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September 8, 2008 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

Unedited Interview with MP Hone Harawira

Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau

Te Ao Marama publication of Salient Magazine
Thursday 3rd July 2008. 6pm.
Tahu Wilson: Ngai Tauira Apiha
Transcript of interview: Raw data, unedited.

T: Yeah just going through the main political issues facing Maori people today…
H: Oh it’s, a straight interview is it?
T: Oh nah it ah, it haha gets around a bit
H: Not like one of those Eating Media Lunch interviews
T: Oh na nah.. laugh
H: Oh ok, a real one then..
T: Yeah and, those sorts of issues, but also political issues facing Maori students. I’d like to ask you about He Taua…
H: Oh, faackin ‘ell!

T: When was that? How long ago?
H: Aah 19.. shit 30 years ago.. 79, I think ’79 or ’78?.. yeah
T: What kind of issues were you all facing there?
H: I wasn’t actually a student… my Mrs was. Actually, I’ve got some photos… [he’s shuffling papers, looking for something] Oh good! This is the Craccum of the time (1979). They just gave this to me the other day… and it has this photo of her, trying to stop them, the year before. And the next year, she talked to the Maori Club, and ah, got them to agree to ask, that they don’t do it again. So she went down there with the President of the Maori Club and, the engineering students said, “Get Fucked! Fuck Off!” and, the Maori Club wouldn’t do anything! So she came home and told me… so I rounded up some folks from Otara and Ponsonby (back in those days Ponsonby was like the inner-city version of Otara), rounded them up that night, and we all met at my place at 7 o’clock in the morning, Ponsonby. Got in our cars, went up to Varsity and beat the fucking shit out of them. That was the end of that…
T: What were they doing there? [The pictures show a strong, young Maori woman confronting the mock-haka of grass-skirt clad, pakeka students with chests and faces daubed with paint and illegible letters. The second shows her walking off disgusted.]
H: Just that sorta thing… they’d put those grass skirts on and they’d paint all of these, I don’t think you can see it, these really nasty slogans on themselves, some obscene stuff too, and they’d go out and do a grad student version of the haka. They’d start drinking early like about 8 o’clock and they’re all drunk aye, and then they roll up newspapers and get sticks and stuff and go around, do their mock haka and whack people and all that kind of carry on. And people had been asking them to stop doing that for years aye. Nothing ever happened so… we went up there and, I think it was ’79 when we went up… bang bang bang… all over!
T: On the biography of you with He Taua you were fighting racism of students at Auckland University, was that by other students, pakeha students or was it faculty…
H: Yeah they were all pakeha students, engineering students. They used to go all around inner city Auckland. They’d call it just a capping stone. I say well just go do something else! They wouldn’t so, we went up, and just popped them, put an end to it.

T: Are you surprised to find yourself in Parliament? I think it’s great…
H: Yeah, well. I’d been approached by others aye over the years just cause of my… you know when you protest hard enough and long enough, people think you’ve got something to say, so I’ve been approached by all sorts of parties. But I just took two seconds to say no thanks. Then we had the Hikoi a couple a years ago. And it was just obvious that I was going to be the candidate for the Maori Party for Te Tai Tokerau. That’s really what there was to it… I’m happy to do it. Proud to do it!
T: How often does the Foreshore and Seabed Act come up in your work here?
H: Ohh… it doesn’t really, I don’t get all that caught up… it’s not the be all and end all of my existence. It provides a platform for us to challenge our people to snap free of the Labour shackles that they’ve had on our lives for so long really. So, we sort of broken one of them but, we need to win all seven seats to really put that behind us. Foreshore and Seabed was the opportunity, to do what a lot of us have been wanting to do for a long time anyway. Get free!
T: It’s also an independent Maori voice as well aye?
H: That’s it! That’s all. It’s really what it’s all about aye. I think, our thing in the House in the last couple of years has really highlighted how an independent Maori voice fits. You know that everything that the Labour Maori MPs do is what their party tells them to do, and anything the National Maori MPs do is what their party tells them to do. And none of those things are guided by Kaupapa Maori, or Tikanga Maori, only by what their parties tell them to do.
I just don’t think that there was ever anything to compare it with before so, people tended to think that Labour was pretty cool to Maori but, now we’re in here it’s pretty easy to highlight it…
You know it started with the foreshore and seabed for starters but it continued, cutting off Manaaki tauira, taking Maori Language out of schools, that’s the Labour Government!… Taking the Treaty out of the curriculum, taking the Treaty out of legislation. And like most Maori have never really seen that before until we started saying it.
I’ve got relations in all those parties too: New Zealand First, Labour, National..
T: Are they like the parties that have approached you in the past?
H: Yeah… New Zealand First, ACT, National, Labour
T: They would have tried to rein you in more, more than the Maori Party aye?
H: Ohh… I never even contemplated it aye. It went straight in here [points to an ear] and straight out again [points to his other ear]. I was never interested.
The Foreshore and Seabed, when we got to Wellington, got to Parliament, they were passing out those cards to join the Maori Party. As soon as I saw it I knew two things. That was May 2004. I knew that (1) I would be the Tai Tokerau candidate for the Maori Party, and (2): I’ would win that election.
T: Awesome… About the Foreshore and Seabed Act… I just finished MAOR 124 which is Putaiao Maori – Maori Science Matauranga Maori. One of the things that came up in there about the foreshore and seabed was that since it was signed, the government has leased or sold or signed away 30+ beaches? Is that an accurate number?
H: I wouldn’t have a clue, you probably know more than me! Like, I have to say that, I’m not good at research. I’ve not read one Act since I’ve been in Parliament. I just don’t get into that side of things. I can tell just by a lot of the media commentary what a Bill’s about, so I don’t need to read it. Like for example, one of the biggest bills of this current government is the Climate Change bill. I haven’t wanted to read it, didn’t bother going to select committee. I know what she’s doing. It’s a good principle, what they’re talking about. But now they’re trying to water it down because it’s election year, it’s as simple as that! Principles are sound… so I try to understand things at their most basic level, I try not to get too caught up in the details. Although, we’ve got a good researcher here, who provides us with as much information as we need, if we ask.
T: Is that the whole Maori Party Research Unit?
H: Of one?
T: Yeah. Is that dependent on how large the party representation is?
H: Yeah how large the party is; one person writes all of our speeches, or our drafts – I rewrite all of mine. We’ve got a person who does all our prep for our electorates. We’ve got a Researcher who does all the research, and we’ve got a Chief of Staff who’s responsible for keeping our relationship with other parties ticking over without going crash bang in the night and that kind of stuff.
T: How do you relate to the other MPs here? And they you?
H: I talk well to all of them. It’s not a personal thing. I get on well with pakehas in the Nats… and Labour, well, I try to get on well with all of the Maori MPs… in fact I do I think… except probably Winston, just don’t have anything to do with him. He always seems to be doing his own thing. So I don’t bother getting involved. He’s from up North too of course.

T: Oh is he?
H: Mm.
T: I never knew that, where he was from.
H: He’s from Ngati Wai, up north from Whangarei (Whananaki).

T: Are you getting used to it here? Think you might be keen on another term or two?
H: Oh, I’ll do what I have to do really. I don’t ever intend to get used to this place though. You know what I was… I wasn’t born to do this shit, and I don’t intend to make a career of it. A lot of politicians in here are though… I’d have to say thankfully the Maori Party’s not like that. Pita had to be hauled screaming and kicking out of Hoani Waititi you know, the Marae, his Kura, his Kohanga Reo, developing his wananga, all of that stuff. Te Ururoa is keenly involved in education around Rotorua, Whakatane, stuff like that. Myself I was involved in broadcasting, and my own Kura up North. Yeah we’ve got things that we can go back to tomorrow.
You can tell how it is with some people. They would rather change their principles, than risk losing what they’ve got here. This place pays me more than, twice as much as I’ve ever made in my whole life! But, if I wasn’t here tomorrow I wouldn’t cry.
I understand the need for us to be here, I understand the struggle that we have, and I enjoy the challenge of this place… but I’m not wedded to the idea of a parliamentary career. I only have one suit and I keep it here. I put it on just before I go down to the House and I take it off as soon as I get out of the House. It stays here. I bought it the day before Parliament opened.
We were at a tangi yesterday up North for Lady Rose Henare, Sir James’ wife, and Parekura was giving me assholes, about him and Shane coming in their suits and look at Hone, in his jeans and his track shoes.
But I suspect that if the people up home saw me running round in a suit, they’d go “Nigger Boy! Nigger Boy!”. That’s not me so I don’t need to change.
I can put that stuff on if I have to but if people ask me about wearing a suit when I’m in the House I say shit, you know like if I’m down the beach, I’ll just have a pair of shorts on and a t shirt. If I go paddling, I might just have shorts on. If I’m working in the garden I’ve got the jeans and the gumboots. When I’m in the House I’ve got a suit! No big deal. But it’s not my normal way of dressing so, I choose not to wear it all the time.
T: Out of the 7 seats, that you’re going to win. Which would be the hardest? Tainui?..
H: It’s hard to tell aye, it’s hard to tell. One thing that came up in the House the other day, Tau [Henare – National] raised it. It was how Parekura gave Ngati Porou $1.6 million last year, for some sort of governance thing aye… fuckin, bribe money man. And he has a way of making his power felt, in an election year, in his electorate. So that will be difficult…
Nanaia will be difficult because of her connections to the Kingitanga.
Those two will be difficult but, our way is simple really. It’s not to contest them on their strengths. We don’t have the money, to combat Parekura. Neither do we have the depth of the historical connection to the Kingitanga.
So we’ll rely, almost purely, on beating the feet, knocking on doors, and signing people up. That’s our game mate… let the Chiefs get on with doing what Chiefs do, and let’s get to the people. If we do that well, if we keep ourselves connected and open, to the people…well, it shows. We get a good rap everywhere we go around the country. I find it very distracting when we go to places and people say oh “you’re a Chief” and “you’ll do great things” and if you’re not careful, you start believing that shit aye. Cause you’re not. I’m not a Chief because I’m here, I’m just a Member of Parliament! Our job is to defend Maori rights, and advance Maori interests – simple as that. Other peoples’ job out there is to keep the Tribe going, keep the mana of the tribe, other people have a job of teaching our children… we’ve all got a job to do; this is just our job.
T: In the last term of Government, Rodney Hide used to… it was almost like he was after every Maori MP in each of the parties, before the Maori Party came in. And then since you arrived he’s been really, strangely silent about it. He hasn’t really been after any of you has he?
H: He’s kind of strange really. Tari gets on really well with Rodney.
In the early days of the Finance and Expenditure Committee I used to get on well with him. When I first came here, we had F&E on a Wednesday, and on the Tuesday, I’d get this much paper [stack 6 inches high], and I gotta be up until six o’clock the next morning trying to read all this shit before I got there. I get there and Rodney’s got this thin little pad and he’s just listening and doodling, or working on his little computer. I said to him “don’t you read all this stuff Rodney?” and he says “Here’s a tip. When an issue comes up, you follow it in the media. The papers and the TV and the radio, they hire people to read that stuff, and explain it. Right? All you gotta do is understand the line that that paper, or that reporter is taking, to understand most of the legislation.
And I found that to be a great help, to a point where with the Climate Change Bill, I don’t find it that hard to understand. There’s a lot of twists and turns in it, there are a lot of implications for all the different sectors. They put up a thousand amendments to it three days before it came to us in Select Committee, and because it’s such brand new legislation all over the world, terminology was changing while it was going through the select committee, so I just stopped going. Stopped going and just read the paper and watched a bit on TV. It’s not that hard to follow.
Then of course you got to try to talk to Maori, ordinary Maori on the street. Maori forestry owners, know what I mean? That’s where you do your researching, cos they’re the best. Walk with your own people. I mean, as far as the guy on the street knows, I think most Maori generally understand that there’s a need to do something about it. But that tends to be kind of overwhelmed by the fact that the fuckin’ price of petrol is goin’ up, and that’s not such a great idea. Our people don’t have a lot of money and our people travel a lot. We’re the most transient sector of the whole population, and so we’re hugely impacted by petrol price rises. So, even though you can understand that there’s a need to do something about the climate and somebody’s got to pay for it somewhere, it really impacts on Maori so there’s nothing, particularly to be happy with.
T: Yeah, a lot of the truckies are gonna be stopping traffic tomorrow.
H: Yeah man, all over the place. Won’t affect me I’ll be getting outta town here early, jumping on a plane, I won’t even get out of Auckland Airport. I’ll go straight back to Kaitaia. That’s where I live.
T: Crosby/Textor, have you heard about, have you read much about them?
H: Yes I have actually. Well no I haven’t read up on them, but I did follow the media stuff on it, and who they worked for in other places, and how successful they’ve been. That’s the game, aye, that’s the game. We use Matt McCarten. The difference is, he’s from where you’re from, he’s from Te Rarawa, so we don’t fucking pay him anything. But in terms of a political strategist in this country, he’s the best there is.
T: Yeah? He was with the Alliance Party wasn’t he, when they sort of split up…
H: I know that they shudder in Labour, when they think of him being involved in our campaign. They’re scared of him.
T: I remember in the media they tended to have a go at him during that Alliance stuff.
H: Oh yeah, that was operating at that kind of level, but in terms of political strategy he’s a clever bastard… very, very clever. He’s one of the Pene whanau from up in Hokianga.
I take advice from all sorts of people. And I tell people all the time that I say things I get from other people – newspapers, people in a church, people in a hui, people anywhere. It’s about not being prissy with the information. If you’ve got it, make it work, share it. And from people in Labour, National, and ACT too.
Like Rodney Hide telling me how to deal with Select Committee bullshit, all that kind of stuff. I’ll learn from anyone. And I think, at our level we have to be open to information from all sources.
And at that big party level, they go for guys who have got a good track record, and they’ll pay big bucks for their advice. Those guys have done the bizo aye? They kept old what’s-his-name alive for a long time… Howard.
T: Yeah John Howard. Your friend John Howard…
H: Well, he didn’t just lose the election, he lost his seat too… He’s fucking completely yesterday man, and yeah, he was a racist prick.
But they’re clever though, those guys. Like the guy who did Don Brash’s billboards. At the last election they had a picture of Don Brash on one half, and Helen on the other half, and on Don Brash it’s got ‘KIWI’, and on Helen Clark it’s got ‘IWI’. And you know Labour’s as fuckin supportive of IWI as nobody.
And it’s simple shit like that. I took a look at those billboards and thought yeah that’s clever. I go to a party hui and everybody’s spitting tacks about it, but I say don’t worry about spitting tacks, learn from it, learn from it. That’s what we gotta do; learn from it.
T: Have you guys had much in your coffers to run your campaign with?
H: Nah! The Government is giving us more for our broadcasting allocation, than we’ve got in our account. We haven’t got money, which is the other thing. When you haven’t got money for the big spend, then don’t even try to go there. You knock on doors, you go to as many hui as you possibly can, you pass out the pamphlets, you talk to people. Just let them know that you’re there and… you represent. That’s really what it’s all about. Not try to be anything special…
T: So do they give you a broadcasting budget, what to make ads and things?
H: Yeah. But they don’t give it to you either, they give it straight to TV and radio.
T: Yeah it was quite funny. After the last election all the parties owed big money, then you guys get a bill for like $53 or something.
H: Yeah, that was actually a Parliamentary Services screw up. Our people sent a bill to our office down here, and it mistakenly got sent to Parliamentary Services and they paid for it. They shouldn’t have paid for it, it was one of our bills. Yeah we paid it back.
T: The other parties owed thousands of dollars, and you guys owed fifty dollars…
H: Hundreds of thousands mate. In fact, we heard later that the Police investigated the spending of all parties; except the Maori Party. Everybody’s allowed to spend about so much, and the others overspent by different amounts, but we only spent about this much (a lot less). We didn’t come close to spending what we allowed to spend.
The plus side of that is it forced us to constantly relate to people. And so we go on national tours three times a year, go to as many different places as we possibly can, as many of us as MPs going out as a group, talking to people. Just so that they know we’re coming around and we’ll go anywhere.
T: How does a political party get money? Donations?
H: Donations yeah. Membership fees… well, we’re the cheapest political party in the country. Ours is $2. Even the Greens are $15. We don’t make a big deal out of the money side. But we have a hugely effective team in here aye… our staff.
Helen Leahy, who does our speeches and helps us with some of our press and stuff like that, organises things, she’s just pouring out the stuff. Not a day goes by when she’s not turning out about half a dozen speeches, press releases, all around the country. [See ya! from the hall] That’s her there, should’ve gone home at 4o’clock she’s still here.
T: I was actually a volunteer here leading up to the 2002 election. I was working for the CCLR, th Coalition for Cannabis Law Reform, and I was working out of Tim Barnett’s office. He was quite interested in those issues.
H: What did Labour do about it?
T: Oh nothing they sort of, ignored the select committee reports, the Health select committee and the other one it went to, and because United came in with the stipulation that for their help, not to let Tim Barnett into Cabinet, and two, no change in the marijuana laws. I was in it for the Maori side I was the only Maori in Wellington involved…
H: Jeez. And the poor old fucking Greens got shafted at the last election didn’t they? We tried to do a deal with the Greens. Tariana said to them “Ten is better than six”. And if we’d stuck together it was a block of ten.
T: How did the Greens vote in the Foreshore and Seabed?
H: They were staunch. Yeah, they fought against the Foreshore and Seabed apparently, Metiria was just awesome; every single clause she just hammered them aye…
T: What’s going to happen now in Te Tai Tonga?
H: It’s going through a process now. I’m not aware of the details of the process there.
T: It’s the Party that does it yeah?
H: Yeah the Party. The electorate organise their own process down there. We’re expecting to have somebody in place by 27th of July.
… [chatting about me and Ngai Tauira] …
T: So do you miss the protests?
H: No not really. Everybody has a role to play. Back in those days, those days there… [points at the old Craccum]… young, hot-blooded, we weren’t locked into anything aye. It was different too back then, we were like that first generation really, the baby boomers…
T: Yeah the Treaty of Waitangi was barely recognised at that time was it?
H: That’s right. That time will never come again, so our people ask me will there ever be people like us I say Nah, not because people don’t have the same passion. Just cause it was a different time, as simple as that.
People ask me who were my heroes. Mine were Mohammad Ali, Huey P. Newton, Aldridge Cleaver, Malcolm X, those were my heroes. Never really had a lot of Maori heroes, and the ones that there were I knew: Syd Jackson, Tame Iti, Mum, and all those sort of people, I knew them all, they were part of my life.
All of my heroes were fuckin (American) blacks, which was kind of strange when I went over there, stateside. I was quite sure then, that I’d get on well with Blacks. And I had to sleep one night in a Greyhound Bus station, and all these black guys come in and… there’s just no connection aye, none at all. Then about three o’clock in the morning, the door comes crashin open, and I’m sitting there trying to get to sleep in this fuckin bus station, and this drunken old Indian staggers in, and he’s standing at the door, and he sees me and says “Aahhh!” and he comes down and sits by me. It was just like he was an Uncle. And I thought yeah, I should have realised that, that’s the real connection. The tangata whenua thing. He just thought I was an Indian. That was hard case.
T: You would have travelled a lot, being an MP?
H: Nah. Most of it was from my protests. People asked me to go speak at conferences. I was very, very fortunate to hang out with native people, and the people I knew from the US, the Native Americans that I knew were from the American Indian Movement. I know a lot of them. I didn’t think that much of it at the time, but then people hear the names and go, “oh wow! You know Russell Means?” Yeah I know Russell, why? And they’d go “waaoooww!!”
And I think that’s the kind of thing with my heroes here. They weren’t heroes to me they were just people that I was with. They were just the people I hung out with – the Bellacourts, the Means brothers, Dennis Banks, Oren Lyons, all those sort of guys, the real heroes in the American Indian movement. I just knew them as brothers. They’re all in their 60’s and 70’s now. I was just really privileged …
T: Are you off anywhere after the recess or this year, for Parliament?
H: I travel less as an MP than I did when I was protesting. Anyway when I travel I get in trouble, so… yeah…
T: Yeah… how was the roo’s tail? Was it alright?
H: Wasn’t bad or anything, it was just different, that’s all. I’d never tasted anything like that before but I could easily get used to eating that kind of stuff. Just, different styles aye…
T: How was it up there, in the Northern Territory?
H: It was hard man. Really, really hard. I think the hardest thing is that white Australians really don’t wanna know. And you know like, I find pakeha Australians easy to talk to aye… they’re funny… they got a better sense of humour than New Zealand pakehas do. I always get on really well with them. But when it comes to their own indigenous people mate they got a blindspot like you wouldn’t believe! They just don’t see them! They get along great… get along well with Maoris, they like Maoris but, their own people, they don’t even think of them, as being people they might want to associate with. The culture is such, that they just don’t see them. Know what I mean? And if they see them, it’s just enough to piss them off and so they ignore them. That’s all. And they live their whole life believing that they’re in the golden land, and they’re not caring about the people there.
Aaahh! Fuck! Some of the things you see and the stories you hear… particularly from some of the old ones aye. An old kuia told me how, back in the 60’s, if you were gonna go cross-country, you’d try to get as far away from the road, as possible, at night time… this old lady was saying. She said because, in the daytime, if a white fulla was going from one farm to another farm, down the road, and he felt like shooting, and he saw a black fulla, he’d shoot him just as soon as he’d take a shot at a kangaroo. And nobody cared. You could run over a black fulla, as she was telling me back in the 60’s, and nobody would care. Nobody would report it… Fuckin hell…
T: Is there a similar kind of racism here?
H: No we’re different. It’s different here, and the reason why it’s different here is that there’s not an indigenous people in the world, as stroppy as your fuckin’ Maori. Dare anybody try and ignore us mate. You know what it’s like aye? Anybody blink badly … and you fuckin pound ‘em. When I was marching… we just wouldn’t stand for it.
T: The unsaid insults and
H: Yeah, yeah. I’ve been to Hawaii… they’re a lovely people man. They are aye the Hawaiian people. I see them accept things that we wouldn’t stand for over here aye. I say, ‘…Fuck me! If anybody tried that to us back home we’d fuckin drop him…
T: Yeah I remember reading, I think James Belich, I think it was in the NZ Wars, saying the difference between Maori and the Aborigines, back in those days, was that if you… if someone shot an Aborigine and did whatever, that nothing would happen to them. But here if you um, shot a Maori Chief or tried to arrest him or something, you died. Ha ha…
H: Yeah… just couldn’t do that shit aye?… and that’s the difference! I’ve seen it, seen it from travelling around. Even Native Americans, like guns are part of their culture, Wounded Knee – the recent Wounded Knee there of the American Indian Movement. When they ramp up, they ramp up their gun level really quickly, but it’s a rare thing aye.
I get Salient and Craccum as well! I get them because… I like to read them because, student magazines… are so irreverent. They have no respect for anyone or for anything, and I love it. I love it! I here’s some Craccums and Salients…
T: Would you like a transcript of this before we put it out?
H: Nah.. no. You just do what you gotta do…
You know, when the Wayne Mapp bill was doing the rounds? I think it was Salient… they had a really good in-depth article on it, and on the front of the article, it had a picture of Wayne Mapp. And at the top it had ‘Wayne Mapp’, and underneath it had ‘Dumb Cunt’
T: Hah ha
H: Fuck… (laughter) you know nobody would write like that except a student magazine. I know a lot of our people get really upset when they read stuff like that but, you know I cherish that stuff … but its no longer… like even students have changed, and student mags have changed.
Back in the day, because education was free, if you missed your papers – fuck it – go back next year, even I did that. Students aren’t like that now though. They can’t afford that aye, so everything they do, they have that consideration in their minds, the cost.
And so back in those days, because education was free, students felt that it was their right, their god-given right to change everything. And umm, I miss that aye. I miss the fact that students, had respect for nobody…
Some of those pakeha students used to get right up my fucking nose, but I tell ya, I still used to respect them for all that stuff aye, for their independence. For the fact that if they didn’t like something they’d just said “Fuck off, cunt.” And they talk like, certainly not like how people around here talk. And I read some of the articles in there, some of the letters to the Editor, when you got individual students saying things, it’s just fuckin’ hilarious, and it’s witty, and it’s challenging – it’s mentally challenging.
And like, sometimes living in Kaitaia, you miss the challenge. So I used to have this woman send me Craccum so I could read it. And I’d go… ooooh, ‘cause you’re just not thinking like that aye when you’re living in the North. And you think ooooh shiiiiit! What a terrible thing to say! And then you realise, mate you used to think like that yourself not too long ago aye. And so, it helps to keep your mind fresh, helps to keep your mind young, I find. It helps to keep you challenged, mentally challenged, student magazines…
They’re glossier now than they used to be in my day. This here, that was the Craccum of those days… here the pictures were fuckin’ hand-drawn… [Headline] “Proposed Discriminatory Fees for Overseas Students”…
T: Is that before everyone was charged fees?
H: Thiis would’ve been 1980 I think… yeah… I think ours was like $124, back in those days, student fees…
T: That um, your partner in there, is that your wife?
H: Yeah, she’s my wife. Now. I met her at varsity actually, at Auckland University.
T: How did you meet her there if you weren’t a student?
H: Oh I was a student, at the time. Yeah.
T: What did you study?
H: Oh I just went there to, get on the piss. I started off as a Bcom student. Ahh, she’s from Te Rarawa.
T: Do you still go home every weekend and, head up there?
H: Every weekend yeah. I make sure I do. I get home every week. I remember one time I was gonna miss, so I rang and said, I’m comin up, be at the airport. Met her. We had a date for twenty minutes at the Kaitaia airport, and then I jumped on the plane again.
T: Do you miss that? Being at home…
H: Oh hell yeah. What I really miss, is my grandson; we’ve had him since he was one, and he was eleven when I came in here. Now he’s 14. And I’ve missed all of those three years. I used to take him to all his rugby, his swimming, his athletics, his league, his waka ama, basketball and all that stuff… Now I’m not there and I miss it badly aye, miss it terribly.
So I miss that side of it in Parliament. All of the strident stands we made. I miss the fact that in here, I talk about them. Outside, we did things. You know what I mean?
T: Yeah…
H: At my, at where I used to work was I was the CEO of our radio. And we started a Maori radio station and a Pakeha radio station, then a Rangatahi radio station, then a Country FM radio station, and a television station. In Kaitaia. We did all of those things you know?
We challenged ourselves to do things that other people didn’t think we could do. I’ve learnt from my old protest days to understand the importance of the media, and the importance of spreading your message rather than always having to react badly about somebody else’s message.
So I enjoy the challenge; our school we started it from nothing, our Kura, built it up to where it is now… all that stuff aye. I enjoyed the challenge of doing things. Particularly doing things that other people don’t think you can do, like those radio stations, and the TV station. And like there is no other Maori TV station except MTS which is big bucks aye. We did that out of nothing… and it’s still going!
T: Yeah? Is it?
H: Yeah!
T: Was it just run from out of one of your mates sheds or something?
H: Oh no, because, we’ve got all of our stations in the same building…
T: Oh okay…
H: … television’s easy to do, you just put it in another room really. And we still haven’t got a proper licence yet but oh shit … again why I wish I was back there. If I was back there I’d know how to make my television station hum… but anyway… yeah so I miss, I miss the doing things aye. I miss the challenge of thinking my way through some issues, getting together with a group of people of like mind, and then challenging ourselves to do something that hasn’t been done before. And then doing it!
So those things were all new. No Maori radio station had ever started its own Pakeha radio station, or its own youth radio station … know what I mean? So we just wanted to grow everything that we did. I’m glad to say, that all of the things that we started are still going, so, that’s good to see.
T: The people up there are they still looking after it?
H: Yeah.. yeah. But I miss that, I miss that hugely… I mean protest is about challenging and tearing things down. But, the other part of my life, particularly the last twenty years, has been to tear something down if I didn’t believe it, and to challenge everybody, change the whole fucking world if necessary, and then say ‘now this is how you fucking do it!’
This is how you do it. We will do it and I’ll show you how we can do it. So that all those people who don’t think you can … who cares what they think. You just get together with people of like mind. Of all things, they’re kind of scared ‘cos it’s never been done before. You just do it! You just make it happen.
T: You were part of making the Kohanga Reo…
H: We had all of that stuff up at Otara at the time, where we were. And then when we moved home; same. Our Kohanga, our Kura, our Wharekura, and then one of the things we did was to pump up these things.
We decided that we wanted a swimming pool for our Kura. No Kura kaupapa has ever built a swimming pool before. And when we decided we’d do it I said, ‘actually, if we gonna have a swimming pool, I want our kids to be able to use it every day of the year. The water would still be too cold, so we need an indoor-heated swimming pool’. And even the Board thought I was nuts. But we did it mate, we built it! Had it now for about 5 years, 5-6 years.
And now this year we’re gonna start building a million dollar gymnasium right next to it! Only got a hundred and twenty five kids! People say ‘How you do it? How do you do it?’
I say first of all, you must believe. You must believe you can have it. You must believe you can do it. Cause if you don’t have the belief don’t even try, because the first thing you’ll do is see an obstacle, and you’ll stop.
But that’s never been our way. Our way is to believe, not just that we can but that we deserve it. That was the challenge there. I just wanted our kids, to have access to the same resources as everybody else.
So Hilda, my wife, she’s the Principal. Our job as the Board is to provide her with all of the resources so that she can make the best students, aye. Really, that’s our job. And technology is gonna be just part of that…
But talking and challenging… that’s all I can do here, whereas outside I can do that, and build things. That’s why I want us to be a player after the next election. Get our hands on some of that filthy fucking loot, and making positive things happen for our people. Simple as that.
I’m not personally a fan of policies and stuff. I understand the kaupapa and that kind of policy stuff, but I’m a fan of saying… ‘If you want to change people, you don’t do it by policy, you do it by action. You make people believe, when they see that cause.
The problem with the pool for example, was we got contractors in to build the pool rather than the whanau. But with the gymnasium, I want to make sure that everyone in the whanau, is involved in the building of the gymnasium, so that they will feel ownership of it, you know?
T: Unfortunately, one of the main things that comes into the media, and I’ve heard you comment on it before is the, the violence on the children. I’m… from what I’ve been learning I sort of… could it be as a result of moving away from the Marae. From how Maori used to live. All the kids running around with each other and being watched over by everyone, all the whanau there and… rather that today where we’ve got two people… in a lot of cases, no money, and then all the kids and four walls. That would be quite a big difference, cultural shift that’s been made and it’s been made quite quickly. I was wondering if that might have a bearing on, what’s happening?
H: Yep. Hugely, hugely. I mean like, in our holidays when we were kids we used to go up North. We’d be up there for a couple of months, with all our cousins, you know. But when you look back at it, you think to yourself, how on earth did they cope? How on earth did they feed us all? There was that many of us we all had to sleep on the verandah outside. There wasn’t enough room inside. All that kind of stuff. It’s true, you know that thing about, what do they say about… that it takes a village to raise a child. That’s what it was like. And you never saw any of the adults as ‘I have to listen to that adult, and I don’t have to listen to that adult’, know what I mean?
T: Just listen to all of them.
H: You listen to all of them! Yeah. But you didn’t think, that it was…


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