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Steve Elers

Dr Steven Elers PhD
Senior LecturerSchool of Communication, Journalism and Marketing

Dr Steve Elers has taught public relations, intercultural communication, and communication and tecnological change courses. His research interests include the analysis of representations of Māori and indigenous peoples and culture in news media, public relations and advertising using critical theoretical approaches. He has published in a range of communication journals, including Public Relations Review, Media International Australia, Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, China Media Research, and Intercultural Communication Studies. His research and commentary pieces have been covered by Stuff.co.nz, NZ Herald, TVNZ, TV3 and Māori Television.

Exactly. Tino rangatiratanga – or self-determination – shouldn’t mean reliance on the Government to house, feed and put clothes on your whānau. Tino rangatiratanga should mean being independent and creating your own path. Yes, self-determination.

Whether that’s being a part of Māori language revitalisation by training to be a teacher or being a successful entrepreneur and running your own business, whatever path you choose should enable you and your whānau to thrive. That is tino rangatiranga and self-determination.

The Government is not tino rangatiratanga. Māori should know by now that we should not allow the Government to determine our futures.

All the state has ever done for Māori is trap some Māori into a cycle of poverty and its associated consequences such as welfare, poor health, crime and so on......

In a column a few weeks ago I mentioned that former MP Hone Harawira had announced he was working with his iwi to put up road checkpoints to prevent tourists from spreading Covid-19 into the Far North.

I said then: "Love him or loathe him, that's leadership." And it is leadership. However, I don't think it's a good idea for anyone to be stopping vehicles unless they're police.

This is not an anti-iwi column – I am a registered member of at least six iwi across New Zealand, but I don't want them or any other community group stopping vehicles.

News reports and a social media video showing patched Mongrel Mob and Tribesman members working alongside each other at checkpoints in Murupara is understandably concerning.

Deets Edwards, a member of the Mighty Mongrel Mob's Barbarian Chapter, was reported by Newsroom as saying: "There's a good handful of us helping out. If we're not on the road then we're cooking kai. And we take it out to the whānau who are manning the checkpoints."

His actions are probably well-intentioned, but I think it's fair to say that most law-abiding citizens wouldn't want to be stopped by Deets and his bros. And that leads me to my first point – police vetting and background checks.

Have iwi checkpoint operators been vetted by police? Given the example above, I doubt it. Anyone applying to join the police has their entire work and life histories put under the microscope for obvious reasons. They've also passed stringent psychological testing.

In other words, we can rest assured frontline cops are of reasonably good character and can be trusted when they stop us on the side of the road. By way of social contract – not to mention legislation – we assign police with powers to which we comply.

As far as I'm aware we haven't assigned any such powers to iwi checkpoint operators to interfere with or question our movements. Hands up anyone who wants to assign power to Deets and his bros? Yeah, nah.

And speaking of power, what legal authority do these groups have to stop us at their checkpoints? If there is none, then why should we stop at all and what happens to drivers who choose to manoeuvre around them?

And more importantly, if they have no legal authority why are they allowed to continue to operate their checkpoints?

I've listened to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Police Minister Stuart Nash mumble and fumble their way through explanations about why they're not doing anything to stop iwi checkpoints.

Perhaps they thought if they let one or two iwi groups set up their checkpoints, it would earn brownie points among iwi? They probably didn't think other iwi checkpoints would pop up around the country too, which is what has happened.
By allowing these shenanigans to continue, our prime minister, minister of police and police themselves have put our health and safety at risk.

Sure, some iwi checkpoints have police officers assisting them. Having a cop standing next to, or supervising you, doesn't mean their skills and expertise are transferred to you.

That raises another question – why are police involved in the first place? The police website says: "Where communities have determined to undertake checkpoints to prevent the spread of Covid-19, police is working with those communities and other agencies to ensure checkpoints are safe and not preventing lawful use of the road."

Oh, please. If police think checkpoints should be operated "to prevent the spread of Covid-19", then go ahead and do it – with police officers – no-one else. To do otherwise shows police are pandering to certain groups.

Stuff reported this week that a Mongrel Mob leader and other gang leaders were having weekly telephone calls with police deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha. Given that Stuff reported last year that police response rates to answer 111 calls had worsened, perhaps Haumaha could share his number with all of us.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander.


Covid-19 doesn't care whether you're Māori or not – it's a virus and it doesn't discriminate. Yes, the 1918 influenza pandemic saw Māori die at a rate of at least 49 per thousand in comparison to Pākehā who died at a rate of 6.1 per thousand. But that's more than 100 years ago and at a time when most Māori were still living rurally and communally.

Of course, it's been decades since most Māori moved to urban areas – we live in the same communities as everyone else.

At the time of writing this article, Māori are actually under-represented in cases of Covid-19 infection according to the Ministry of Health's total cases by ethnicity data. So why has the government allocated $56.5 million towards a special Māori response action plan for Covid-19?

If targeted funding is about helping people with poorer health and unfavourable social circumstances, then why not target all people who are facing those issues? Surely, targeted funding for people who need it is the right thing to do when it's public money. This way, Māori who need the assistance will still get the assistance, and so will everyone else who needs it too......