It takes a lot to shock this Māori from Rapaki but I was shocked by the New Zealand Herald’s Leftist opinion writer Simon Wilson. In his opinion piece of 18 August, Simon Wilson referenced the Kahurangi National Māori membership group who attended the National Party conference and then bizarrely stated that we weren’t ‘…well represented’. 

The only way he could have made that assertion would have been by looking at the colour of our Māori people in attendance and then deciding some of us weren’t brown enough in hue to be counted.  How else do you explain well over 60 Māori in attendance as ‘not well represented’? The National Party is made up of a number of groups, from those focused on the environment to seniors, and this was a strong representation from one of the party’s strongest groups.

Simon Wilson’s assertion is a continuation of an unfortunate tendency by people who should really know better, that Māori must be measured either by blood percentage or by skin colour.  How else can Simon Wilson’s assertion that not many Māori were in attendance stand any measure of scrutiny.

He didn’t attend the Kahurangi National breakfast I hosted where over 40 Māori and Pasifika (and not a small number of Pakeha) were in attendance.  If he had, he would have noted that Māori come in all shapes, sizes, and colour hues.

Unfortunately, I’m not surprised.  This mis-stating of who Māori are and aren’t by people who aren’t Māori has being going on for a long time, especially by those trying to make a point.

I grew up in a pa full of freezing workers, shearers and hi-vis wearing Māori.  My Dad was a dark skinned fellow, and that’s pretty much where I got my dark skin from.

But that wasn’t the case for many of the Ngāi Tahu I grew up around.  We came in all different shapes, sizes, and colour hues. Many of us were not obviously Māori to look at. Oh I can tell you that those lighter shade of pale whanau members of mine were as Ngāi Tahu as they come. But light skinned they were. 

I remember when people in Christchurch used to say there were no Māori living there.  The fact they’d make those statements to my own whanau who were very Māori and actually not that light skinned was seemingly lost on them. My Ngāi Tahu whanaunga were too polite to correct the ignorance on display. And some of my relatives would suggest I do the same in this instance.  

I’d normally consider giving Simon Wilson a bit of a pass on this given his long history as a journalist.  But unfortunately Simon’s disregard for the Māori of National continued with his snide little dig at the word ‘Kahurangi’ likening it to ‘cheese’. And quite frankly we’re not there to have a left-wing political commentator try and score points off us.

Simon’s article had a tone.  He opened with an attack on Māori by refusing to count any who didn’t fit his measure of ‘dark enough’ and then continued the attack by mocking a Māori word in the article. On top of that he went as far to suggest an Opposition doing its job of holding the Government to account and pointing out the real flaws in the Government’s policy was verging on sabotage. This too is reckless and a concerning belief from a journalist whose supposed job is holding the powerful to account.

I’m wondering therefore if it would be more helpful to Simon Wilson if those Māori in attendance at National party events could wear grass skirts and sing Māori songs at the same time to make his count a little easier?  Let us know what works Simon.  We’re here to serve, apparently.

As an aside Simon, we are called ‘Kahurangi National’. Oh and some of us Māori aren’t as dark as others but I think you probably know that already.

Read Simon Wilson's opinion piece here

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