Extinction Rebellion protests not helpful


Yesterday 200 activists from Extinction Rebellion caused disruption in central Wellington. They occupied an A.N.Z. bank branch, blocked intersections and formed a group outside the Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise (M.B.I.E.). The protests which were part of a 60-city world wide disruption campaign were not well received by the Police, Prime Minister or members of the public.

Activism that is peaceful is perfectly fine and there are many examples of peaceful activism that have drawn impressive results. But activism where disruption involves illegal activity such as trespassing or causing nuisance, whilst gaining media attention, is not a great way to get public support.

Whilst being an activist myself, there is one thing I will not do except in exceptional circumstances: break New Zealand law.

The one instance where I believe breaking the law might be necessary is in the improbable – not impossible – event that indefinite martial law is declared or one of the core Acts of Parliament that form the basis of our constitutional framework is suspended. But as this is talking about the realms of the quite improbable, I see no need to break New Zealand law.

But to Extinction Rebellion an organization established to protest government policies that they say are leading humanity to its nadir, it is apparently okay.

The protests yesterday are not their first. A few weeks ago protesters aligned with Extinction Rebellion trespassed into the railway corridor in Christchurch to stop coal trains. In doing so they delayed the transit of four freight trains for several hours. In doing so they interfered with railway track that would have had to be checked over for potential damage before trains could be allowed to pass over it.

I said I am an activist, and I am. I have much time for peaceful activism and believe that there are stronger ways of getting messages across than participating in activity that disrupts for the sake of disrupting. Extinction Rebellion could have had a protest outside Kiwi Rail offices, or crowd funded an advert in the media or handed out flyers.

More surprising was the belief of some at the Amnesty International New Zealand office, that such disruption as that caused by the railway protest was okay. Based on what I have been told in the past, this stance sounded like a departure from their normal law abiding approach.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern correctly said that the A.N.Z. protesters were doing no one any favours. Disrupting a bank where people are trying to carry out their legitimate financial procedures is not likely to curry any favours with the New Zealand public, or the Police who probably thought they had better things they could have been doing.

Ihumatao not a Springbok Tour moment


This is largely a rebuttal of a column penned by Glenn McConnell for Stuff.

There are several key facets of the Springboks Tour 1981 that simply do not reflect in the Ihumatao protests:

  1. The Springbok Tour was about sending a message to the apartheid regime of South Africa that there is no place for apartheid in the world; that if they insist on choosing sports teams based on skin colour and not their ability to play the game, South Africa’s isolation will be long and miserable
  2. It was about telling the world that New Zealanders are better than supporting apartheid regimes
  3. The police response has been nothing like the Springbok tour – in case Mr McConnell failed to notice the documentaries that have screened on television about the tour
  4. No one is actively denying that Ihumatao has significant indigneous and early settler history – the dispute is about the fact that the land is meant to be getting handed over and even the local kamuatua and kua are satisfied with the arrangements in place

Institutionalized racism still exists in New Zealand. We still see flashes of it sometimes in disturbingly high places in the New Zealand political structure as well as pages on Facebook promoting division. But those flashes are more the acts of people who refuse to recognize the line where freedom of speech of speech reverts to a racist discourse. New Zealand is no different from any other nation: all of them have racists, people with a problem about the ethnic diversification of society. Sad people with a problem about someone’s skin colour.

But this is not about that. This is about addressing what to do with land that has a bit more history than probably most of New Zealand actually knows about. Land that has had both Maori and European settlement on it. And of the grievance factor, I conducted searches of several documents from the Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the Crown and Ngati Whatua. They included a search of the Summary of the Dead of Settlement, the Deed of Settlement between Ngati Whatua and the Deed of Settlement: Properties. I found only one very brief mention of Ihumatao in The Deed of Settlement. The oral record of the area’s history is well documented. It is not like Ihumatao was unknown to Maori or to Europeans when the settlement was signed in 2011. The documents are available on the New Zealand Government website.

New Zealand was a nation utterly divided by the Springbok tour. Many of the generation of politicians who have left Parliament in the last decade or so were leaders of the protests – Helen Clark, Keith Locke, Rod Donald, among others. The rugby fans were there to see a match being played in a sporting code that was still stuck in the 19th Century. Several years earlier there were African nations threatening the International Olympic Committee with a boycott of the Olympics if New Zealand was not sanctioned for hosting racist rugby tours.

Mr McConnell seems to have misjudged the audience or is only committing to looking at a warped cross section through the community. Whilst Green and some Labour M.P.’s have gone to attend the protests, just as many as well as New Zealand First M.P.’s have stayed away. Nor have National or David Seymour of the A.C.T. Party attended any of the protests. And I do not see or hear a ground swell of anger rising in the background as there most certainly would have been around the Springbok Tour.

I have received commentary about the Amnesty International involvement at Ihumatao. I wish to reiterate that contrary and to the probable disappointment of some people involved in the occupation, Amnesty has to remain strictly neutral, which it is doing. It is there to observe actions and ensure that both the Police and occupants recognize human rights law.

 

I welcome refugees to New Zealand – Do you?


New Zealand has a proud history of being a compassionate nation, a believer of giving people a fair go. With an unprecedented number of people having been made refugees by international or internal strife, some countries are shying away from accepting them. Some are becoming openly hostile. But that does not mean New Zealand should be like them.

Introducing the “I Welcome” pledge, whose aim is to pledge to help settle refugees in New Zealand. The I Welcome pledge is an Amnesty International New Zealand initiative that targets decision makers – district, city and regional councillors as well as Members of Parliament – and get them to help get refugees setled. It aims to help them with basic things that might be foreign to them such as establishing a bank account; getting a General Practitioner, helping them build a curriculum vitae, catching public transport and so on.

When a refugee arrives, they are likely to be bewildered, confused, wary. Such different ways and customs, expectations and hopes. Whereas many of them might have lived day to day wondering where their next meal is going to come from, here it is different. Here they will be wondering how to make the most of these strange yet welcome new opportunities and getting around everyday challenges. That is where people who have taken the I Welcome pledge come in.

By taking the simple I Welcome pledge you are committing to helping vulnerable people getting settled in New Zealand. The experience Amnesty has with refugees suggests that they will be hugely grateful for the opportunities and assistance, desperate not to make mistakes and very willing to learn.

You might have knowledge on writing C.V.’s or be familiar with the workings of the local public transport system. Maybe you are a nurse or G.P.; have cultural experience or familiarity with the countries that refugees are coming from. If you have knowledge and/or skills, or simply want to help, but am not sure how, take the pledge.

I am not suggesting and nor is anyone else that we take all known refugees – not least because New Zealand does not have room for well over 50 million refugees from all corners of the world. But there is no reason on Earth why New Zealand cannot double its refugee quota from the current pathetic 750 per annum.

With time these people will most likely become contributing taxpayers. They will be wanting to make a meaningful contribution, perhaps as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or professional sports person. In other countries refugees have gone on to become world leading surgeons. Some in New Zealand who arrived as a result of the Tampa freighter incident involving Australia in 2001 are now small business owners.

So, I reject this notion that they will be a drain on the New Zealand taxpayer for these reasons, but also because at the end of it New Zealand’s reputation overseas will be enhanced. Our cultural diversity will be greater. Wealth is not all about dollars, though it certainly helps – we think of wealth in purely economic terms, but perhaps one of the greatest ways to become rich as a nation is by giving refugees a chance to develop as people, thrive and give back.

The I welcome Pledge enables that to happen.

Developing welcoming communities for refugees in New Zealand


New Zealand has a proud history of being a compassionate nation, a believer of giving people a fair go. With an unprecedented number of people having been made refugees by international or internal strife, some countries are shying away from accepting them. Some are becoming openly hostile. But that does not mean New Zealand should be like them.

Introducing the “I Welcome” pledge, whose aim is to pledge to help settle refugees in New Zealand. The I Welcome pledge is an Amnesty International New Zealand initiative that targets decision makers – district, city and regional councillors as well as Members of Parliament – and get them to help get refugees setled. It aims to help them with basic things that might be foreign to them such as establishing a bank account; getting a General Practitioner, helping them build a curriculum vitae, catching public transport and so on.

When a refugee arrives, they are likely to be bewildered, confused, wary. Such different ways and customs, expectations and  hopes. Whereas many of them might have lived day to day wondering where their next meal is going to come from, here it is different. Here they will be wondering how to make the most of these strange yet welcome new opportunities and getting around everyday challenges. That is where people who have taken the I Welcome pledge come in.

You might have knowledge on writing C.V.’s or be familiar with the workings of the local public transport system. Maybe you are a nurse or G.P.; have cultural experience or familiarity with the countries that refugees are coming from. If you have knowledge and/or skills, or simply want to help, but am not sure how, take the pledge.

I am not suggesting and nor is anyone else that we take all known refugees – not least because New Zealand does not have room for well over ,50 million refugees from all corners of the world. But there is no reason on Earth why New Zealand cannot double its refugee quota from the current pathetic 750 per annum.

By taking the simple I Welcome pledge you are committing to helping vulnerable people getting settled in New Zealand. The experience Amnesty has with refugees suggests that they will be hugely grateful for the opportunities and assistance, desperate not to make mistakes and very willing to learn.

Aggressive police or more volatile protests? You be the judge


New Zealand Police operating costs attending protests are mounting.

Peace Action say it is troubling that the Police act as a “taxpayer funded security service” for big business. Police for their part say their actions are proportionate and totally legitimate.

The distrust I suspect is mutual. Many of the organizations that participate in such protests have always viewed Government force – be it through the Police, military or other armed means – with distrust and this dates back to the days of World War 1 and World War 2 when there were dissenters who were arrested. They would sometimes wind up overseas performing non combat roles such as building roads or being a cook or a doctor.

New Zealand Police in reality are for the most part one of the more tolerant police forces in the west. And compared with those in third world countries, almost squeaky clean. All Police forces will have instances where they get the balance between enforcing the as opposed to being outright thugs wrong. It is down to whether or not the the force is willing to learn from its mistakes, make appropriate changes and give effect to them before something worse happens.

It is also true that an individual has a right to attend the event where the protests are happening – whilst I disagree with the apparent need for an armaments conference here, to step on another individual’s equal right to attend is not something I would condone or want to see New Zealand and New Zealanders condoning.

Action Networks (Coal Action Network, Peace Action Network among others) are among the more likely groups to have members arrested. Their stunts are often eye catching, but have problematic characteristics such as damage to property; trespassing on land that they did not have permission to be on. The extent to which one participates in such progress is up to the individual, but it is worthy noting as example the arrest of former Xena: Warrior Princeess actress Lucy Lawless for being illegally on a Shell Todd Oil Services oil drilling ship that was in port at New Plymouth. She was prosecuted and convicted, being made to pay a fine of $600+.

On the flip side of the coin, peaceful activism is an incredibly powerful phenomena and one that should be totally endorsed as a means of righting a wrong. The power of it is shown in the response of some – instead of accepting the message that change is needed, there are powerful elements who prefer to shut down any movement seeking changes in their conduct.

One need look no further than Amnesty International to see a large organization that can use its considerable membership in a peaceful manner to effect significant change. Amnesty International activism can range from peaceful public protests outside Government offices and businesses, to letter writing. Its appeal lies in the vast range of ages, nationalities, backgrounds and cultures. From ending torture and the death penalty to advocating for refugees and prisoners of conscience, the organization has grown a reputation for credible research conducted by on the ground researchers, not from some office in a far away country

Social campaigning has also evolved with the development of advocacy platforms such as New Zealand’s Action Station and overseas ones such as Change, Sum of Us and others. These tend to pick a few major campaigns and pour their significant resources into them – the Bees and insecticides being one by Change; fresh water resources being one run by Action Station.

For some the allure of being seen protesting outside such events as the armaments conference in Wellington, shutting down the motorway during the Trans Pacific Partnership signing ceremony in Auckland will always appear more attractive than peaceful activism along the lines of Amnesty International. But with the allure comes risk – is the activity going to cause major disruption, put people in danger and/or warrant a strong Police response?

I say: happy protesting – make it loud and bright, but keep it non disruptive and be thankful it is the New Zealand Police you are dealing with and not that of a less tolerant state.