I love the diversity that immigration brings: Sir Mark Solomon - the voice of reason

I love the diversity that immigration brings: Sir Mark Solomon - the voice of reason

Other highlights:

  • I love the diversity that immigration brings
  • Maori believes in manaaki
  • everyone should know and learn about the Treaty of Waitangi
  • Police has done an amazing job in tackling bias against maori
  • Iwis also have a role to play in bettering maori health outcomes

What he said:

On maori philosophy on migration:

It’s simple really. Maori believes in manaaki, which means to show respect, and host and all its aspects. We believe that we have a responsibility to share. The new people must also understand that we are sharing, not giving away our share.

I have no issues with immigration. What I may have are issues with some of the policies. Not with the people who are coming.

I think we have to seriously look at our land ownership policies. If people are buying properties just for investment sake and don’t intend to live in New Zealand, this must stop. It drives our people out of the housing market.

But anyone who intends to make New Zealand his or her home, is most welcome to buy property here.

See people always head offshore for better opportunities. My own son lives in Australia. So people will want to come to New Zealand. And it’s a good thing. We just have to keep in mind our limited resources.

I remember when former mayor of Christchurch Garry Moore called me to inter-cultural assembly meetings, and I interacted with over 170 ethnic communities which have made this their new home, it opened my eyes. That’s why after the earthquakes of 2010-11, when we were mobilising resources to help people in need, the migrant community was also part of our efforts.    

I love the diversity that immigration brings.

As I always say, treat people the way you would like to be treated.

On the need for migrants to know the Treaty of Waitangi and the perception that maoris oppose migration:

Yes, everyone should know and learn about the Treaty of Waitangi. It’s the founding document of our nation, the founding document of every migrant’s new home.

About the perception that maoris oppose migration, the fact is like pakehas, maoris are also on a continuum. There are some who are absolutely opposed. Then there are some, like me, who wholeheartedly welcome migrants to live among us. And I would say my belief is the dominant one in the maori society.

I don’t think racism is an issue in New Zealand. It’s ignorance that bothers me more. Being a small country at the bottom of the world has its disadvantages. But considering our constraints, we have done well, I believe, as compared to other countries in terms of accepting migrants and refugees.

On institutional bias against maoris in the criminal justice system:

I would like to make a distinction between New Zealand Police and the rest in this regard.

This so because the police has done an amazing work in tackling their bias against maoris in the last few years. This cannot be said for the judiciary I am afraid. Though some positive steps are being taken there as well.

See, no one can deny that there is absolute bias against maori in the way authorities deal with us. All reports show that.

Maoris have a 11-and-a-half more chance of remanded into police custody than a pakeha on similar charges. Maoris have a five-and-a-half more chance of going to jail than a pakeha on similar charges. Police have a power of discretion, which they exercise 298 percent times more in the case of a pakeha culprit.

In the health sector, it’s rare for a maori to be referred to a specialist.

So things are bad for my people.

But police stands out in all this because of the efforts they are making to rectify the bias. A former police commissioner sent me a report with all these figures, and Commissioner Mike Bush is acting on it. Their argument is if we can’t show what’s wrong, how will we ever correct it. This I respect and appreciate. And I know other tribes do the same as well.

Judiciary is also on board now. Judges have told me that very often when there’s a maori offender in front of them, he or she stands alone. There is no family or iwi support. We are trying to change that.

We also got to know recently that every tribe has the right to have an advocate for every court case. The law regarding that was enacted in 1979, but no one knew. Now, all of us are setting it up.

This will help generate a support system around maori offenders, preventing re-offending.

On maori health outcomes:

It’s a mixed bag really. On immunisation, we are doing quite good. But in terms of preventive checks, we are lagging behind.

And I think, apart from the Government, which must put more efforts in generating awareness, maoris are to be blamed here as well.  

On iwis taking responsibility for maori welfare:

Yes, I know some sections criticise us saying the iwis are not doing enough for our own people. That we are not investing enough, especially in health outcomes.

This is not true.

We have initiated a process to get full hospital cover for the entire tribe in Ngai Tahu. I have started the process and it’s up to the new leadership to take it forward.

Moreover, our priorities after the treaty settlements, as agreed by everyone, have always been revitalisation of maori culture, educating our people, and better health outcomes.

But we don’t believe in hand-outs, rather in finding ways to build capacity – or hands-up.

So I can say for Ngai Tahu for sure that we are doing our part.            

Disclaimer: Sir Mark Solomon is the patron of Canterbury Migrants Centre Trust, which publishes The Migrant Times.

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