The politics of separation


How a pakeha from the wrong side of the tracks embarked on a journey for Waitangi compensation

He was white trash in a brown working class neighbourhood, but never saw colour or culture as an issue. Now he does. Businessman ANDY OAKLEY has just released his new book “Cannons Creek To Waitangi” on the future of race relations in NZ, and in this extract explains what drives his worldview:


In the 1960s the government was building state houses for the working class and they were extending the latest subdivision, Cannons Creek in Porirua East. My parents applied for a state house and subsequently moved to Hereford St where I was born and with my older brother and younger sister lived for the next 5 or so years. We were later to move to Astrolabe St, also in Cannons Creek, and I began school at Maraeroa School.

As I recall and looking at the photos in the mid-sixties, the cultural mix in our classes was half European New Zealander and the remaining two quarters were equally Polynesian/Maori. I have no bad memories in particular of these early years and no memories at all of cultural differences. For all intents and purpose we were equal.

Younger readers may be surprised that I stated that in those days we were equal, particularly if they believe what our curriculum has dealt them up as facts about Maori during the 1950s and 1960s. I really do believe that in those days (1960s) everybody in my neighbourhood and school had an equal chance either to end up in prison or be the mayor. A look recently at the names of the councillors in the Eastern Ward area of Porirua East (where I grew up), certainly confirms that fact: Ah Hoi, Pautoa, Rangi, Latham and Seiuli (2012).

I do not think that cultural differences played any important role in growing up and those from Niue or Samoa were getting cultural stimulation at home and Pakeha, whether they were French or Scottish or English, would get theirs.  We should not forget culture is “learned and shared human patterns or models for living; day- to-day living patterns”. We were all in the same space at the same time and being taught the same things in the same language… of course we were equal.

Was the Samoan boy, whose parents were recent arrivals from the primitive Islands of 1960s Samoa, missing out on anything because the Samoan language was not encouraged in class?

Was the Scottish kid, whose parents had come from the Highlands of Scotland, missing out on anything because the Gaelic language was not encouraged?

Was the Maori kid, whose parents had moved to Porirua from Raetihi, missing out on anything because the wearing of piupiu at school was discouraged?

The answer to these questions is obvious – of course not.

The truth is we were all mates and played bull rush together out on the fields at school and we played at each other’s houses after school. That was our culture and we did not want to be different from each other, we did not want to be living like our ancestors lived hundreds of years ago. Most children want to fit in, not stand out. I would have liked to see my dad put me in a kilt and try to make me go to school… not bloody likely! I may however, wear one at a wedding or special occasion.

If I really thought about it, of the three cultures mentioned above, in order of what we were most likely to learn about at school in Porirua in the late 1960s, Maori would be 1st, Samoan would have been 2nd and Scotland would be lucky to get a mention. As time has gone on this bias toward Maori culture has become even more prevalent, to the point now that it is impossible to live in New Zealand without the Maori culture affecting just about everything you do, at the expense of all other cultures.

It was during the late 1960s that, after school and during holidays, we were cared for by a Maori family up the road. They had four children, two girls and two boys, and once again I never experienced any cultural difference between us and them in the slightest. They had a Maori father and Maori mother, they were living in the same neighbourhood, going to the same shops, going to work in the same places and receiving the same pay. Culturally we were behaving the same, sure our histories were different, mine going back to the clans of Scotland and theirs to the tribes that arrived here in the late 1300s[7]. But I wasn’t walking around in a kilt brandishing a claymore (sword) and they weren’t walking around wearing piupiu, swinging a taiaha (club).


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