Editorial: Relationships are built on mutual respect

The Treaty of Waitangi, seen here on display, is New Zealand's founding document  and was signed in 1840.

The Treaty of Waitangi, seen here on display, is New Zealand's founding document and was signed in 1840.

OPINION: Despite being the tangata whenua of Aotearoa New Zealand, it is revealing of how Maori are regarded within their country that they are still having to defend their culture.

The recent furore over a Playboy Playmate's decision to pose nude on the top of Mt Taranaki shone a spotlight on the cultural divide which still exists in New Zealand despite more than 170 years of coexistence with Pakeha. 

New Zealand born Jaylene Cook claimed to have done her homework before deciding to climb to the summit.  And so she knew standing at peak of the mountain would have been frowned upon but must have considered, on balance, it would be fine to get in the buff for a photograph because of the payoff she would get in boosting her own profile, not to mention her following on social media.

This was not an honest mistake or unexpected scandal. This was a cynical publicity stunt. 

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To add insult to injury, Cook recently claimed Maori are not the indigenous people of this country. The fact falsehoods like this are still being uttered, no matter how flippant, is shameful.

It is a historical fact Maori rights have been trampled on and their traditional way of life severely disrupted through the process of colonisation, war and government legislation, which robbed iwi, hapu and whanau of their land.

Such actions were in direct breach of the country's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, and they are acts which have been acknowledged by the Crown, who have since made amends through the settlement process.

The Treaty of Waitangi created a partnership between Maori and Pakeha, but it still seems like tangata whenua are the ones getting the short end of the stick.

Maori have always been willing to korero on a variety of issues, to offer that olive branch to find a way forward.

But more often than not, their view points seem to be side-lined, diminished or denigrated.

The reality that reputable citizens like Taranaki man Dennis Ngawhare are publicly slammed for standing up for their culture and speaking out is a concern.

While ill informed quips and stunts like Cook's may seem harmless enough, it undeniably feeds into the undercurrent of racism which bubbles away in New Zealand society.

We as New Zealanders, as treaty partners, all need to consider the role we play in enhancing our bicultural identity whether it be during conversations around the dinner table, over drinks with friends or in the lunch room at work.

Like any good relationship it will involve give and take but also a genuine willingness to understand and respect each other's point of view. 

 - Stuff

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