$900 million allocated for Māori in this years’ budget, what’s not to like? Less than 0.3% of the total budget for Māori and the highest polling results for Labour leadership in years plus a country bound to collectively dream of banishing a global pandemic from our lands.

Māori have had very low numbers of COVID-19 and thanks in no small part to the mobilisation of Māori led organisations. Te Ranga Tupua Response Hub here in Whanganui made up of over 36 partners in the region including Ngā Rauru, Whanganui, Tupoho, Ngāti Rangi, Uenuku Ngāti Apa, Ngā Waiariki, health providers like Te Oranganui, Mokai Patea working with Civil Defence Emergency centres, Whanganui District Health board and local, regional councils.

Te Ranga Tupua Response hub, set up to protect our kaumatua and vulnerable ones from COVID-19 these last six weeks, as we traversed the NZ lockdown stages of Level 4 Eliminate, Level 3 Reduce and now Level 2 Contain and maintain vigilance, the hub has supplied care packs to kaumatua, food packages, assisted in daily groccery shopping, the fulfilling of pharmacy scripts, dispensed ‘how to’ advice and been available via phone to just listen when people needed to talk. Our collective success has seen our region lead in the highest numbers of vulnerable Māori in the country to have had flu vaccinations. So it’s not a COVID-19 cure, however as Wheturangi Walsh Tapiata CEO of Te Oranganui has explained, it has proved that Māori have listened and are actively taking steps to protect our health.

The forced stay at home for our local businesses that have seen them cease, reduce and unsure if they will rise again relies on a recovery budget. Māori already over-subscribed in the unemployment stakes could now see the health gains achieved under lockdown vanish under the weight of this further enforced poverty.

So it was a relief when the PM Jacinda led Labour government announced $900million targeting Māori education, whanau ora, te reo, health for Māori.

Money however, can not assuage the grief that our loss of consultation as regards tikanga for tangihanga goes. While Māori iwi rose from all over the country to decry the initial government ruling of only ten people permitted at a tangihanga in Level 2, eventually changed thanks to our collective action to allow fifty mouners all up at tangi, bars and restaurants are allowed to have up to 100 patrons and serve alcohol, schools are able to operate and yes, even sex workers were all green lit.

The indignity of the rushed farewell for te reo activist and tribal leader Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru under Lockdown Level 4 remains a stark reminder of the pain we bear unable to farewell a much loved teacher, poet, mentor in a manner befitting his mana.

In lockdown Level 2 it’s like an ongoing slap in the face. Māori could not be trusted to grieve appropriately under pandemic restrictions, but we can send our kids to school, go out and get drinks in bars and buy sex services.

The indecent haste of the ill-fated Public Health Response bill passed with urgency with its rights to enter marae without a warrant needs immediate constitutional review and reform.

Let’s hope the ‘Be kind’ campaign that has captured the hearts and minds of a whole nation into a self-enforced economic plummet for the health of people, is much much more than very clever electioneering.

No reira ki te Premiere a Aōtearoa Jacinda Adern mā he mihi ki a koutou mo o mahi ataahua i tēnēi wā o Uru tā, “Mā te huruhuru ka rere ai te manu”, kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui!

ANZAC Lockdown 4 Dawn

Clockwise L – R 1. MTS 2020 ANZAC service 2. Mere Wakefield 2019 3. Poppy Māori 4. Whanganui ANZAC 2020 5. Pakaitore 2019 ANZAC Māori soldiers.

Kia maumahara tātou. Lest we forget.

Walking down our drive in pitch black on ANZAC morning still living under government decreed COVID19 Level 4 lockdown, no non-essential travel, no contact outside of your bubble, no leaving your 2km radius, I felt a little foolish. Perhaps it was because, I had chosen to wear my nightie with an overcoat on top with sneakers, but what if no-one else in our street turned up? What if only we bothered to stand at ANZAC bubble dawn at our letterbox?

Never mind, I thought, we came to remember.

As a kid, I never really understood the ANZAC biscut making, special school assemblies and selling poppy mania of my upbringing.  I half pie knew that ANZAC was about the Great war, Australia, poppy fields and NZ being canon fodder. Perhaps we knew about ANZAC because one of our Ngā Rauru ancestors, Herewini Whakarua son of Rima and Kuki Wakarua stands on top of the Māori WWI soldiers memorial in Pakaitore. Dedicated to 17 Māori soldiers from our region, the memorial was unveiled in 1925. Purported to be the first in the country honouring Māori soldiers who fought in World War One, the statue atop of Herewini was paid for by whanau led by his father, Rima Wakarua a well known Ngā Rauru tribal leader, historian and Tohunga.

Whatever the reasons for our knowing about ANZAC, around that time of year, our mum would sometimes tell us tales of World War II even though that was a different war again. At the small rural Maxwell Primary School in South Taranaki, indeed not far from Rima Wakaruas’ homestead, Mum and all the pa kids would be made to practise evacuation, taking cover in the ditches along State Highway 3 outside the school gates. Even way back then, it seemed ludicrous our Mum, aunties and uncles, all Māori, were made to crawl along the Aōtearoa ditches for a war in Europe.

At the top of our drive, on the road that becomes State Highway 3 nearly eighty years later, standing a careful COVID-19 level four alert 2-3 meters apart at their letterboxes are our neighbours.  Relieved others had made the letterbox trek besides our bubble, I peered into the gloom. On both sides along the length of our road several other bubbles, had also turned out. Way more than I had expected.

A cool breeze blew as several early morning workers drove past and beeped ‘ kia ora’ to all our ANZAC bubbles, a gaggle of neighbours, roadside at dawn. One neighbour arrived smartly dressed complete with medals and a fold up seat, we all gulped and looked down, suddenly embarrased by our casualness.

Marching, in the streets of Auckland in the 1980’s for the majority of my peers Māori and Pasifika alike, was like the ANZAC school assemblies of my childhood, very social affairs. We marched to the beats of original protest waiata and haka, along with Bob Marley and Herbs, but nonetheless, it was organised with all the precison that a phone tree, carbon copies, printed posters could muster. We marched to Honour the treaty, Halt all Racist Tours, A Nuclear Free Pacific, Homosexual Law Reform, Women Against Pornograhy, Save the Whales, for Māori Language, Māori radio, Māori television. There were marches for and by Māori women movements and Māori land, language and sovereignty debates raged across the country from Waitangi to Wellington and down to Dunedin. Our lives were a kind of never ending weekend marching circuit in which ANZAC dawn ceremonies did not feature.  It wasn’t until I moved to Te Whanganui-a-Tara and had friends from Ngāti Porou that I found fellow ANZAC dawn ceremony goers among my peers.  

Standing in COVID 19 ANZAC gloom a careful 3 metres apart, one neighbour began livestreaming the Radio NZ service in te reo Māori and English on his phone, we all fell silent. I marvelled at how social media had conspired to bring us all out and then even send us a dawn ceremony at 0600hrs, imagine how World War I and II would have gone if they had had access to such powerful tools.

In the 90’s and 2000s I had an off and on relationship with ANZAC dawn ceremonies. I was all marched out. I attended services in Wellington at the National War Memorial with its great pomp and ceremony, gun salutes, carillion, live last post, marching military that only state occasions have, tagged along with whanau and the returned service men and women in Christchurch dawn parades followed by strangely comforting early morning alcoholic RSA brekkies, listening to veteran tales of wars past. When Māori Television took up the ANZAC dawn live telecasts from Dawn parades, it almost single handedly doubled the failing RSA memberships up and down the country. Veterans gathered around their TV sets to watch and remember ANZAC through the Māori TV broadcasts. Last year on my return home, I attended all three ANZAC ceremonies with my great auntie Mere. Now in her eighties, she travelled on the 28th Māori Battalian C company tour to Europe in 2002 and has never missed an ANZAC dawn parade. Auntie Mere wears her grandfathers'(Our great grandmothers brother), father, uncle and brothers war medals with great pride.

As the last strains of the RNZ broadcast ended, in the dark, neighbours began to quietly and slowly drift down the street on their morning walks or back into their homes.

I took a deep breath, for one heartbeat, it felt like anything was possible, anything at all, on this ANZAC new dawn.

COVID19 letter to whanau (from one of the 5 million foot soldiers)

20 o Paengāwhawha 2020

Te mirumiru 115 /Bubble Number 115

Dearest whanau beyond our 2km radius block,

Today like you all, I rushed away from my work laptop to my desktop in the home office to try and get a picture of me and PM Jacinda as she made her next historic announcement. You can see the results above. People have died in this war against COVID19 and yes, it’ll be ANZAC day come Saturday as PM Jacinda reminded us.

I thought why not put in a poppy picture for rememberance after all, it’s a special endangered poppy, y’know one that’s made here in Aōtearoa.

To be fair, the war in lockdown four Whanganui is going really really well. Not sure if PM Jacinda is going to allow this letter on the virtual highways of NZ to reach you – after all we are in a battlezone – but I hope Whanganui region does get a mention, somewhere.

There’s only 48,000 of us here and as usual, those soldiers in Tamaki with their 1.5 million are getting all the tests, special detention centres and to make it worse, masks that we manufacture right here are being shipped off to them as we speak! PM Jacinda will def. redact that ‘cos there’s a global shortage and we don’t want others finding out Whanganui is the epicentre of mask making in Oceania.

Anyway, our bubble is thriving after your ideas to make sure we get into more of a routine worked a treat. So now we’re only watching Neflix for five days straight (Instead of previously randomly and aimlessly watching them on an ad hoc basis) plus the kitchen is now a ‘no go zone’ …… unless its your turn to cook.

Turns out that throwing out all our cookbooks in the first week and eating out the reserve kai in the second food fridge and freezer in the second week to prove we weren’t all traitorous panic buyers, was a complete waste of time. Now everyone in the bubble in this the third week, is lining up to cook so most of our living area has turned into some kind of marae pantry/kitchen/baking/marinating/growing with a silver service dining table and a takeaway bar attached area.

Those of you that can still afford fibre and can get internet access will have seen my daily supermarket price updates on our bubble FB page, for those of you that haven’t made it out of your nighties or are too busy with the home brewing, get in your car and turn it on (staying in the driveway of course!) to listen to radio. You have to give the cars a rev up anyway unless the nominated shopper also takes the cars out one by one to keep them working. A BIG reminder, make sure the garage door is open before you turn the car on and listen to the radio. Anyhow, there’s this website to report price hikes but if you can get a radio, talkback has you covered.

Everyone in our block has been super on to it, no-one has been on the fence about this.

In the three weeks of Level 4 one neighbour phoned to say he has reported twenty-five incidents of people out walking dogs around the block and failing to take two metres of social distancing, imagine wanting to chat in a war zone. He’s reported every one to the police dobb in special phone line and I think he deserves a medal.

But back to todays’ announcement, our leader, PM Jacinda is sending us all back to the front line till Monday 28 April. That’s seven more days away, then we are to fall back to Level 3 for two weeks. She meets with all the Cabinet generals after that to see if we go back to the front line again. I just hope it all happens before our bubble decides to branch out into gourmet hangi cooking and take over the whole whare for preparations.

Arohanui from Whanganui

Bubble 115

COMMS UPDATES: We are running phone or email contacts only. After three weeks of being tied into zui, skype hui, Google hangouts our bubble sergeant declared a strict nightie, e lavalava, pjamas only battle dress code to get us thru the final frontline week. xxx

Maranga ake Aōtearoa

This week, Renae Maihi, filmmaker endured four days of court proceedings against her while Taika Waititi shook up the Oscars with his mihi to tangata whenua of Turtle island. Renae was taken to court by one of the richest people in New Zealand. ‘The millionaire property investor was suing Maihi after she started a petition calling a column he wrote racist, and hate-speech.’ (Meriana Johnson NZ Herald) The case was withdrawn on the fifth day after only one day of Renae Maihis’ evidence.

The case has been well-documented and taking a leaf from Prime Minister Adern book along with the Taika Waititi ‘Give nothing to racism’ campaign I won’t be naming said millionaire property investor either.

It is 25 years since the recclaimation of Māori lands at Pakaitore, Whanganui. At Pakaitore this week, sitting under the ‘kai’ tree listening to the kōrero ebb and flow around me, it seemed unreal that after the sacrifices, the struggles, the education that Māori are providing for all our country, that Māori like Renae are still being tried for speaking up.

Perhaps more poignant is that in the NZ Herald photo above we see yet another generation of Māori and supporters like Davey Salmon (son of Prof. Anne Salmon) Renaes’ defence lawyer and team rallying to support Renae and her kaupapa.

Renae joins Pania Newton at Ihumato and doubless many more not as well documented all over our whenua who every day wage the fight for Māori land, language and culture to be recognised.

It is time for all of this country to get ‘woke’ to Māori sovereignty. Perhaps one day, like the waiata of our prophet Mere Rikiriki Māori will awaken to ” Haruru ana te rongopai nei” until then it is as our last generation of Ngā Tama Toa asserted in the 70’s taken from the rangatira of Maniapoto “Ka whawhai tonu matou!”

(Pictured Above L-R 2nd Pat Hakaraia, Ratu Tibble, Leo Koziol, Dame Gaylene Preston, Renae Maihi, Rob Mokaraka, Hinemoa Awatere, Heperi Mita, Katie Wolf, Becs Arahanga, Suzanne Tamaki: Source: Meriana Johnsen NZ Herald)

Ngā Tangata o te Moana-nui-ā-Kiwa

From the call of a Tahitian kaumatua to help save their language and culture identity by the forming of an Oceania-wide new media fund (Pictured above), to Heperi Mita FIFO winning film “Mereata Mita: How Mum decolonized the Screen” to NITV Australias’ Anusha Duray “Nothing about us without us” and last but not least, FIFO co-founder Walles Kotra assertion “Oceania … exists only because we meet.”

FIFO 17th documentary festival in Papeete Tahiti was a blast. Made even more memorable for the aspirations of indigenous content creators mixing, mingling and exchanging stories from Samoa, Vanuatu, Rarotonga, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Aōtearoa and all over the Pasifika.

2020 Papeete with its homeless people stranded on waterfront parks in full view of massive tourist cruise liners, was as far from the Gaugin painted tableaux of my high school art history lessons as you could get. Markets run by locals are hidden in the back blocks while seaside shops with high glossy shop windows front the main roads.

Invited to take part in this festival courtesy of FIFO 2020 I jumped on the Air Tahiti flight (lovely turquoise plane seats with cushions of yellow, pink, red, lime cushions) not really knowing what to expect. At best, a documentary feast, at worst a chance to enjoy balmy island winds.

Tahiti as a French overseas territory is a long way from Paris but surprisingly, many of the locals I met, talked about Paris like we talk about going to Auckland, despite it being a 23 and a half hour plane ride away. Tahitian and Māori are so similar and I was forever being reminded “E kore au e ngaro te kakano i ruia mai i Rangiatea.”

FIFO documentary festival is 17 years old (one year older than Māori TV) founded by Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu now Minister of Culture Polynesia and Walles Karte now Head of Overseas Territories for French Television it has been a labour of love for these two. Now run by an impressive organisation it has gone from strength to strength.

While we were there, the announcments of the nominations of Taika Waititi and Chelsea Winstanley for best picture at the Academy Awards no less was like we won the film lottery, the world of native creatives had well and truly arrived.

With a large, local and enthusiastic documentary loving audience, endless warm weather even with the occassional windstorm and typhoon like rain, this FIFO is simply Pasifika magic.


We, the media of Oceania, assembled in Tahiti for the 14th Oceanian Television Symposium at the 17th FIFO Festival (International Festival for Oceanian documentary Film) make an urgent appeal to the governments of the countries of the South Pacific and members of the Pacific Islands Forum, calling for the establishment of a regional support fund for Oceanian audiovisual and digital creation.

In the face of:

  • Risk of losing of our respective countries’ audiovisual heritage, particularly due to the arrival of international content platforms;
  • Risk of our languages being lost;
  • Risk of a dilution of our identities and values;
  • Difficulties related to the dissemination and sharing of our work throughout Oceania and beyond, due in particular to the additional cost of translation;
  • The tsunami of formatted content that is far removed from our realities;
  • Erosion of our unique heritages due to a tsunami of international information. Furthermore, this fund would:
  • Allow story tellers from Oceania to relate their own stories and cultures, just as the FIFO has enabled them to do so since 2004;
  • Help create, keep talent in our region, and promote them internationally;
  • Respond to the need for digital content that is authentic to Oceania created from trusted sources;
  • Multiply the opportunities for the creation of content;
  • Stimulate excellence;
  • Aid participation in the emergence or consolidation of the audiovisual and digital sectors;
  • Foster the creation of jobs;
  • Contribute to the economic development of our countries;
  • Increase regional and international visibility of Oceanian works and cultures,
  • And participate in the essential mobilisation in the fight against climate change. There is an urgent need to create this regional support fund.

FIFO 2020 celebrates the success of one of this years documentary producers, Chelsea Winstanley (Mereata Mita How Mum Decolonized the World) with her nomination for an Academy Award as the first Native woman producer to attain this achievement.

Oceania has the talent, drive and passion to tell our stories in our own voices – allow us the opportunity to be seen and heard or like the fabled Huia bird we will be lost and our voices forever silenced.

Laurent Corteel (France) Gonzague De la Bourdonnaye (Nouvelle-Calédonie) Patrick Durand Gaillard (Nouvelle-Calédonie) Anusha Duray (Australie) Luc de Saint Sernin (France) Whetu Fala (Nouvelle-Zélande) Bénédicte Gambay (Nouvelle-Calédonie) Guillaume Gérard (Wallis et Futuna) Fabrice Juste (Tahiti) Francis Herman (Vanuatu) Gérard Hoarau (Tahiti)

Walles Kotra (Nouvelle-Calédonie) Faisea Matafeo (Samoa) Mateata Maamaatuaiahutapu (Tahiti) Jeanne Matenga (Cook Island) Teva Pambrum (Wallis et Futuna) Samantha Reynaud (Nouvelle-Calédonie) Stephen Stehlin (Nouvelle-Zélande) Stella Taaroamea (Tahiti) Norbert Taofifenua (Wallis et Futuna) John Utanga (Nouvelle-Zélande) Ashley Vindin (Nouvelle-Calédonie) Miriama Bono (Tahiti)