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Ed Said - Protests overlap and little gained


dadWe have a God-given right to protest on matters of State, politics or virtually anything of minor or major public interest for that matter, but how we do it makes a big difference to the impression we make and the credibility of our protest in the eyes of those we seek to address.

Unfortunately this year organised, and predominantly dis-organised, marches in protest of the TPP spilled over into Waitangi Day celebrations. Apart from creating little more than an ugly scene in greater Auckland, said protests, in the end, impressed nobody and, in fact, probably backfired.

I was told of a specific group of organised marchers who had plotted routes and a degree of etiquette with Auckland City Council, NZ Police and the Transport Dept, and were issuing a peaceful, non-confrontational protest, which they did. However buses arrived from afar spewing rabble-rousers out willy-nilly in what could only be described as a ‘drunk and disorderly’ fashion to block the harbour bridge, lay across streets and generally succeed in their aim not of protest but of widespread disruption. Co-opting kids on such a mission is weak-minded at best when they neither know nor care what TPP entails, and placards carrying derogatory slogans just highlight that ignorance. One read “F*** the TPP” – what does that mean?

How did the TPP become the fault of Aucklanders just going about their daily business? Ironically, in the wash-up, the same old names and faces were to the fore. Many spoken to on TV didn't even know why they were protesting and the sight of 60-year-old women wrestling with police and lying in the middle of a main road deliberately disrupting the traffic only tips the weight of sympathy against the protesters.

“I'm just here for the next generation,” said one Maori man. What does that mean?

If Maori feel their sovereignty is threatened then grass-roots Maori should look to their own leaders who, collectively have had millions, if not billions of dollars in treaty settlements. Why has some of this not filtered through to their most needy? Several tribes have shown outstanding business acumen while others, northern notably, have spent frivolously on an ill-fated ‘investment’ in a rugby league team, a pub in Kerikeri, and a hare-brained export water scheme which has cost them tens of millions.

Well-read opponents to TPP have raised points worth discussing. In the end it really didn't matter what the protesters' placards said or what road they lay on, the deal was always going to be signed. A country like New Zealand must have free trade but that doesn’t come without certain rules and regulations and not every deal is a big winner. That’s what ‘trade’ means.

Waitangi, on the other hand, has always been frought with the odd extremists spitting, mud-throwing, tee-shirt throwing or bottom-baring which again simply highlights the ignorance of a minority and why would the Prime Minister need to put himself in the midst

of that? It was ironic though that the new Labour leader said, were he PM, he would attend every Waitangi Day event, when it was his predecessor Helen Clark who began the ‘staying away’ movement.

The Treaty is an important part of early New Zealand history and should be respected as such, but to my mind should not be quoted, chapter and verse, in every transaction undertaken by the Governments of the day. Is it really relevant to today’s trade and industry decisions? It should be safely held for posterity and on view within a national museum.

Do we really need a Waitangi Day at all? I suggest that the Treaty of Waitangi is no more important than the Magna Carta which promised, loosely, justice and protection of Church rights in agreement with the King of England and signed in the year 1215. Copies of the document are held in museums, cathedrals and libraries throughout Britain yet the Brits don’t feel the need to have a ‘Magna Carta Day.’

I think we should follow suit on that one. What do you think?


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