Pākehā Invisibility: Why does ‘migrant’ mean ‘brown’?

complains

By Ani White and Kassie Hartendorp.

Note: This article was written directly before the 2017 General Election, so comments about party policy refer to that period.

Internationally, many white immigrants to non-white countries are not termed immigrants, they are termed ‘expats.’ Immigrant means brown, expat means white.

A similar dynamic plays out in Aotearoa. Pākehā immigrants1 do not describe themselves as immigrants. Many even object to the term Pākehā; we are simply “New Zealanders.”

Some may object that their family has been here for generations, but the same standard does not apply to brown immigrants. Asian people whose families have lived here for generations are assumed to be new migrants, not “New Zealanders.” At a candidates’ meeting I recently attended, a white woman asked an Asian candidate a question along the lines of “if you don’t like this country why did you come here?” She had no awareness of his family history; for all she knew, he was a third-generation migrant (as it happens, he arrived as a child, so didn’t have much choice in the matter). But his brown face marked him as a migrant, a ‘foreigner.’

Even though Europeans and Asians in New Zealand are both immigrants, Europeans are naturalised as part of ‘New Zealand’ and non-white migrants are cast as ‘outsiders.’

The New Zealand where Europeans are naturalised as the dominant population, and inheritors of land and resources, relies on a story that erases colonial history. Those who strongly defend the identity of ‘New Zealander’ very rarely acknowledge that before this region became New Zealand, it was Aotearoa. It was (and is) Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu. It was (and is) a Pacific Island in Te Moana-Nui-a- Kiwa before it became a British colony. Many Pākehā prefer to forget this history.

The colonial state of New Zealand, set up by Pākehā immigrants, gets to determine who can come into this country. Indigenous approaches to manaakitanga (values of welcoming and hospitality) were violated, replaced with a bureaucratic edifice which categorises and profiles people hoping to cross borders. Institutions enabled by mass European immigration presume to dictate who can come next.

Ironically, a recent survey indicated that whereas only 28% of New Zealand citizens strongly agreed with the statement “People who want to live here should have to declare their commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi”, 40% per cent of recent migrants agreed (close to the 47% of Maori who agreed). The irony is underlined when ‘New Zealanders’ act offended at the thought of migrants ‘invading our country’ when many of their forebears actually invaded, at the mass detriment of Māori.

In certain respects, European migrants to Aotearoa have something in common with new Asia-Pacific migrants. We came here seeking a better life, with 19th century colonists escaping dire economic conditions. However, Asian migrants are not stealing land at gunpoint, as Pākehā did in the 19th century. Rather, they work in banks, cafes, on dairy farms, cleaning office buildings, their sweat oiling the nation’s economic growth, paid back in low wages and abuse. Even higher-paid, ‘high-skilled’ white collar migrants, supposedly more valuable than ‘low-skilled’ workers, still cop abuse.

Scapegoating of Asian migrants goes back to early colonisation. Chinese migrants during the Gold Rush were forced to pay special taxes, and chased out of places like Wellington. In the early 20th Century, the NZ Labour Party flirted with a ‘White New Zealand’ policy to match Australia’s ‘White Australia’ policy. More recently in 2014, Labour’s Phil Twyford controversially highlighted those with ‘Chinese surnames’ purchasing property. For all he knew, these people were long-term residents.

Yellow Peril scares are therefore deeply ingrained in New Zealand society. Noticeably, while many worry about Chinese investors buying up land, British and Americans who buy up land go largely unnoticed. International investors are also equated with migrant workers, as with the case of Twyford’s ‘Chinese surnames’, which again could either have been investors or long-term residents.

Rather than projecting all of New Zealand’s problems onto brown faces, perhaps Pākehā could reflect on the real sources of New Zealand’s problems. Migrant workers are not causing the housing crisis, or underinvestment in sustainable infrastructure. Labour is proposing to cut students and ‘low-skilled’ workers, not people likely to buy houses or clog up motorways. In fact, middle-class Pākehā are far more likely to buy property or use motorways.

In a recent minor controversy, National Party MP Paul Goldsmith implied that the slumlord problem was primarily an Indian problem. Yet about 80 MPs in parliament own more than one property. As a Pākehā MP in his 40s, Paul Goldsmith is a far likelier face for slumlord profiteering than the young Indian student he spoke to. As Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign spokesperson Gayaal Iddamalgoda said in the Herald article on the topic, “if we’re serious about addressing the [housing] problem, we need to understand it’s a problem caused by slumlords and other profiteers, regardless of their surnames or the colour of their skin.”

Jacinda Ardern has recently softened Labour’s rhetoric about migrants, but maintained the policy of cutting 10s of 1000s of migrants. In that sense she is actually spinning a policy that was introduced by a Little as a xenophobic populist tactic. If she’s really worried about migrant exploitation, she should call for the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme to be radically reformed, or the international tertiary sector to be vetted for quality, rather than restricting free movement. It’s easier to pity the brown dairy worker than to confront the Pākehā farm owner who benefits from the exploitative RSE scheme.

Even Pākehā without the structural power of a politician, or a capitalist, often buy into these narratives. Facebook comment threads regularly complain of ‘real New Zealanders’ being shafted by ‘mass immigration.’ But if working class Pākehā are being shafted, they are being shafted by the powerful, not by migrants.

Wages are driven down because employers prioritise their bottom-line, treating social impacts as ‘externalities.’ Migrant workers do not want shitty wages. If Pākehā worked together with new migrants – for example in the Living Wage Campaign, which is supported by many migrant workers, and has won a number of victories – they could improve conditions for all workers, rather than competing in a race to the bottom.

For Pākehā to make things better, we need to get over our investment in defending ‘Fortress New Zealand’. In moments where anti-migrant rhetoric is high, we have the option to reflect on how we came to be in Te Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa ourselves. We need to recognise our status as coming from a history of immigration on this land, acknowledge who came before us, and find solidarity with those who want the same things as we do – housing security, living wages, the right to flourish and contribute to Aotearoa.

1We have used the terms ‘immigrant’ and ‘migrant’ fairly interchangeably, the article primarily concerns those who come to Aotearoa to live.

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Free speech vs hate speech

greer foul mouth.jpg

By Ani White.

Recent months have seen a revival of debate about ‘free speech’ and hate speech. As readers are no doubt aware, antifascists in the USA mobilised to ensure white supremacists cannot march unchallenged. Mass mobilisation in Boston led to the cancellation of many white supremacist marches.

Commentators such as Chris Hedges declared suppression of fascism to be a violation of ‘free speech’ principles.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defended the right of fascists to ‘free speech’, prompting the Onion headline “ACLU Defends Nazis’ Right To Burn Down ACLU Headquarters.” Philosopher Karl Popper once addressed this self-elimination as the ‘paradox of tolerance.’ Popper said that tolerance of intolerant ideas would ultimately lead to its own elimination: “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.”

The resurgence of fascism poses a special threat to democracy, the left, and to minorities. The contemporary US administration tacitly supports the white supremacist movement, so self-organised communities must defend themselves.

As an ultra-right movement, fascists perpetrate hate speech on every front; primarily racist, but also homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ableist, and so on. However, fascists are not the only propagators of hate speech.

It may be necessary here to define hate speech. Hate speech does not refer to anything inflammatory, or anything somebody disagrees with. Hate speech targets social minorities for abuse. Hate speech is violent, and nobody is obliged to tolerate violence, either psychological or physical.

The no-platform tactic, where activists refuse to host hateful speakers (or pressure an organisation to do so), was originally developed to stop fascists. More recently however, no-platform tactics have been controversially extended to others, particularly transphobic ‘feminists.’

Critics like Angela Nagle (author of Kill All Normies) accuse pro-trans and no-platformist activists of “tumblr liberalism”, aswell as denying “free speech.”

However, notions of ‘free speech’ and ‘liberalism’ are not well-defined by critics. When European radical liberals first fought for free speech, they meant the freedom to criticise the state. This sense of ‘free speech’ is still relevant, as states continue to restrict radical critics. This is an entirely separate issue from whether private citizens should tolerate violent groups, or whether private organisations should offer a platform for hate speech.

There is a further complication to historical notions of ‘free speech’, and of ‘freedom’ more generally. Under the liberal regimes that emerged after the French Revolution, freedom only meant individual freedom from the state. Karl Marx argued that this limited notion of freedom meant, in part, the freedom of the “egoistic” individual, the freedom from social restraint:

None of the so-called rights of man, therefore, go beyond egoistic man… that is, an individual withdrawn into himself, into the confines of his private interests and private caprice, and separated from the community… Society, appears as a framework external to the individuals, as a restriction of their original independence.

Ironically, critics of “tumblr liberalism” such as Angela Nagle argue precisely for the egoistic liberal ideal of freedom from the social world. This crude liberalism tolerates abusive alt-rightists as they increasingly run rampant, poisoning the well of free discussion (Nagle actively mocks those who focus on fighting hate speech, fascist or otherwise).

Controversy over transphobic ‘free speech’ has played out in New Zealand. In 2016, trans-exclusionary feminist blogger Renee Gerlich was refused a platform at Wellington Zinefest. In 2013, the Queer Avengers ‘glitterbombed’ transphobic feminist Germaine Greer. Greer has often been targeted by trans activists internationally, leading to accusations of suppressing ‘free speech.’

Defence of Germaine Greer often implies that her transphobic comments are ancient history. Yet Greer has consistently promoted transphobia over the decades, from caricaturing trans women in The Female Eunuch, to attempting to exclude a trans woman from a Women’s College in the 1990s, to describing trans women as “men with painted faces” during her 2013 visit to New Zealand. If Greer renounced her views and apologised, that may open the door to forgiveness and tolerance, but her continuing and unapologetic attacks on trans people are intolerable.

Even when Greer’s defenders acknowledge her ongoing hateful views, they do so in a confused way. The Australian socialist website RedFlag made two apparently contradictory claims about Greer’s views in an article criticising no-platformism:

Greer’s comments about the legitimacy or otherwise of trans women’s claim to the label “woman” are indefensible and utterly disrespectful… we must be able to distinguish between errant ideological currents within the left broadly defined, and the ideological representatives of the oppressors, which Greer is not.

On the one hand Greer’s take on trans people is “indefensible,” yet on the other she must be defended as part of the left. Is transphobia left-wing? Is bigotry acceptable on the left? Why do many leftists support no-platforming Zionists, but not transphobes? With friends like these, who needs enemies?

RedFlag’s reference to “errant ideological currents within the left” raises questions separate from the tolerance of transphobia in wider society. What sort of discussions should be hosted in left-wing spaces, with the ostensible aim of liberation from oppression and exploitation?

There is a certain amount of ‘soft prejudice’ that necessarily must be debated. For example, nationalist opposition to free movement is dangerous, but so strong within the workers’ movement that internationalists must debunk it rather than attempting to suppress it in every instance.

However, outright abuse cannot be tolerated. Hard racists who happily use slurs are not operating in the realm of reasonable debate. Germaine Greer is a ‘hard transphobe’, with entrenched views that have led her to actively harass trans women. Her hateful views are well to the right of contemporary mainstream liberalism and feminism. Tolerating these ideas on the left implies that outright abusive bigotry is acceptable.

Debate can only be constructive if blatantly bigoted ideas are shut down. If the left is stuck debating whether oppressive violence is acceptable, this hinders more complex debates about how to actually dismantle oppressive power structures. Meanwhile those harmed by oppressive ideas may drift away from the left, exhausted by the tolerance of hate speech, ultimately undermining the unity needed to transform society for the better.

Migrant and Refugee Rights Issue Editorial + Contents

MARRC Header (TWO LINES) (TERMINAL DOSIS)

This is excerpted from the latest issue of Fightback magazine. To subscribe, click here.

Ani White is a Pākehā postgraduate student/tutor in Media Studies, a member of Fightback, and the coordinating editor of this issue.

In the lead-up to Aotearoa/New Zealand’s 2017 General Election, Fightback and others have co- launched the Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign. In the context of rising international xenophobic populism, and the failure of NZ parliamentary ‘Left’ parties to take a consistent stand for migrants, we considered this an important political focus.

The following articles were initially solicited as a part of the campaign. However, as they came together, it became clear that this discussion must be broader and more multifaceted than the theme ‘Migrant and Refugee Rights’ captures; the struggle must be rooted in an understanding of colonisation.

Arama Rata’s excellent article which opens the issue, on the problem of euphemistic discussion of racism, frames the fight against racism against the backdrop of Aotearoa’s colonisation. Relatedly, The Guardian’s David Wearing argues that British xenophobia is inseparable from the country’s colonial past.

This broader post-colonial perspective must frame and inform the street movement for migrant/refugee rights, which the remaining pages focus on – with articles on Brexit, the German far-right, the meaning of the monarch butterfly symbol, and finally the fight against xenophobia in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The issue concludes with the kaupapa statement of the Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign. Contrary to dominant discourse which pits migrants/refugees against the ‘white working class’, we argue that what’s best for migrant workers is best for everyone; universal cheap high-quality housing, Living Wages, the right to join unions alongside other workers.

You can find out more about this campaign at marrc.org.nz, or Facebook.com/marrc.nz.

Contents

  1. Watered-down biculturalism: How avoiding the ‘r-word’ undermines our liberation movement, by Arama Rata
  2. Immigration will remain a toxic issue until Britain faces up to its colonial past, by David Wearing
  3. Brexit, Democracy and Oppression, by Neil Faulkner
  4. The “Alternative for Germany”: A chronicle of the rise of a far-right party, by JoJo
  5. What do butterflies have to do with open borders? Migration is beautiful, by John Lee
  6. Migrants are welcome – leftist xenophobia is not, by Daphne Lawless
  7. Interview: Why Gayaal is standing for Wellington Central
  8. Myths about Migrants and Refugees
  9. Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign Kaupapa and Demands

Right To The City issue Editorial

Right To The City

This is excerpted from Fightback’s latest magazine issue. To subscribe, click here.

Editorial by Daphne Lawless, a Fightback/MARRC member living in Auckland with her wife and daughter.

The growth of cities as the dominant social and economic form of human life on the planet is a distinguishing feature of the capitalist era. Before capitalism, cities were trading posts and places where the rich spent their wealth; but most wealth was produced in the fields, forests and mines of rural areas. This all changed with the Industrial Revolution, when the new factory cities began to be where wealth was produced as well as spent. Later, as industrial production shifted globally to the rising Asian economies since World War II, so the older developed countries shifted to “post-industrial” (information and knowledge-based) forms of production. Importantly, despite predictions that this would lead to a new de-centralisation, it’s been shown that information and technology workers produce more (and are happier) living, working and playing together in dense cities, rather than the isolated suburbs which sprang up during the cheap-oil eras.

All this just goes to show that cities aren’t going anywhere, despite some of the fond dreams of “back to the land”-ers, or the dreamers of suburban utopia. As long as big cities are where society’s wealth is produced, so (following Karl Marx’s political economy) that’s where the possibility of social revolution is to be found. Additionally, in the globalised era, the big cities are where the migrant workers and the refugees from war, poverty and climate change gather, interact with local workers, and thereby create a new global culture. Contrary to the reactionary musings of the “conservative left”, this cross-cultural intersection brings power and strength to the workers’ movement – if only that movement knows how to organise itself.

As Daphne Lawless pointed out in her 2015 article for Fightback – reprinted first up in this issue – big cities may (perhaps counter-intuitively) be our only feasible solution to the global climate crisis, as urban living (planned properly for need rather than greed) offers the cleanest and most efficient use of resources for both housing and transportation. Tāne Feary develops this idea further with his discussion of eco-cities and Transition Towns.

Aotearoa / New Zealand has no equivalent to the sprawling megacities to be found overseas. But we do have Tāmaki Makarau / Auckland, population 1.5 million and rising. So this edition of Fightback on Urban Revolution and the Right to the City makes no apology for concentrating on the “City of Sails”. We are privileged to run an extended piece from TransportBlog’s PeterNunns, in which he uses facts and figures to explain in detail precisely what kind of urban development a sustainable and liveable Auckland would need. Of course, the housing and public transport issues run together. We feature a piece from veteran South Auckland campaigner Roger Fowler arguing that zero fares (free public transport) is the revolutionary step that Auckland needs – with a few counter-arguments from TransportBlog’s Patrick Reynolds, to set us thinking.

Of course, development can never be thought of in the abstract. The current leadership of our city – with Phil Goff carrying on the general approach of his predecessor as Mayor, Len Brown – pays lip-service to bringing all Aucklanders along with the development of our new global city. But this has not been the history of what has happened in Auckland, where time and again the working classes (in particular the tangata whenua, as well as Pasefika and other migrant groups) have been made to pay for the dreams of their social betters. Daphne Lawless explains the intertwined history of Auckland’s “motorway madness” and the gentrification of the inner suburbs, which created an asset-rich Pākehā layer at the expense (in more ways than one) of Pasefika lives, and actually created today’s permanent gridlock. Two other writers expand on how this process is still going on, with Vanessa Day talking about the fight against dispossession by gentrification in Glen Innes, and Bronwen Beechey adding updates from Avondale, which could well become the Grey Lynn of the 21st century.

Turning to the rest of the country, Byron Clark lets us know about the wasted opportunities in Ōtautahi / Christchurch, where the post-earthquake rebuild has led to the same old suburban sprawl and petrol-driven traffic chaos. Patricia Hall contributes an eloquent plea for the cities of the future to be truly accessible – just as fighting racial and gender inequality benefits all working people, she argues, so fighting for accessibility is not just for the benefit of the physically or mentally impaired. Finally, Ani White looks back on a documentary from the 1975 Māori Land March, concentrating on the alliances between urban and rural tangata whenua that made it happen. With “back to the land” mythology still strong in the tino rangatiratanga movement, this is a timely reminder that the power of indigenous people in the globalised era lies in the cities as well.

The “Alternative for Germany”: A chronicle of the rise of a far-right party

 

Nationalism is No Alternative

German anti-fascist group Nationalism Is No Alternative/NIKA (Source).

By Jojo, a Fightback subscriber based in Germany.

22 April 2017: I am sitting at an intersection somewhere in Cologne, together with other antifascists. It is cold, wet and we had to get up early, but people are happy as news has reached us that other roads are blocked as well, and members of the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) are having a hard time reaching their party conference. Nevertheless, it is quite likely that the AfD will enter federal parliament after the elections this September. It will be the first time a party to the right of the Christian-Democratic party (CDU) and the liberal party (FDP) will enter federal parliament since the 50s. So how did we get here?

2013: The AfD is founded. From its beginning, it gets a lot of media attention that helps it to gain  support. Their focus is on financial policy: the AfD criticizes the government’s reaction to the Euro-crisis (supporting Greece with money, but only in turn for brutally enforced austerity). However, the AfD does not criticize this from a standpoint of solidarity with the Greek working class (as the leftist Blockupy network did), but from the standpoint of the German middle- to upper-class tax payer who does not want their tax money being spent on the Greeks. This program is also reflected in the party’s personnel: Its leader and founder is Bernd Lucke, a professor of economics.

The AfD has already developed a program on immigration, demanding stricter rules, but this is not yet the main focus. In the federal election this year, the AfD gets 4.7%, but because of the 5% threshold does not enter parliament.

May 2014: The AfD enters the European Parliament with 7.1%. During the year, they also enter several regional parliaments in Germany.

October 2014: In Dresden (a town in what used to be the GDR or East Germany), 350 people rally under the slogan “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident” (Pegida). They continue demonstrating every Monday, like the opposition in the GDR from whom they also take the slogan “we are the people”. Their numbers will grow to over 10,000 in December. Though they are not formally connected to the AfD, these are also people who would self-identify as ordinary citizens and not as Nazis, but who nevertheless promote a racist agenda. If the AfD is the parliamentary wing of the shift-to-the-right in Germany over the last few years, Pegida is the extra-parliamentary wing. However, they present themselves as a bit too radical for large parts of the AfD, so the party has no clear position on Pegida and will continue to argue about this issue during the coming years.

4 July 2015: At a conference, the party votes for Frauke Petry as the new leader, replacing Bernd Lucke. Lucke leaves the party and founds another one, which will not be as successful as AfD. This split marks a shift in how the party presents itself: While Lucke wanted to have a serious, bourgeois party and his focus was mainly on currency-politics, Petry represents the new AfD, which is far more populist and more openly xenophobic, racist and anti-feminist. With this shift, the party’s electorate also changes: While they still have cross-class support, more and more working-class voters vote for the AfD. Their support also grows in the former East Germany.

August 2015: Thousands of migrants, many of whom have fled the civil war in Syria, come to Germany over the Balkan route. Crowds of people welcome the migrants at the train stations and many organize in networks of refugee support, filling a gap left by the state. This shows that there is still a big portion of people that do not see migrants as potential enemies – is this a basis for a successful struggle against the AfD?

29 September 2015: The federal government reacts to the summer of migration (which is also called the “refugee crisis” in  mainstream discourse) and to far-right mobilisations with the “asylum package I” – speeding up the asylum process, declaring more countries “safe” (so people can be deported to them) and stopping the announcement of deportations (now refugees will be arrested and deported without any prior notice). In 2016, package II follows. Just like in the 90s, the centrist parties (now including the Greens) react to the far-right by adopting its policies.

New Year’s Eve 2015/2016: In Cologne, groups of young men sexually harass women in the main train station. Many are of North-African or Arab nationalities, which will in the following weeks and months be used in racist discourse to portray North-African and Arab men as sexual predators. The far-right including the AfD, that is otherwise strictly anti-feminist, discovers women’s rights for their agenda – these rights can now be defended against migrants. Feminist and leftist groups will answer with a demonstration on International Women’s Day under the motto “our feminism is anti-racist”.

31 January 2016: The communist alliance “Ums Ganze” (“everything is at stake”) has called for a nation-wide meeting of anti-racists and antifascists in Frankfurt. Activists discuss what to do in this situation – so far, many antifascists have felt rather paralysed by the rise of the AfD which they could not prevent. After the meeting, UG launches the campaign “Nationalismus ist keine Alternative” (NIKA, “Nationalism is no alternative”). NIKA is an open campaign and a label that groups can take up to relate to each other. NIKA instigates a lot of small creative actions that do not need many activists but are good for publishing on social media.

The hope that those who showed solidarity for migrants in summer 2015 could be mobilised to join the struggle against the AfD and against asylum packages I and II will only partially be fulfilled. But at least there is now an effective campaign that organizes antifascists and anti-racists.

The AfD’s election campaigns this year are interrupted by these actions and others, but that does not prevent the party entering several more regional parliaments and reaching results far over 10%. The party’s rhetoric radicalises further, e.g. AfD politician Beatrix von Storch suggests shooting refugees to prevent them crossing the border. In the Saarland region, the AfD cooperates with the neo-Nazi NPD; an attempt to kick out this regional branch fails.

3 September 2016: In Berlin, a nation-wide demonstration against the AfD takes place, organised by the alliance “Stand Up Against Racism”, but the participant numbers are below expectations. The intention of “Stand Up Against Racism” was to form a broad alliance including trade unions, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. However, the inclusion of these organisations does not lead to a bigger mobilisation. It remains mainly the job of the radical left to challenge the AfD.

New Year’s Eve 2016/2017: As a reaction to last year’s New Year’s Eve, the police in Cologne now use racial profiling to prevent every North-African-/Arab-looking man who is single or with a group of other men from entering the square in front of the main station. Once again, the state adopts far-right policies.

17 January 2017: Björn Höcke, a far-right politician of the AfD in former East Germany, holds a speech in front of the party’s youth organisation. He demands a “180 degree change” in the politics of commemoration concerning the Holocaust. He says: “We Germans are the only people in the world who have planted a memorial of shame in the heart of their capital”. He is criticised for this blatant anti-Semitism by members of his own party and the leadership tries to expel him. This debate is part of a bigger clash between factions within the party. After Frauke Petry took over from Lucke who was too moderate for her in 2015, now her faction fears that  ultra-radical politicians like Höcke could endanger the party’s image.

On 22 April, we at least succeeded in delaying the AfD conference for more than an hour. After the blockades, there are several big demonstrations in the city. As Cologne likes to present itself as an open city, it is easily possible to mobilise big parts of civil society here, including the Carnival committees. This day was a success for us, but the AfD seems to carry on despite their inner disputes. The leading duo for the federal elections will consist on the one hand of Alexander Gauland, who supports Björn Höcke and has similar positions, and on the other hand of Alice Weider, who was in favour of Höcke’s expulsion but said she would support his election campaign if he stays in the party. So the different factions seem to get along with each other. The prospect of ending the election success of the AfD in a short term is thus unlikely. While it is important to interrupt their election campaigns, the radical left needs long term strategies on how to go onto the offensive, push forward its own leftist politics and get rid of the basic problems in society that make the success of far-right populism possible.

“Wellington, here we come” – The Māori Land March (1975) as a claim on urban space

Ani White is a postgraduate Media Studies student.

This article was written for Fightback’s magazine on Urban Revolution and the Right to the City. To subscribe to Fightback’s publications, click here.

Te Matakite o Aotearoa: The Māori Land March is a documentary depicting the Māori Land March of 1975, which was a key moment in the ‘Māori Renaissance’ of the 1970s. A growing, youthful urban Māori movement fused with existing rural forms of Māori organisation to organise the March, which contested urban rhythms imposed by colonisation and capitalism, asserting an indigenous rhythm through unified ways of vocalising and walking in urban space. The narrative of this documentary presents unity between rural and urban Māori, and thereby contests colonial ownership of urban spaces. My analysis draws on European theorisation of urban space, while seeking to supplement its limitations with indigenous and Kaupapa Māori theory.

The city and indigeneity

Urban indigeneity poses a contradiction in colonial mythology. Colonial projects in Aotearoa / New Zealand and in other settler nations such as Canada and Australia have depicted indigeneity as essentially rural, thereby casting urban indigeneity as “inauthentic”. However, this image erases both the reality that most indigenous people live in cities, and that cities are built on appropriated indigenous land. More fundamentally, the call for indigenous sovereignty always has implications for urban space that are often neglected:

“Most cities are located on sites traditionally used by Indigenous peoples… The creation of Indigenous “homelands” outside of cities is in itself a colonial invention. Moreover, for many indigenous peoples, ancestral homelands are not contained in the small parcels of land found in reserves, reservations, and rural Māori and rural Aboriginal Australian settlements; rather, they are the larger territories that include contemporary urban settlements” (Peters and Andersen 7-8)

Indigenous claims could thus be considered in terms of the right to the city, a slogan coined by French Marxist Henri Lefebvre. Lefebvre suggested that “the city” as object is always falling away, leaving “the urban” as a surrounding space. He would later begin to more broadly theorise the role of the class struggle in “the production of space,” not simply the city. However, Marxist geographer David Harvey suggests that while Lefebvre’s intellectual legacy may be important to theorising ‘the right to the city,’ actually-existing urban social movements offer more explanatory value. Lefebvre himself similarly contends that “only social force,” in the form of “groups, social classes and class fractions,” can solve the problems of urban space.

The core of Kaupapa Māori has been defined as “the affirmation and legitimation of being Māori”. Although Kaupapa Māori theory has only recently been codified in academic work, its heritage is older, particularly drawing on oral history. I will therefore refer to both the filmed verbal accounts of participants in the march, and more recent Kaupapa Māori scholarship where relevant. Alongside centring the verbal speech acts of movement participants, I will also refer to Michel de Certeau’s discussion of walking as a kind of ‘speech act’ that defines and is defined by urban environments.

Historical context

Young urban Māori played a key role in the ‘Renaissance’ of the 1970s, undermining attempts at assimilation. Before World War II, 90% of Māori lived in rural spaces. The post-war era saw substantial Māori urbanisation, driven partly by state policy, both to meet labour needs and in an attempt at assimilation. However, despite this attempt at assimilation, the majority of urban Māori continued to identify with their tribal heritage. By the 1970s, “radical urban indigeneity” increasingly threatened the state as it mingled with other radical urban currents. Historian Aroha Harris explains the significance of younger, urban, educated Māori layers in the indigenous movement of the 1970s:

“Amongst the many critics [of ongoing land grabs] was a group of Māori university students and graduates, which evolved a few years later into Ngā Tamatoa. Members were young, educated, and urbanised; some were unionists, others experienced political activists. They were leaders and social commentators recently come-of-age, the new face of Māori activism. For Ngā Tamatoa, Māori affairs policy provided some immediate catalysts for modern Māori protest. Although many of the issues they raised were long-standing, like te reo and the Treaty of Waitangi, the reasons for protest and resistance were contemporary, like the politics of integration and marginalisation in the cities. Ngā Tamatoa also heralded a new analysis of the Māori experience of colonisation; one that understood racism and how it worked”.

The production of Te Matakite o Aotearoa: The Māori Land March was enabled in part by these new urban groups; Ngā Tamatoa, the Polynesian Panther Party and New Perspectives on Race (a group involving both Māori and Pākehā) are credited as key coordinators of the film, among others. The Māori Land March of 1975 was also a high point for unity between these younger urban formations and “older rural traditionalists”. New urban groups such as Ngā Tamatoa combined forces with older Māori collectives including the Māori Council, uniting to frame the Treaty of Waitangi as a tool for historical redress.

Cultural critic Brendan Hokowhitu contends that, although won through unified struggle, the ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi Act (1975) and the Waitangi Tribunal came to reproduce exclusion of urban Māori as “inauthentic” Arguably this is a case of the limited “decolonisation” seen in many settler-colonial polities over the 20th century, which saw a transition from classically assimilationist colonisation to a more sophisticated “incorporation by recognition,” leaving underlying power relations largely intact. The decades-long tension between sections of the Māori sovereignty movement, produced partly through negotiation and compromise with the Crown, was prefigured in the aftermath of the 1975 Māori Land March. Differences between young militants Ngā Tamatoa and respected elder Dame Whina Cooper emerged immediately after the march, with Ngā Tamatoa staying at parliament after Cooper had advised them to disperse. Despite this thorny aftermath, the march itself presented a unified front, and Harris concludes that “its dignity has made a permanent impression on New Zealand’s history”.Contention between sections of the movement is not presented in the documentary Te Matakite o Aotearoa: The Māori Land March, which concludes with the march arriving at parliament and presenting its demands.

Talking out and talking in

The documentary Te Matakite o Aotearoa: The Māori Land March “talks out” to Pākehā audiences as part of a strategy for historical redress. Barry Barclay, a Ngāti Apa filmmaker and Kaupapa Māori theorist, considers filmmaking in terms of hui, or conversation based on principles of mutual respect. Barclay suggests a distinction between “talking out” to Pākehā audiences and “talking in” among Māori. This perhaps chimes with Australian Aboriginal (Yiman) sociologist and film critic Marcia Langton’s suggestion that ‘Aboriginality’ in film can be defined by three overlapping fields of interaction – colonial stereotypes of Aboriginality, dialogue between Aboriginal cultures, and dialogue between Aborigines and non-Aborigines. I suggest that while the Māori Land March was enabled by “talking in” among Māori – between different iwi, between young and old, between urban and rural Māori – the documentary and march are also acts of “talking out” to Pākehā. As a Pākehā viewer, I seek to engage in the dialogical space created by the film.

On an institutional level, the documentary was produced for TV2, with a majority-Pākehā audience. Within the film, use of Te Reo Māori is usually repeated in English (especially in interviews and narration). This implies an audience that speaks English and not Te Reo Māori – not necessarily a Pākehā audience, but certainly including Pākehā. At the beginning of the film, prominent activist Eva Rickards explains the significance of whenua to Māori people, again implying an audience that may not be versed in Te Ao Māori, yet grounding the story in that world. In an interview after the outset of the march, leading Ngā Tamatoa member Tama Poata explains that he considers Pākehā awareness to be one of the movement’s key goals:

“Something extraordinary has to be done about [land theft], to make the bulk of New Zealanders aware of the situation because there’s not enough of them aware in my opinion what the real facts are related to Māori land.”

The film presents a united front to audiences; between rural and urban Māori, younger and older, men and women, between iwi, and with the minority of Pākehā who participated. In interviews, movement leaders emphasise the unity of the march, particularly across generational lines. Tama Poata underlines that “old and young” have come together for the march, describing the sense of unity as “extraordinary.” Esteemed kuia and movement leader Whina Cooper later echoes this sentiment, explaining in an interview before the final stretch of the hikoi:

“Our young people are changing. They’re finding out now that to go alone without the support of the old people, they won’t reach the goal that they want to reach. So now they’re following the old people around to get all the knowledge of the past, so as to stand as a kind of an instrument for the future.”

In a more incidental way, footage of meetings shows the cooperation between various actors necessary to organise this month-long hikoi. Practical affairs – allocation of vehicles, medical care for people with blisters or injuries – are delegated in a deliberative way acknowledging varying knowledges, skills and needs. Tama Poata also mentions in an interview that men are doing the dishes, acknowledging the division of unpaid labour necessary for a unified collective feat on this scale. The community forged by the hikoi could be considered a form of kaupapa whānau, a family forged out of common aims and outlook, not necessarily or solely out of kinship ties.

Walking as speech

The combination of verbal accounts and walking as a unified ‘speech act’ contests colonial arrangements of urban space and time. De Certeau suggests that walking “follows” place names, both mobilised by the names and investing them with new meaning. Early in the documentary, after marchers set out from Northernmost marae Te Hāpua, a kuia declares “Wellington, here we come.” In a sense Wellington, as a centre of colonial power, both hails and is hailed by the marchers, a form of karanga. Their hikoi follows and reshapes the possibilities of Wellington, as an urban and civic centre.

Lefebvre argues that urban rhythms can only be understood with reference to historical and natural rhythms. This is intended as a “poetic” approach as well as a “scientific” method. Rhythm-analysis of Te Matakite o Aotearoa: The Māori Land March reveals an interplay of natural, social, economic and urban rhythms, with the march setting a unified social rhythm that ultimately intervenes in urban spatial and temporal practices. Early in the film, a poem by Hone Tuwhare narrates the internal world of a marcher. Although this marcher is presumably Hone Tuwhare himself, with the poem containing biographical details relevant to his life, the particular embodies more general shared concerns. A number of significant, mostly slower rhythms run through the visual and aural elements; the rhythm of Tuwhare’s poetry, rhythms of the seasons and weather, the pace of aging, and crucially the rhythm of walking, a simultaneous rhythm that expresses social unity. Natural and social rhythms are interlinked, both at a measured pace. These rhythms exceed the urban, even the human individual – as the opening narration notes, “Whatungarongaro he tangata, toi tu te whenua; man comes and goes, the land is permanent.”
Despite this sense of slower interlinked natural and historic rhythms, there is also a more immediate urban economic insecurity to the poem, mentioning fears that Tuwhare may lose his flat in Dunedin. This worry of the everyday, the particular, the personal, manifests more general concerns. As de Certeau mentions, “to walk is to lack a place”, and in this case the commitment to participate in a month-long (economically ‘unproductive’) walk requires taking a risk in terms of economic security. Partly this is an urban concern, one of the necessary social “waste products” (poverty, insecurity) of the profit system, yet this insecurity also results from a more generalised alienation of land from the people. In other words this alienation is not solely urban or rural. Tuwhare refers to “all the different people worrying differently”, and underlines the togetherness of shared concerns. Marchers who stay the distance also have the comfort of shared homes, stopping off at marae each night, a prominent example of the “circular migration” that can allow urban indigenous people to retain connections with rural indigenous communities.

land march auckland

Source: National Library.

Unity and urban space

This conscious togetherness allows the marchers to contest urban spatio-temporality effectively; through Auckland to Wellington. In what has become a definitive image of the Māori Land March, thousands of marchers cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge. This image is arguably so definitive because it contests urban space, placing a claim on a notable urban landmark. In the documentary, the camera follows cars first, clear embodiments of urban rhythm, until the march passes through the background. Cars continue to dominate the foreground for a few shots (although waiata become more audible than cars), before the film moves in closer to the march, and finally cuts to a more widely photographed and circulated genre of angles on this historic moment; long shots facing back toward the marchers as they stream off the bridge in the foregound. Although the marchers are not blocking traffic, instead using the footpath, they eclipse the stream of cars, even dwarfing the bridge from certain angles. Urban codes of space and time are transformed, inverted, if only temporarily; Māori primacy is clear. Ngāti Whātua leader Joe Hawke, who led the march across the harbour bridge, explains in a filmed interview that the bridge was built on Ngāti Whātua land, and the iwi never received compensation. Soon after explaining the significance of this action for his iwi, Hawke explains the significance of the march more broadly, commenting that “this is the first time I have ever seen our Māori people in some way become a unified voice.”
The significance of the march is both in its display of indigenous unity and its claim on urban space. When the hikoi reaches Wellington, they march on the motorway, their unified social rhythm slowing the flow of traffic, urban rhythms interrupted through collective intervention. The motorway sequence begins with fixed aerial shots, narrated first by a Radio New Zealand commentator and then by Tama Poata, before moving in closer for a handheld interview. This movement in position is comparable to de Certeau’s ironic fears about the methodological “fall” from an elevated position of knowledge to the apparently unknowing space amongst the crowd, the move from “voyeurs” to “walkers”. However, the film clearly locates cosmopolitan knowledge among the crowd. Tama Poata discusses international indigenous struggles in Australia, the ‘Third World’ and the USA, finally asserting unity in diversity and dispossession:

“We vary in some things but basically the struggle is the same, those that have and those that have not.”

As the march enters the city, the camera joins, walking with the hikoi up Lambton Quay. Finally, the marchers enter parliament hailed by a karanga, vocalisation and walking again setting an indigenous rhythm in urban space. Without necessarily dichotomising urban rhythms against indigenous rhythms, this action interrupts colonial capitalist configuration of urban space and time. The film concludes with iwi leader Joe Cooper reading the “Memorial of Right,” signed by tribal elders, to parliament. Although these concluding formal demands do not advance an explicit programme for urban transformation, the march re-occupies urban space, a tactic that poses the question of ownership in the production of space. The formal demands are also more expansive and inclusive than what was ultimately implemented, including a “national referendum” of Māori for any changes to land rights.

Conclusion

The 1975 Māori Land March was a historic moment of Māori unity; between iwi, youth and elders, urban and rural Māori. As a speech act, a form of “talking out” to Pākehā, the Land March interrupted rhythms imposed by colonisation and capitalism, asserting a unified indigenous rhythm through collective ways of vocalising and walking in urban space. The narrative thrust of the march (and the documentary film) presents unity between rural and urban Māori, contesting colonial ownership of urban spaces.

Further reading

Barclay, Barry. Our Own Image, Longman Paul Limited, 1990.

Harris, Aroha. Hikoi: Forty Years of Māori Protest. Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2004

Harvey, David. “Introduction.” Rebel Cities: From the Right to The City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso, 2012.

Hokowhitu, Brendan. “Producing Indigeneity.” Peters, Evelyn, and Andersen, Chris, eds. Indigenous in the City: Contemporary Identities and Cultural Innovation. Vancouver, BC, CAN: UBC Press, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. Web. Accessed 23 April 2015.

Langton, Marcia. “Well, I Heard It on the Radio and I Saw It on the Television”: An Essay for the Australian Film Commission on the Politics and Aesthetics of Filmmaking by and About Aboriginal People and Things. North Sydney, NSW: Australian Film Commission, 1993.

Lefebvre, H. and Regulier, C. “Attempt at the Rhythmanalysis of Mediterranean Cities.” Rhythmanalysis. Continuum: London, New York, 2004.

Lefebvre, Henri. “The Right to The City.” Writings on Cities. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

Lefebvre, Henri. “Plan of the Present Work.” The Production of Space. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.

Peters, Evelyn, and Andersen, Chris. “Introduction.” Peters, Evelyn, and Andersen, Chris, eds. Indigenous in the City: Contemporary Identities and Cultural Innovation. Vancouver, BC, CAN: UBC Press, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. Web. Accessed 23 April 2015.

Steven, Geoff. Dir. Te Matakite o Aotearoa: The Māori Land March. Produced with the assistance of Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand, World Council of Churches Programme to Combat Racism (by agreement with Ngā Tamatoa and Polynesian Panther Party), coordinated by New Perspectives on Race, produced by SeeHear Ltd and TV2, 1975. https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/te-matakite-o-aotearoa-1975.

Accessibility and why it matters

social model disability.jpg

Patricia Hall is a queer mum of a 6-month-old, who has been working in the Creative Disability sector for some years. This year Tricia is a participant in the Be Leadership programme, which focuses on creating a more accessible society for everyone.

This was written for Fightback’s magazine issue on Urban Revolution and the Right to the City.

All humans have fundamental needs to which they have a right:

  • Food and clean water
  • Warm, dry shelter
  • Connection
  • Meaningful contribution (paid or otherwise)
  • Access to affordable, appropriate healthcare

We are also diverse and have various specific needs, which are no less important and should also be human rights. Historically those with higher basic needs, whether based on physical or sensory disability, gender, or being part of a minority culture within a larger more dominant society, have had to pay dearly and fight hard to have these needs met. Some may even have been institutionalised or otherwise isolated from society as too difficult, and sadly this still happens for some people.

However, if we turn this around from placing the onus on those who are “different” and instead focus on designing our world and cities to cater for all people, we begin to make lives more liveable for all of us. Statistics tell us that currently twenty percent of the New Zealand population is living with some form of disability. Even if we ourselves are not in that twenty percent, we do not live in isolation, all of us have friends, whanau, neighbours and all of us benefit from a more accessible world.

To give an example of how this is applied: improving access for wheelchair users also makes public (and private) places more accessible to parents with small children in pushchairs, to those with varying degrees of mobility issues, older people, and those with chronic illnesses. Accessibility means we can all enjoy the same spaces together, irrespective of these needs. Note also that not everyone’s needs are visible. For example, someone may be entitled to use an accessible carparking space for reasons not immediately apparent to a stranger, and nor should they have to explain or defend this need.

Much attention has been drawn in the media, particularly in the United States around restrooms and gender. Providing clean accessible gender neutral restroom facilities benefits not only those on the trans* spectrum, but also provides for those who may need to assist someone else (who may, or may not be the same gender as their carer) with their toileting needs. This may be parents with small children, or an aging family member who requires assistance. We should repeat here not every access need is a visible one, and we should not judge those around us on face value. A person who appears able-bodied may require the use of a disabled restroom due to a hidden issue; perhaps Crohn’s disease or another digestive problem. Again, people should not feel they must explain to a stranger their personal reasons for needing such a facility.

Accessibility matters not just in our real-world spaces, but also virtual and digital communities. As our lives become increasingly technologically assisted it is important that these are accessible too. Videos that are subtitled, alternative texts provided for images, and the ability for text to be converted to audible resources all help a wider audience of us to interact with each other and with the digital world.

Accessibility matters. It is no longer good enough to simply add a ramp to an existing structure, or add in a hearing loop, and say we have ticked the boxes and no longer need to think about being an accessible space. Retroactively creating accessibility to existing spaces is expensive. However, when we specifically design with accessibility in mind, it ultimately creates a more liveable world for all of us.

With rebuilding after the Christchurch earthquakes, and in our biggest growing city Auckland as it evolves in the era of the Unitary Plan, we have the chance to think about how we will develop our city as it grows. We in New Zealand have the opportunity to ensure that our future spaces for living, working and enjoying our leisure time are fully accessible to all people, no matter their needs.

Sprawl still the plan in post-quake Christchurch

sprawl chch

Source: Stuff.

Byron Clark is an activist based in Ōtautahi / Christchurch.

This article was written for Fightback’s magazine issue on Urban Revolution and the Right to the City. To susbcribe to our publications, click here.

Six years on from the earthquake that levelled much of the city, the population of Christchurch has almost returned to pre-quake levels. As with everywhere in New Zealand, house prices are up, but rents have fallen slightly from the high point of the city’s accommodation crisis.

Construction is now more common than destruction. In fact, much of the recent population growth has been driven by skilled tradespeople moving to Christchurch from overseas and elsewhere in New Zealand to participate in the rebuild.

The story of Greater Christchurch is different, however. When people moved out of the city following the quakes, many didn’t move very far. While Christchurch’s population declined, the surrounding districts of Waimakariri and Selwyn swelled. These continue to be popular destinations for people searching for relatively cheaper homes than those offered in the city.

In the past year, the population of the Waimakariri District grew 3.7 per cent, and that of Selwyn District 6.6 per cent. This compares to 1.9% for Christchurch City. Even before the earthquake, almost half the population from these districts either side of the city commuted to work in Christchurch. The northern motorway into Christchurch now sees 50,000 cars a day – 10,000 more than before the earthquakes.

Waimakariri is now the South Island’s third largest population centre, bigger than Nelson and Invercargill. However, the regional council (Environment Canterbury, aka ECan) has been ineffectual at providing transport options. In 2014 commuter rail was ruled out as the $10 million price tag was seen as too expensive. Yet currently, $900 million worth of motorway projects are happening around Christchurch.

Despite some bus priority lanes in the northern suburb of Belfast, public transport commuting from North Canterbury is no quicker than travelling in a private motor vehicle. Buses are an option mainly used by those without the option of a car.

Meanwhile, the new commuter town of Pegasus, promoted as a place where one could “live where you play”, was a spectacular flop. The development shifted hands from one property developer to another while those who bought homes there never got the promised amenities such as a supermarket – let alone the yacht club and equestrian centre that were promoted in advertising for the town.

Now a new development, Ravenswood, is about to begin construction. Larger but less ambitious than Pegasus, artists’ conceptions of Ravenswood depict – refreshingly honestly – enormous car parks surrounding the buildings in the commercial area. Anchor tenants have already been found: a supermarket, a petrol station and a fast food outlet. Ravenswood in its current conception depicts an anachronistic model of suburban living that is not sustainable in the twenty-first century.

In the south-west of the city, while commuting times might be shorter (thanks in part to an already completed motorway project) the same suburban story is told. Writing in The Press, Philip Matthews describes the new subdivisions of former farmland:

“Wigram Skies and other new suburbs tell you that the near future will still be car based. These are not pedestrian suburbs. You rarely see anyone walking. The monotony of housing is broken by occasional playgrounds and childcare centres but there are no corner stores and few community facilities. No churches. Shopping is the communal activity.”

The rebuild of the central city has looked more positive. With a new bus station and cycle lanes separated from the roads, Christchurch is starting to look like a modern city should. However, most central city apartment complexes and town houses have been priced out of reach for all but the wealthy, with some priced as high as $1.5 million.

The boarding houses and bedsits that once provided shelter to the inner-city poor are gone, and social housing hasn’t filled the gap. The City Council had 2649 council homes for rent at the start of September 2010, but only 2292 available for rent as of 11th December 2016, according to figures from an Official Information Act request obtained by the State Housing Action Network. Meanwhile, central government plans to sell 2,500 state houses in the city.

Avondale: Gentrification amid poverty

Bronwen Beechey is a Bachelor of Social Practice student, and lives in Avondale, Tāmaki Makarau / Auckland, and studies community development and social work.

This article will be published in Fightback’s magazine on Urban Revolution and the Right to the City. To subscribe, click here.

Avondale is a suburb about 12 kilometres southwest of the Auckland CBD. The area, known before colonization as Te Whau, was important to Maori as a transport route, as it is the narrowest point of the isthmus and canoes could be transported between the Waitemata and Manukau harbours. It was an important source of food, particularly kai moana (seafood), tuna (eel) and birds such as kuaka (godwit) and kereru.

The 2013 census showed that the Avondale population was made up of 22% Pasefika peoples, while 35% of Avondale residents identified their ethnicity as Asian. Avondale had an average unemployment rate of 12.1%, compared with 8.1 percent for all of Auckland. For people aged 15 years and over, the median income in Avondale was $23,067, compared with a median of $29,600 for all of Auckland. 23.6 percent of families were one parent with children families, while sole parents with children made up 18.4 percent of families for Auckland. 51.5 percent of people in Avondale owned their own home, compared with 61.5 percent for all of Auckland.

Avondale town centre reflects the economic and ethnic makeup of the suburb, with shops selling traditional Pacific Island clothing and food, cheap bakeries and takeaways (for a couple of months in 2016, Avondale had the dubious distinction of the highest number of D-rated food outlets in Auckland), and several two-dollar shops, interspersed with empty shops. Since 2012 there have been no banks, and no post office. Sports facilities include the Avondale Racecourse, which is also the venue for the popular Avondale Sunday Market. There are few other entertainment venues; and the Community Centre is only partly usable due to dampness and mould issues.

As Auckland housing prices soar, Avondale has become more desirable for property owners with its proximity to the city and affordability compared to inner city suburbs. The average house price has risen steadily from around $400,000 in 2012 to $753,200 in March 2016, and the average weekly rent from just over $350 to $480 per week in the same period. Avondale was also selected by Auckland Council as a Special Housing Area (SHA), with a mix of social and private housing developments to take place. However, the requirement for private developments to include a proportion of “affordable” housing was later dropped. While these developments will bring improvements to the area, there is also the danger of gentrification pushing out lower-income residents, as has happened in suburbs such as Ponsonby and Grey Lynn. As houses – particularly the desirable 19th and early 20th century villas – are sold and renovated, the original fence or hedge is often replaced by what some locals refer to as “gentrification fences” – high, solid walls. These suggest that the new residents appreciate the local character and diversity of Avondale, but only as long as it doesn’t get too close.

Mural created and painted by local Avondale residents for the 2016 Whau Arts Festival, on an empty building site in the main shopping strip.

Community development

Community development, according to the United Nations, is “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.” It can encompass anything from local residents organising a petition to have a pedestrian crossing installed near their children’s school, to protests against major developments such as the proposed water treatment plant in the outer Auckland suburb of Oratia. Australian academic Jim Ife, in his book Community Development in an Uncertain World, sees community development as “the process of establishing, or re-establishing, structures of human community within which new, or sometimes old but forgotten, ways of relating, organising social life and meeting human need become possible.” Community development principles emphasise sustainability, diversity, empowerment and valuing local knowledge and skills.

There are several community action organisations operating in Avondale, including Avondale Community Action, the TYLA (Turn Your Life Around) Trust which focuses on “at-risk” youth and Whau The People, an arts collective which organises the annual Whau Festival and other events. ACA and TYLA are both involved in a government-funded community project called “Together We Are Avondale”, which is designed to “encourage locals to participate and engage more in our community”.

One issue that has caused concern is groups of young people huffing glue in public spaces, including on the grounds of Avondale Primary School. A workshop involving Together We Are Avondale and other groups identified the need for upgrading some of the spaces to make them safer. Other strategies include stopping local retailers selling glue to minors, and making contact with the young people to provide them with appropriate help.

This illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of community development as currently practiced. The fact that a community response was initiated to deal with the issue, rather than just relying on police or bodies such as CYFS, is commendable. However, the issues that cause young people to huff in the first place are not addressed. This is largely due to the limitations that government funding places on community organisations, and perhaps to a lack of vision in some organisations. Jim Ife refers to the tension in community work between the achievement of immediate goals and the ultimate vision of a better society. He argues that maintaining a balance between the two is vital: “immediate actions cannot be justified unless they are compatible with the ultimate vision, and the ultimate vision cannot be justified unless it relates to people’s immediate day-to-day concerns.”

Although it has its own character, Avondale is representative of many other communities around New Zealand which are struggling with the legacy of neo-liberal cutbacks. Community-building and activism provide an opportunity to engage with the people most affected and promote an alternative vision of a fair and just society.

Economic apartheid: The ongoing ethnic cleansing of central Auckland

Daphne Lawless is a writer, musician, political activist, football player, e-cyclist and mother living in Tāmaki Makarau / Auckland. She is the content editor for this issue of Fightback.

This article will be published in Fightback’s magazine on Urban Revolution and the Right to the City. To subscribe, click here.

In any country with a past as part of one of the Western empires, you can’t sensibly talk about any part of society without discussing the ongoing legacy of white supremacy and racism. Urban geography and the right to the city is no exception. The most famous examples of racism in urban geography are of course the legalised segregation carried out under the names of apartheid in South Africa or Jim Crow in the United States, where white and non-white peoples were separated by law and by force. But the destruction of the Pasefika communities of historic central Auckland by a combination of motorway madness, economic segregation and gentrification is also an example of how capitalist racism feeds into how our cities are built – and how the Pākehā middle-class have benefited at the expense of other sectors of society.

Pasefika migration

Aotearoa of course began its colonial era with the forcible removal of tangata whenua from most of their land by the armed forces of the British Empire. For a long time, the cities were more or less restricted to Pākehā of various social classes, due to an informal “white New Zealand” immigration policy which was almost as effective as Australia’s more formal version.[i] This changed after the Second World War, when the economic boom meant suddenly New Zealand’s industries were short of labour. This not only led to the migration of younger generations of Māori to the cities looking for work, but government and business also targeted the peoples of the Pacific Islands – Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and elsewhere. Generally speaking, the jobs these new migrants were those that “a self-respecting British immigrant or Kiwi wasn’t prepared to do” – unskilled and low skilled jobs in expanding manufacturing industries and on the wharves.[ii] The Pasefika population of New Zealand climbed from 3600 in 1951, to nearly 94,000 in 1981, and was 266,000 at the 2006 Census[iii].

At that stage in history Auckland’s industry was clustered around the central city, and cars were a luxury which only the upper classes had access to. At the time, the well-to-do population of Auckland were using this new mobility to head towards the new-built “outer” suburbs of the slowly spreading urban sprawl. So, the suburbs that the new Pasefika migrants settled in were the working-class suburbs of those days – Grey Lynn, Ponsonby, Newton, Herne Bay, Freemans Bay, Parnell – which were within easy tram or bus distance of inner-city factories. These suburbs offered “cheap rental housing, much of it consisting of run-down old villas and workers’ cottages with no hot water or inside toilet.”[iv]

Someone who’s not familiar with Auckland’s history might be amazed at that list of suburbs, most of which are now on Auckland’s “most overpriced” list. Just recently, Herne Bay’s average house price reached a staggering $2 million. And it’s no coincidence that its Pasefika inhabitants are mainly long gone.

Motorway madness

The Pasefika community of the inner suburbs quickly put down cultural roots which still make their presence felt today. Today’s huge Pasefika presence in New Zealand rugby, for example, began with the first all-Samoan rugby team playing for the Parnell and Ponsonby clubs.[v] Many of the churches which were the centrepieces of Pasefika communities, and offered valuable social support to those “fresh off the boat”, are still visible in the area.

All this began to change in the mid-1950s, when the first parts of Auckland’s motorway network – including the Harbour Bridge – were built. By the mid-1970s, the suburb of Newton – between the Karangahape Road ridge and Mt Eden – had been almost totally destroyed for the creation of the Central Motorway Junction, aka “Spaghetti Junction”, the heart of the new motorway network. Meanwhile, half of Freemans Bay was replaced by a motorway connecting the CMJ to the Harbour Bridge – perhaps a lucky escape for Ponsonby Road, which was an option initially considered for this route.

As Chris Harris says, there was no need for a Central Motorway Junction at all – Adelaide, a city about the same size as Auckland, gets on fine without one.[vi] It would have been more efficient from a traffic point of view to build a motorway route from Manukau north around the western end of the Waitemata Harbour, avoiding the urban area altogether – something which will only happen this year with the opening of the “Waterview Connection”. Instead, all northbound traffic was sent over the inadequate Harbour Bridge – and right through what used to be Auckland’s working-class and Pasefika suburbs. Quite aside from the impacts on these communities, Auckland has paid the price for these short-sighted decisions with decades of traffic congestion and sub-standard public transport.

In 1951, the Government of the time declared that 96 hectares of Freemans Bay was to be “totally cleared and redeveloped”.[vii] Originally the plan was to replace the old slum housing with modern high-density developments. But as the 1960s and 1970s wore on, it became clear that the ideology of Auckland’s local and national planners was to clear the existing working-class communities from the central city altogether, towards peripheral suburbs along the motorway network. From 1976 to 2008, the Pasefika proportion of Auckland’s inner suburb dwellers fell from 23% to 10%.[viii]

Gentrification

The expansion of the motorway system meant that factories no longer had to be near the CBD to transport goods to and from the wharves. The manufacturing jobs which used to sustain the inner-city Pasefika community began moving to the city fringe as well, to places such as Penrose or East Tamaki. Understandably, many of those Pasefika communities displaced by motorway madness followed their work southward – where, it must be said, the new houses being built were usually of higher quality than the old Newton slums.

This new housing was built on what was then the southern fringes of the urban area: Mangere, Ōtara, Papatoetoe, and other areas which were part of what was known (before the “Super-City” amalgamation of Auckland) as Manukau City. Meanwhile, with Newton gutted by the CMJ, Karangahape Road – which used to be its prosperous shopping strip – began to decline. The big department stores and the Pasefika churches began to disappear, their place being taken by strip joints and sex work establishments – the origins of “K’ Road” ‘s reputation as a “red light” district.

But the decay of Newton and Ponsonby was also the beginning of the process of “gentrification” of the city fringe which gave us the million-dollar suburbs of today. Gentrification is “a socio-historic process where rising housing costs, public policy, persistent segregation, and racial animus facilitates the influx of wealthier, mostly white, residents into a particular neighborhood.”[ix] Ponsonby and nearby suburbs thus had their Pasefika population replaced by young Pākehā “who began to buy and renovate the relatively cheap houses available … to the west of Auckland’s CBD. They have been described as ‘young, socially liberal, tertiary-educated Pakeha’ whose motives went beyond the relatively cheap housing to include a desire for ‘new ways of living’ in an area which had an ethnically diverse population, and a reputation as a centre of counter-cultural lifestyle.”[x]

The “counter-cultural lifestyle” meant, in part, access to inner city nightlife and drugs brought in from the wharves. Notoriously wild-living rock bands such as Dragon or Hello Sailor got their starts on the streets of (what Dragon called in one of their songs) “Rock’n’Roll Ponsonby”. The gay community – social outcasts at the time – were also a vital part of Ponsonby and K’ Road’s new community.

What happened as the hippie era ended and the Rogernomics era began, though, was very different for the Pasefika and Pākehā populations of inner Auckland. As the long post-war boom ended and unemployment began to rise, suddenly Pasefika labour became surplus to requirements. “Overstayers” on temporary visas who were tolerated while jobs were plenty suddenly became the targets of “dawn raids”. The Polynesian Panthers – inspired by the Black Panther Party in the United States – were founded in Ponsonby and became the spearhead of resistance to this increasing tide of racism.

Meanwhile, as the level of owner-occupiers in inner Auckland increased, renters were squeezed out – there was an increasing level of “discrimination against Pacific people attempting to rent a house and many were forced to relocate to state housing in peripheral suburbs”[xi]. Conversely, owner-occupiers who held on until the revival of Auckland’s CBD from the 1990s onwards made massive capital gains as the housing market exploded. A villa in Grey Lynn which might have been available for sale in the mid-80s for something like $50,000 would fetch something in the range of $1 million these days. Thus – without even having to move house – the drop-outs and hipsters of the 1970s became the extremely asset-rich upper-middle class dominating Auckland politics today.

Apartheid

The upshot of all these social changes – caused both by world-wide economic trends and the specific housing and transport decisions of New Zealand’s and Auckland’s rulers – has been economic and ethnic apartheid. The old inner-city suburbs that survived motorway madness have become extremely valuable and sought-after residences for professionals. While 40 years ago Ponsonby Road was a grimy suburban shopping strip catering to the counter-culture and the remnants of the Pasefika communities, today it is upmarket, glitzy and dominated by privileged Pākehā. (Even the gay community, with the exception of what’s known as the “pink bourgeoisie”, have been largely priced out.) A house that a Samoan wharfie might have lived in in 1975 is now likely to be a million-dollar investment property owned by an older Pākehā person – who might never consider that their unearned wealth is the product of a whole ethnic community being displaced.

Meanwhile, the newer Pasefika suburbs south of the Manukau harbour have become a byword for poverty and social decay – 1970s Ponsonby without the rock’n’roll chic. Auckland’s manufacturing base remains in south-eastern Auckland; but in the modern, de-unionised and deregulated economy, manufacturing jobs are no longer associated with security, income and pride. The area of big employment growth is in technical and communications work – which, inevitably, is increasingly based in the central city and the old inner suburbs.

Chris Harris argues that Auckland’s geography combined with its perpetual transport bottlenecks (signs of the failure of the motorway project) have surrounded the central Auckland isthmus between Avondale and Ōtahuhu with “a kind of moat”, which the inhabitants of South and West Auckland find it very difficult to cross. In the current economy, this means that these communities are “isolated from the opportunities offered by good jobs, which are mostly in areas they cannot reach because the transport to get there is non-existent, too crowded or too expensive”[xii].

Karlo Mila has the grim figures on what this has meant for the Pasefika communities of Auckland:

72% of Pacific people live in the most deprived neighbourhoods (deciles 8-10) and only 7% in deciles 1-3. 40% of Pacific children live in poverty… A high concentration of the Pacific population is clustered in overcrowded, substandard housing in low-income neighbourhoods…

The creation of concentrated low income neighbourhoods has had social consequences for the people who live in these locales, and particularly for the young people who form their expectations from the world they see around them… One-third of the Pacific population lives in the area that was Manukau City. There, every ward has the lowest level of community resilience possible and the highest community need. Local council surveys show that fewer than half of Manukau City residents feel a sense of pride in the way their city looks and feels…

More than a quarter of Pacific female high school students feel unsafe in their neighbourhoods. A quarter of all students in Manukau City leave school without achieving credits for basic numeracy and literacy… The Pacific population has the highest growth rate of any ethnic group, with 38% of the population under 15 [while] no groups are as unwanted as Pacific and Māori young people.[xiii]

Although Pasefika people moved from the slums of 1960s Newton in search of a better life, clearly not much has changed – except that privileged white folks no longer have to pass through their deprived suburbs on the way to the CBD. The workings of the market and government policies have therefore shifted Auckland’s working-class Pasefika community “out of sight and out of mind” of the central-city chattering classes, almost as efficiently as South African or American legal segregation did. Moving social problems away makes it much easier to pretend that poverty, drugs and urban decay are someone else’s problem – a particular pathology of a racialised “South Auckland”, rather than the outcome of the same social changes which have massively enriched other sections of the population.

Ironically, since many Leftists opposed it, the Auckland “Super City” may help Pasefika communities to regain some ground. Representatives of South Auckland now once more get a say in the affairs of the parts of town from which their previous generations were excluded.

Our lessons

The lessons for leftists in this are:

1) Housing and transport are exactly the same issue. Choices about what kind of houses we build intimately reflect the kind of transport we build. Quarter-acre single-dwelling houses sprawling across former farmland go along with motorway madness, and vice-versa. On the other hand, dense housing built around urban centres and places of employment encourages public transport, cycling and walking, and vice-versa.

2) It must be our priority to fight social apartheid. It would certainly be easier to build high-density, eco-friendly housing in the working-class suburbs where land is cheaper. But this will do nothing to help working-class communities break out of their geographical isolation from the central areas of town which are richer in cultural, educational, and employment opportunities, and will in fact reinforce economic apartheid. Affordable high density housing must be built in the pleasant, liveable, central suburbs, while rapid public transport links must be built to connect these places to outer working-class suburbs, so that all can benefit from the increased wealth and opportunities that the rebirth of central Auckland brings. The City Rail Link taking 10 minutes off the train journey to West Auckland – and also enabling another light or heavy rail link to the airport, connecting Mangere and Onehunga to the CBD – would, as Chris Harris says, “repair part of the broken social contract with south and west Auckland”.

3) Likewise, we must fight the stranglehold that the beneficiaries of central Auckland’s gentrification have on the politics and development of our city. Daniel Older argues that gentrification is in fact “violence couched in white supremacy… the central act of violence is one of erasure” of working-class communities and their history. In this way, it replicates the colonial expropriation of Aotearoa which set up New Zealand’s unequal and racist society in the first place. The asset-rich beneficiaries of this deeply unfair and exploitative process now self-righteously stand against any developments which might re-open the central city to young people and workers. They must be politically defeated.

4) We must also support the actually-existing organisations in the new working-class suburbs – the spiritual descendants in many ways of Ponsonby’s Polynesian Panthers. Community groups in Glen Innes have been at the forefront of resisting the dispossession of State house tenants and the forcible gentrification of their suburb; while the “Respect Our Community” coalition, based in Mangere, have not only blocked a new motorway extension which would have demolished many houses, but are leading the fight against turning ancestral Māori lands at Ihumatao into more housing sprawl. Older argues that a central narrative of gentrification is a “discourse that imagines neighborhoods of color as pathological and criminal, necessitating outside intervention for the good of all.” But initiatives like the above prove that working-class communities in notorious “South Auckland” can fight back.

[i]               Misa, Tapu. “Auckland: The Pacific comes to Auckland”. New Zealand Herald, 2010 August 27. Available at: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1andobjectid=10667079

[ii]              Mila, Karlo. “Only one deck”, in Rashbrooke, Max (ed.) Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2013. pp. 91-101

[iii]             Misa, op. cit.

[iv]             Misa, op. cit.

[v]              Misa, op. cit.

[vi]             Harris, Chris. “A divided Auckland?” in Rashbrooke, Max (ed.) Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2013. pp. 102-4.

[vii]            Friesen, Wardlow. “The demographic transformation of inner-city Auckland.” New Zealand Population Review, 2009, 35:55-74.

[viii]           Friesen, op. cit.

[ix]             Older, Daniel José. “Gentrification’s insidious violence: The truth about American cities”. Salon, 2014 April 9. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2014/04/08/gentrifications_insidious_violence_the_truth_about_american_cities/

[x]              Friesen, op. cit.

[xi]             Friesen, op. cit.

[xii]            Harris, op. cit.

[xiii]           Mila, op. cit.