquiry and took responsibility for this crisis of violence?

Sure the Government can and should help.

But a revolution in caring for children has to be a revolution of the people.

For the people. Especially for the kids.

Tony Veitch on violence

The second feature article at NZ Herald in a series on addressing family silence features Tony Veitch, who became notorious for a violent attack on his then partner ten years ago.

Veitch has fronted up saying that it was a one-off grave misjudgment that  impacted on many people’s lives.

As deplorable as what Veitch did I think he is doing the right thing speaking up about it, acknowledging his mistake, makes no excuse, and promises that he has changed and will never be ‘that person’ again.

We may all be just one brain explosion away from being ‘that person’.

If we are to better address and reduce family violence then it’s important for men like Veitch to speak up, are open about what they have done and speak about how it may be dealt with. It can be very difficult, but it’s necessary

Tony Veitch pleaded guilty in April 2009 to one charge of reckless disregard causing injury over a January 2006 assault on his former partner. He was sentenced to nine months’ supervision, 300 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine.

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Tony Veitch: Acceptance, remorse and recovery

It is 10 years since I turned from the man I’d always wanted to be, to a man I could not control. In January 2006 I made a huge mistake, a grave misjudgment on my behalf that has impacted the lives of many people and for that I am truly sorry.

Even though it was the only time that I have ever lashed out in my life, once was too much. I should have walked away, but instead I hurt someone and I can’t ever make that go away.

I have spent hours alone and in counselling sessions considering my actions that night and wondering why I ever allowed myself to get to that point.

There is no justifiable answer. I have imagined every conceivable scenario to have avoided what I did, but in the end, they were my actions. I take responsibility for that and I will do for the rest of my life.

Poor judgment on my behalf changed so much that day and I apologise unreservedly for that.

My story is public and while that’s hard personally, maybe it is a good thing. Perhaps somewhere it might help someone else make a better decision.

Hopefully it can be a small part of the process of educating New Zealanders that family violence is not okay.

It’s a very important part of helping New Zealanders accept as a given that family violence is not ok.

Veitch goes on to detail some of the difficulties he caused others and difficulties he faced himself as a consequence, including attempting suicide.

I condemned his violent attack, but I applaud what he is doing to help address violence now.

If you’re in danger NOW:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for where there are other people
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don’t stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women’s Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 – 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• ShineFree national helpline 9am- 11pm every day – 0508 744 633www.2shine.org.nz
• It’s Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men’s violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz

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