Chip Away

I love Aotearoa, the land, its people old and new. I’m just back from the 2010 Parihaka International Peace Festival and I can still feel the grin on my face like reverse botox. About half of our whanau went – 20 or so of us across three generations – and every one of them had a buzz. They all want to go back next year, and the ones that prevaricated and stayed at home want to come as well. Ka pai that! Its easy to wax lyrical about the place and the event. I was presented with a book for my efforts at the ‘Speakers’ Forum’. It has been written by Rachel Buchanan and is titled ‘ The Parihaka Album: Lest we Forget’. Buchanan makes a couple of points that I could express no better.

Parihaka is a taonga, heirloom, trouble-spot, muse. It is a war zone, peace zone, pop song, poem. Parihaka is a story told around a kitchen table, a sermon, a church, a sell-out art show, a hippy’s wet dream. (Buchanan 2009:1)

The Parihaka story is simultaneously a story of war and a story of peace, a narrative of Maori destruction and a narrative of Maori survival. It is a story loved by artists and writers. It lends itself to the poetic, the metaphorical and the symbolic’. (Buchanan 2009:12)

Te Haki Maori – deconstructed Parihaka 2010

You get the drift. Parihaka is intense and pregnant with meaning at the same time as being laid back and ambiguous. It’s a ‘peace’ festival but the theme this year was ‘war’, the war that has been waged on the community of Parihaka since the 1860’s, and the forces of occupation that inhabit the area still. These issues are at the heart of the 2010 festival and provide the grist for the mill for an exhibition to be held at Te Puke Ariki (New Plymouth) called Te Ahi ka Roa, Te Ahi Katoro – the Taranaki War 1860-2010.

The first contingent of our crew arrived at the site on the Wednesday. We set up our base camp around a 5×5 marquee and a big enclosed trailer. The trailer had enabled us to carry a fair range of equipment, gas barbecue, gas stove, generator, electric grill, electric hot water urn, tables and chairs, camp beds, a hammock, containers of food and utensils and whatever someone thought we might need – not exactly ‘glamping’ but a fairly nice set up all the same . We’d cut some willow lengths at Waiohiki and at Parihaka we fixed them on to the trailer and used tape to bind them into a roof structure with guy wires providing both stability and a convenient fix line for the wall tarpaulins. We’d parked up near an established fire pit and so we sent out expeditions to get driftwood.

Beach at Pungarehu

On the beach at Pungarehu I leapt up a bank to retrieve a log when I felt a sharp pain in my calf muscle. It was like being hit by a bullet and I turned to the brothers on the beach – “Did someone throw a stone at me?” I asked in a denial-like suspension of the reality that I’d just injured myself. By the time we got back to the Pa I was hobbling badly. Dave Heglun, stone carver and shaman, caught sight of me. ‘Den’, he told me after I had related what had happened “at our age bro you just gotta stop leaping”. He went away for a few minutes and came back with a jar of dark green rongoa, Maori medicine, this one made from tutu leaves. He boils the leaves for something like 36 hours then dries them and mixes them into an ointment with beeswax and olive oil. It has an anesthetic effect, and apparently opens the capillaries and helps the body heal itself – or something. Within about a half hour of application of a couple of dobs, well massaged in, the pain had started to reduce and in fact with regular use I was moving freely by the Saturday morning. Dave is an amazing bloke. In some ways he is as soft as butter, in others, harder than the blocks of stone he carves. He had his caravan set up, just down from us, near the stream. His mission was to carve a story out of a huge volcanic rock that poked out of the bank. He’d decided on carving a sort of topographic replica of Taranaki surrounded by little rivulets, hills and valleys, and, in front of the maunga, a heart shaped lake that morphed into the raukura, the feathers of Parihaka. The carved rocks are becoming a feature of the festival site and these runes will be evident for ages yet to come.

Dave Heglun – softer than butter, harder than stone

One of the magical features of Parihaka is the topography itself. The ancient lahar flows from the mountain have left a bumpy terrain with little hillocks. Over time nature has covered these with soil and plant matter, and water, wind, and man, have made further impacts. The water has cut deep streams into the volcanic rock, the wind scythed flat platforms and blasted steep coiffures into the hillocks, and man has built roads, bridges and ploughed the land into pastoral fields. The work of man is evident all over the place. Old pa sites dot the landscape but they are long abandoned and only the land remains to tell the intimate story of each specific site. Dave’s work will be here long after he and I both are worm meal. Despite the fact that it is slow and arduous his effort counts, and will do so for an aeon, given Taranaki doesn’t move again. I took some solace from this, appreciating that the year ahead will be a hard grind, once again.

In the meantime I lapped up the break. At night we sat around the fire. I’d brought a couple of sacks of pine cones across from the Bay to use as firestarters and these worked well. I didn’t appreciate that the driftwood would be so smoky and on the Thursday night our poor neighbors were all choked out. Aroha mai. We fixed that problem the next night by buying some dry macrocarpa from a farmer, and, by the Sunday night, in the wake of a huge downpour, I think most of our campsite neighbours were grateful for the warmth and cheer. Five of our team had been delegated to help out the festival organisors in any way required, so by Friday morning jobs had been allocated and a schedule well established. I had been organised to provide a number of promotional interviews and I worked these in with my musings on the korero I was to give on the Saturday. There was plenty to do.

Our mokopuna Rua, Emerson, Keanu, Shae and their mate Eligah

Maori speaking moko Keanu being interviewed by Maori TV

The tamariki had the Kidzone; the rangatahi could listen to musos on any of three stages; and for those of us less youthful you could soak up ideas and poetry at the Speakers Forum, join in on a practice as a member of the Parihaka Festival Choir, or get your aching bones and limbs subject to mirimiri, massage in the healing tent. As the evening fell we’d have our kai; on Friday Taape cooked a big boil up and whipped up a batch of her sweet fried bread, and this was supplemented by all sorts of barbie-cooked kai. After our meal we’d wander down to the mainstage and listen to the grooves, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Herbs, Ladi6, Tiki Taane. The latter artist choreographed his opening number with kapa haka, this ancient artform completely resonant with the contemporary beats of the day.

On Saturday afternoon I gave my presentation. The tent was full and what I had to say was well received. Regular readers of Nga Kupu Aroha will be familiar with many of the quotes and my stance on various issues, but for the sake of new readers, and a bit of revision for the old, here’s what I had to say:

I saw the Maori Jesus Walking on Wellington Harbour.

He wore blue dungarees.

His beard and hair were long.

His breath smelt of mussels and paraoa.

When he smiled it looked like the dawn.

When he broke wind the little fishes trembled

When he frowned the ground shook.

When he laughed everybody got drunk.

The Maori Jesus came on shore

And picked out his twelve disciples.

One cleaned toilets in the Railway Station;

His hands were scrubbed red to get the shit out of the pores.

One was a call-girl who turned it up for nothing.

One was a housewife who’d forgotten the Pill

And stuck her TV set in the rubbish can.

One was a little office clerk

Who’d tried to set fire to the Government Buildings.

Yes, and there were several others;

One was an old sad quean;

One was an alcoholic priest Going slowly mad in a respectable parish.

The Maori Jesus said, ‘Man,

From now on the sun will shine.’

He did no miracles;

He played the guitar sitting on the ground.

The first day he was arrested

For having no lawful means of support.

The second day he was beaten up by the cops

For telling a dee his house was not in order.

The third day he was charged with being a Maori

And given a month in Mount Crawford.

The fourth day he was sent to Porirua

For telling a screw the sun would stop rising.

The fifth day lasted seven years

While he worked in the asylum laundry

Never out of the steam.

The sixth day he told the head doctor,

‘I am the Light in the Void;

I am who I am.’

The seventh day he was lobotomized;

The brain of God was cut in half.

On the eighth day the sun did not rise.

It didn’t rise the day after.

God was neither alive nor dead.

The darkness of the Void,

Mountainous, mile-deep, civilised darkness

Sat on the earth from then till now.

Maori Jesus – James K Baxter

I think it was these words written by Jimmy Baxter, Hemi, that led me to join the Black Power and to dedicate my life to its members and our families. I am a patched, life-member of the Black Power. Yet I have come to understand that being in a gang, like being in prison, is a waste of time and of human potential. When I say this I am not being disrespectful to my brothers. On the contrary it is a statement of love and it is made standing shoulder to shoulder, side by side, in a quest for a better future for all of our whanau, and in fact for our nation. I talk of ‘gangism’ as the self defeating behaviours and misapplied intellects that many of us indulge in, rather than who you mix with. It is what you get up to, not your get up that is the issue. It is a theme appropriate for this sacred place, this cathedral of inclusive nationhood, and it is the subject matter of my korero today.

No reira tenei te kaupapa. Tuatahi, ki te papa, te whaea papatuanuku, tena koe. Te maunga nei, ko Taranaki, tena koe matua. E nga wai, nga marae, nga wahi katoa, tena koutou. Taranaki maunga, Taranaki tangata, Taranaki iwi katoa, tena ra koutou katoa. E nga mate, te tuahine Jaquie Sturm, nga pou, ko Rangitihi Rangiwaita Tahuparae, ko Dr Ian Prior ma, nga tini mate, tini aitua, haere ra, haere koutou. Kia koutou te hunga ora, tena koutou e nga waka, e nga mana, e nga reo. Kei te whanaunga ahau o te roopu Pakeha no Aotearoa, ko Tangata Tiriti ahau, no reira kia koutou nga tangata whenua, tangata tukana, tuahine, tangata rangatira, tena ra koutou katoa.

Gang has become an elastic term. It is applied randomly to congregations that the state and mainstream society wants to marginalise and suppress. It is used interchangeably with organised crime and even so-called terrorist groups. It is a label and a not very useful one at that. The late Justice Sir Clinton Roper, who led the most comprehensive enquiry into New Zealand gangs ever undertaken, and that was 23 years ago, came pretty much to the conclusion that the Maori gangs are more a sociological issue than a criminological issue.

Let’s reflect on where this gang thing came from anyway. You can start the NZ gang scene back in the 1800’s with gangs of drunken Pakeha sealers and whalers causing mayhem in Maori communities. According to the Police’s own history, “Policing the Colonial Frontier”, it was this behaviour as much as any other that caused the settler Government to establish the New Zealand Police. This may explain the attachment Police have for gangs and the significance they have traditionally placed on gangs as a proven means of ensuring their ongoing expansion and increased powers. This poor behaviour by Pakeha groups continued along the routes of settler development, especially mining. As one Century passed to another it was a particular cluster of Pakeha who were seen to be causing the trouble and these tended to be Irish Catholics, who at the beginning of the 1900’s were imprisoned at a ratio of 3:1 as compared to other New Zealanders, the same unhappy reality faced by Maori communities today. Let us say that two successive World Wars deployed the testosterone of the potentially troublesome youth through to the late 40’s. The drinking culture brought back to New Zealand by war veterans led to its own stresses and for the younger veterans this morphed into the rebel motorcycle culture, still mainly Pakeha groups. But a rapid, State sponsored, shift of young Maori families from rural to urban New Zealand set in play a new dynamic. These whanau were almost like immigrants in their own land. Work was plentiful, and, in the main, people were gainfully occupied. Their youth, sharing a gregarious culture and warrior instincts spilled out into the fresh suburban landscape and the Maori gang was born. One of the paradoxes of New Zealand is that gangs seem to form at times of high employment – presumably because our low wage economy has both parents working and youth are left to fend for themselves. The shift in the drinking culture after the change to the liquor licensing laws and extended opening times unleashed Jake the Muss and there was mass gang violence on a regular basis at the large suburban barn type bars that had become popular by the late 1970’s.

A decade of good times and easy employment came to an end with the oil shock and the recession. Structural reforms and high unemployment led to increased involvement by gangs in crime. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the cessation of pro-active social development programmes meant that gang members tended to pond, and not move in into more socialised lifestyles as they had previously tended to do. The void created by lack of engagement with society and the difficulty in securing employment led to the turn towards petty crime – selling cannabis bullets and so forth. New Zealand’s buy in to the paradigm of the international criminal conspiracy meant that we began to position our gangs as organised criminal groups and then the ‘war on terror’ conflated all three.The definitional problem makes it a bit hard to measure but Police gang intelligence figures submitted for various Parliamentary purposes over the years indicate that there were about 2,000 to 2,500 gang members from the late 1970’s through to the late 1980’s with a trend downward. However, since then and after a decade of suppression policies the numbers have increased. In 2002 – perhaps when the political needs were for a bit of hype and beat up, then Police Minister George Hawkins told Parliament that in New Zealand there were 6,000 gang members with a multiplier of 5-10 affiliates and followers – the conclusion being that up to 60,000 New Zealanders were involved in gangs. By 2007, perhaps at this point with a political need to minimise concern, his successor Annette King told the House that there were only 3,500 gang members and 40% were already in jail. Again its hard to get a grip on numbers. For instance in 2006, when concern over youth gangs swept Auckland in the wake of eight gang related murders, Police Intelligence reports contended that there were over 85 youth gangs in South Auckland alone. As I’ve already noted the fact is we just don’t really know because we can’t accurately define what constitutes being a ‘gang member’. This is because gangs create what oft quoted sociologist Stanley Cohen calls ‘moral panic’ and logic and proportionality go out the window.

As a word, ‘gang’ has lost real meaning in NZ for it conjures up the image of young-violent-leather-clad-Maori working off testosterone by terrorising the local populace. However, globalisation has brought us real criminal gangs, nicely dressed chaps and lasses of any of a number of ethnicities, Israeli, Russian, African, Arabic, and if you want to talk about methamphetamine, Asian. Regardless, for most New Zealanders ‘gangs’ are the Black Power and the Mongrel Mob, Hemi and Hori in leathers lurking around the mall. We can’t really even get a workable definition of what constitutes a gang – or in the parlance of the day – an organised criminal group. We fixate on the clusters of poor and brown in South Auckland and their alleged nefariousness, whilst blithely accepting the impacts of shonky behaviour in the financial sector. The world recession didn’t happen because of some P dealer, and there have been more thefts from vulnerable little old ladies by the likes of P for Petrovic than by all the handbag snatchers in South Auckland combined. Think about the implications of this North American definition (above) of an organised criminal group if we were to apply the law in an even handed way. It would be the end of Rotary and Lions and the celebrated ‘Clubs’ favoured by the rich and famous.

It is the stuff of talkback radio and populist politics and it has been eagerly taken up by aggressive lawmaking across the political divide. Whereas previously Nga Mokai may have been accidently marginalised by dint of poorly thought through policies, now they are deliberately excluded from the rights of citizenship by intent: think of the implications of the new rules around state housing if you are part of the tribe of Nga Mokai, the differential penalties – a doubling of sentence – if you are a member of a gang, and then the reversal of the burden of proof, the wholesale tipping upside down of the presumption of innocence that has been the bedrock of jurisprudence.

I prefer to use Baxter’s term ‘Nga Mokai’, the term Hemi coined to describe the lost and lonely, the addicts, the alienated, the brothers and sisters in jail or in the bin. Michael King perceptively saw that these people were ‘tribeless’ and that these groupings and congregations were a substitution for whanau, for hapu, for iwi.

Nga Mokai can also be translated as ‘slaves’. It is interesting that Labour’s Shane Jones was recently chiding the tuahine Tariana Turia for referring to the gang members as ‘our people’. “They are not our people” he said, “why, they are not even people, they are slaves”. “In pre-Christian times” he said, “they would have been despatched, killed”. It must have been his Dally blood boiling, surely! At least he is frank and this enables a rebuttal such as mine. I heed Baxter’s words though, from the Tale of the Third Boobhead, where the poet says:

“It will take more than talk to make this a country where the men who were treated like slaves work for things other than money”

As a nation our thinking has become clouded. We have commodified crime, and turned the justice sector into a big business. Angela Davis calls it the Correctional industrial Complex, the new cotton fields where the coloured poor make money for the white rich.

British prison reformist Baroness Vivien Stern argues that we have converted what are essentially social problems into criminality. Whose purposes are served by the current criminal justice system in New Zealand? It doesn’t do any good for Maori, Maori are more offended against than the average New Zealander and are three times more likely to be arrested and imprisoned. Maori gangs and issues around Maori crime have simply become fodder for layers of policemen, prison waders, judges, lawyers and the myriad players in the criminal justice system.

So, where to go? What do we do? It may just all be politics, but I’ll take my steer from the words of my children’s tupuna, the rangatira Tareha te Moananui, who was the first Maori to speak in the New Zealand Parliament.

Tareha sat in the House for quite some time, studying his Pakeha peers and their decision making processes, and after due consideration on 14 September 1868 he rose to make his Maiden speech, having in part this to say:

“This is the only word that has occurred to me to say, that when it is good and when it is evil that lies before you continue to do that which is good. That which is evil is not so powerful as not to be overcome by good, and that which is good is the only thing that you need spend your powers upon…..”

Tareha’s home base is Waiohiki, the kainga where my whanau resides. Twenty three years ago I organised one of the early hui of the Black Power there. This was the beginning of the move towards what Ta Mason Durie calls ‘acculturation’ and the addressing of the tribelessness spied by King. The fact that the wearing of patches at marae is still an issue 23 years later – the include or exclude debate – is interesting enough. Walker’s prescient comments also deserve reflection and assessment of the efficacy of the intentional policies of suppression and exclusion.

Last year, with Edge Te Whaiti, I undertook some research with members of the Mongrel Mob Notorious chapter. We undertook a focus group style process I call ‘Whanau Future Narrative’ with some 90 members and whanau. We asked the participants “What do you want for your whanau in five years time?” The findings (above) were heartwarming and uplifting, and they are surely the same as the aspirations held by any New Zealand whanau. Its the quest for these outcomes that have led the Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob to partner up with the Salvation Army to combat this troublesome substance called methamphetamine by providing addiction recovery services for their affected whanau members. I appreciate that meth is the other fixation of the day – I’m trying not to call it P these days because it gives it a false mystique its just a nasty chemical – and some want me to talk about it. Let me say this. I believe that we will beat methamphetamine, and we will do that by tackling demand rather than supply. If for all of their power and cunning the Israelis can’t stop material getting across the Gaza strip then we’ve got little show of locking up our borders if someone is determined to bring meth or its precursors here. As long as someone in Auckland is prepared to pay $1,000 for something that can be sourced in Asia for less than $100 then the immutable laws of supply and demand will follow. Its only when people don’t want it any more because they have reached the point of realisation that methamphetamine and whanau ora are mutually exclusive, that the suppliers will stop bothering. We need to retain a sense of balance and perspective too. It has been assessed that the harm caused by all illicit drugs in New Zealand is $1billion whereas alcohol alone is assessed at causing $3billion dollars of harm and, beyond the fact that it kills 400 Kiwis each year, we can only guess at the damage caused by smoking tobacco. Many of us need our jollies, the intoxicants that provide the social lubricant. I’m not a prohibitionist. Some substances you may be able to manage, but let me assure you, methamphetamine is not one of them, no matter how hard you may try to kid yourself.

I have little more to say. Now is the time for change, time to break out of trapped lifestyles that mean relative poverty, jail, and underachievement. The young warriors who wear the patch are crying out for fresh leadership and a new model of life founded in, and grounded in Aotearoa. If those of us in gangs could have solved the matter for ourselves and on our own we would have done so by now. We can’t, and we need good sound people to join with us as partners, linking with the many pro-social leaders across the various roopu of the tribe or nga mokai The tribe of Nga Mokai could become a new version of Nga Tamatoa, conscious warriors, powered by love and focused on good. I call on the spirit of the past, of Tohu and Te Whiti to be amongst us, and, in the present lay the wero for leadership at the feet of those who hold the new net, one of whom is our next speaker, Hone Harawira.

It went down well.

Hone’s korero was great. He’s a natural born orator and can hold a crowd in the palm of his hands. His speech had some sensationalist media coverage that made him sound stroppy, and John Key has criticised him for making ‘another divisive speech’. I think the PM has been poorly advised because the words alone miss the context of delivery, the nuances, the comic timing. I thought Hone’s cut on how to settle the foreshore and seabed conundrum is elegant and simple. He says put it all in Maori title, make it inalienable – it can never be sold, and guarantee access to all New Zealanders. How’s that? Beyond that, besides pointing out that Kiwis generally find it difficult to confront our own racism, he delivered a little homily aimed at the Maori tribal leadership and corporations – the Sir Wira’s and Lady Hekia’s – pointing out the need to deliver real relief and real services to those tribal members doing less than well.

On the Sunday night I wandered down to listen to the Parihaka Peace Festival Choir, who were on before the main act for the night, Smashproof. The weather had started to turn shitty and as the choir moved into their third song it stated to bucket down. It didn’t matter. Their voices and the subject matter of the songs, freedom and resistance against the machine, brought pure joy. The harder it rained the more the choir sang, their voices raised so that the rolling thunder seemed like planned accompaniment, their eyes sparkling as if lit by the lightning that streaked across the sky. I turned around to look at who else was still in the crowd. There would have been two or three hundred of us, all drenched to the bone, all grinning, all moving to the marching beat of the civil rights song “I woke up in the morning with freedom on my mind”. It was like a final lesson of the Festival. The rain had to be coped with. Not everything goes well. There will be adversity. Handle it. When the organisors announced that the Smashproof set had been cancelled I didn’t care a jot. I was already filled with song. Back at the camp I put a tarpaulin over my head and, whiskey in hand, with a downpour all around me, sat warmed by the fire, watching the turpentine in the wood flare as it battled the rain, water sizzling on the ring of rocks, a huge log of driftwood protecting the virtual furnace that glowed below it. Water, fire, wood, stone, and human resilience.

Balu and D

It’s been a really enjoyable festive season and I feel buoyed for the year ahead. The first hurdle is to get the legal issues facing my sons out of the way. I told you last year how an effort to help one of my extended whanau who has blasted himself on meth has turned to crap. This guy, a nephew, has been pretty close to us and both Taape and I have treated him much like a son. He’s an intelligent and witty man, and generally I enjoy his company. Late last year he got back into methamphetamine in a big way and seems to have fried his fufu. He had spent some time in Auckland and seems to have mixed with some people who do not appreciate my stance on methamphetamine and who may have encouraged him to give me some grief. He took on a rather aggressive attitude towards me and started doing self defeating things to piss me off – for instance cutting down the 7 year old stand of lime trees I had planted and mowing over 1,500 asparagus plants. Meth has some paradoxes in store for users. On one hand tolerance levels build up, so the user needs more to get to the same place. On the other hand the user can become sensitised, meaning that an amount that the user had previously used without visible harm can tip them into psychosis. There is an illness associated with methamphetamine. It is called anhedonia – it means an inability to experience natural pleasure. This is because when methamphetamine floods the body with dopamine it damages the delicate synapses that enable the transfer of brain chemicals. This not only leaves the user ‘loveless’ but in fact seems to exploit the void by seeding feelings of hate and anger towards those to whom the user has been closest. This killing of the aroha button might explain some of the horrid stories you hear about meth and its sure as hell one of the reasons that I advise people to stay well away from it.

In any case the nephew’s behavior had deteriorated to the point where I had to chide him over some matters. I was gentle but firm. He did not take it well and he began to brood. In mid-November when he was tweaking he began sending me hate-laden txts, saying how he hated me and hated the place, demanding money so he could go overseas, and threatening to do me harm and himself harm. He began to make all sorts of false allegations about me and others. He lives on whanau property alongside us at the Pa. At night he began discharging a firearm, one shot, more or less on the hour. I could see the destructive spiral accelerating and recognised that he was increasingly unpredictable and dangerous to both himself and others. I began to share the txts with others in the whanau and in particular with an uncle who is in the mental health sector. This disturbing situation had been going on for the best part of a week and my whanau were becoming increasingly concerned. On the Thursday I decided to act directly and at midday went to the offices of the HB District Health Board CATS team. This is the mental health service that intervenes when people have lost it and may cause harm to their selves or others. I spoke to the receptionist and explained that I was dealing with a person who I believed was experiencing methamphetamine induced psychosis and who was threatening to kill himself and to kill me. The receptionist took a card and highlighted a number. “Ring this” she said. I looked at the address on the card and thus where I was to call. It was the place I was standing in. I can understand why people think they are going mad. I said “but I am already here, I am in front of you. Can I speak to someone from the CATS team?“. “They will be here in 10 minutes” she said, “You have to wait”. After 30mins, at 12.30, I enquired as to the degree of elasticity that the HBDHB attached to the notion of urgency. At 1.00pm I demanded to see a manager. I was ushered into a room. A disinterested looking bloke heard my story, and, without saying a word reached over, dialed some numbers and handed me the phone. I repeated my story. “Call the Police” the person said. “No”, I am not interested in prosecuting my nephew. I want to help him get off meth. I am a health professional, not a policeman. If you need the Police to do your job, fair enough. In the circumstances it might be a good idea. But I can’t be the guy who arrives with the Police”. That evening the txts kept coming. My three sons had become increasingly worried over Taape’s and my safety and two of the boys drove up from Wellington to see if we could come together and get some whanau intervention and a solution. The next morning at 6.30am I went for my regular early morning swim. When I was coming home I saw a number of Police cars and traffic pulled over at the Waiohiki bend, and assumed that there had been a traffic accident as is common. Not so. I discovered that my big son had gone over to talk to his cousin face to face. It wasn’t a good idea because when users are tweaking, in an elevated state, it’s a waste of time trying to reason with them. Yet I understand entirely where my boy was coming from, and the love and concern for his mum and me that motivated him. He gets on really well with the nephew and he thought the “C’mon cuz, what’s the problem?” approach might work. The nephew came out of his whare with two knives shouting that he was going to kill me. He stabbed my son; thank God my boy incurred only defensive injuries. The other two brothers heard the shouting and bolted across the paddock to the rescue. They attempted to disarm the nephew. The melee spilled out on to the main road and amongst the passing traffic. Passers-by, including prison officers, saw the scrap – it looked like one guy, albeit armed with a knife, being set on by two others. As I’m learning about the incident and trying to find out how badly hurt my son was, a number of Policemen arrived. I don’t know exactly about their frame of mind – maybe they thought it was some sort of gang incident – my sons aren’t gang members – but they certainly didn’t seem to be interested in hearing about the context of the incident. By the end of the day my sons had all been arrested and charged in court. Even as I write this I’m still dumfounded. On the community frontline those of us working against meth don’t have Kevlar vests or tasers or firearms. I had called for help the day before and it seemed none was possible. Now, in attempting to find a family solution my fried-up knife-wielding nephew is apparently a victim and my stabbed son and his rescuing brothers are alleged offenders. We will fight this of course, but it really underlines the lack of integration of services needed to deal with methamphetamine at a community level. This incident has provided me with my mission for the year. I know its like carving one of those big rocks at Parihaka, and I’m going to take the lesson given to me by Dave Heglun. Don’t leap Den, just chip away.

Chipping away


Tags: Denis O'Reilly  Hone Harawira  Methamphetamine  New Years  Parihaka