Haere Ra Petera. Open Letter to Mr Craig Little, Mayor of Wairoa, and his Hawke’s Bay fellows.

Dear Matua Craig,


Late last evening I stood at the hospital bedside of my young Hawke’s Bay Black Power brother Petera Smith. He was in a coma and on life support. I whispered my nickname for him “Sione” into his ear. “Sione, brother D here, we love you, don’t leave us”. It was an aspirational encouragement. But aspiration was the issue at hand, not enough oxygen naturally available in Petera’s system for him to survive without mechanical support. Later, in the evening, when we gathered for prayers, his pastor shared the likely sad prognosis, yet expressed hope in God, and if his will was to be, a miracle.

So, this morning, no miracle having occurred, the prognosis came to pass, and another fine young Maori man left us, maumau tangata ki te po. We all stand bereft, dazed, like parents and whanau nationwide in similar circumstances, asking ourselves how we could better have responded to his dilemma? Petera was a gang member, partner, and parent. In a social environment of official bias and prejudicial labelling he struggled to reconcile the dark and light in his life.

In June, Matua Craig, you were quoted in a local rag as saying “When a gang member wakes up every morning he should be thinking ‘actually its not that much fun being a gang member’. Make their lives difficult. That’s what I’m saying”. Make their lives difficult! Do you think young people join a gang because life is already easy? Here in the Hawke’s Bay we have seen at least nine members of this broad gang fraternity pass away since March of this year, some of them of these associated with use of methamphetamine.  Petera Smith was not one of these.

Petera Hone Rongomai Smith 7/3/1989 – 26/8/2019

Well, Mr Little, later this week, when Petera Smith’s funeral cortege passes through Te Wairoa on his way to his ancestral lands and final resting place, reflect on your words. You might even dip the District Council’s flag as an act of remorse, not for what you said, but for what you clearly believe and make happen. Our words generally express what’s in our heart. Make life difficult for “them”.

When you recently gathered with fellow members of the HB Regional Mayoral Forum (Alex Walker, Sandra Hazelhurst, Faye White, and Rex Graham) to discuss gang issues and proclaimed “Enough is enough” what did you talk about? What insights beyond your own collective prejudices did you seek? Did you reflect on the 2009 research produced by the EIT “A report on gang-based offending in Hastings District” conducted by Shona Jones and Kay Morris Matthews? What about the excellent solution focused community development recommendations made there?

Or did you typically simply see ‘the gang problem’ as a criminal issue and rely on the Police for their perspective and call for Stuart Nash – who can hardly stand in a queue without losing his temper – to “do something”?

I concede I’m hurting, and in that I’m angry. I heard your Auckland colleague Phil Goff take a similar stance to your own when confronting recent gun crime in Auckland. I readily acknowledge that the presence of Australian gangs has acted as a force majeure and, driven by international criminal cartels, they have helped facilitate the importation of methamphetamine into our previously clean green land.

I accept that many of my gang member brothers and sisters have become temporarily blinded by the bling of hyper-materialism and have become enrolled in a cleverly dissipated methamphetamine distribution of new groups, new chapters, new gangs.

Just as with Fonterra’s Flying Dutchman the promise of riches is illusory. The wealth will go offshore and all we will be left with is social pollution and the erosion of human capital.

There is another way. Separate out organized crime from poor behavior, the behavior associated both with relative financial poverty and that deep poverty of spirit that leads to misapplied intellect and self-defeating behaviours. Revive the belief in the capacity of community to answer local problems and invest accordingly. Treat gun crime and poor behavior as a public health issue, as a contagion, and establish ready response teams of youth workers and community development practitioners to establish, incident by incident, a cordon sanitaire and a case specific solution. I heard matua Alf Filipaina on RNZ National this morning calling for this type of thing in South Auckland, as I now call for it nationwide, including Wairoa.

Our borders are porous. We won’t beat supply, but we can by our own beliefs and efforts quell demand. But, matua Craig, we need our leadership, people like you to first believe in our potential. Petera Smith hated methamphetamine because he saw its effects. He didn’t hate users, he was simply opposed to its presence on our community. In his memory let us come together and start a national movement to liberate ourselves from use of methamphetamine, from consequential domestic violence, and from child abuse. Let’s collectively do our best to make life easy rather than difficult for our whanau who already live on edge. Let’s start where we are, in Wairoa, in Hawke’s Bay, in South Auckland, in Poneke, in Taranaki, In Aotearoa.

E Petera, moe mai e te toa, takoto, takoto, takoto mai. Brother Denis.

Denis O’Reilly Pa Waiohiki, Hawke’s Bay 26 August 2019.

Tags: Black Power  Craig Little  Wairoa  

  • Nechia Tokona - 12:46 am on September 11th, 2019
    Arohatinonunui xo tika to korero xo kia whakaaro pai ki a koe me to whanau hoki, e tu, kia kaha!
  • Eugene - 7:10 pm on September 8th, 2019
    Sad to hear this but it's is going to kill alot of people cancer and shit I hope you and your brothers see the picture sooner than later
  • KARAITIANA KINGI - 4:44 pm on September 8th, 2019
    Kia ora koe Dennis. Ko Te Hohonutanga o To Korero me Te Maramatanga o Nga Whakaaro . Tino pai rawa Atu Tenei, he Taonga mo Te Oranga o Te Katoa . Magnificent Tuhinga FULL of MANA, WAIRUA, ENLIGHTENMENT AND GOOD OLD COMMON SENSE ! Wish you were up here with us ! We all could do with Your Wisdom my Friend ! Special Karakia Invocations for YOU and YOURS my Friend. AROHANUI. PA KARAITIANA ROTOATARA KINGI SM
  • Ruiha Stirling - 2:15 pm on September 8th, 2019
    Well written Dennis I hope they read this and actually listen to your korero.
  • Ruta Hanikawhe-Davis - 12:05 pm on September 8th, 2019
    Tautoko all the wayTBPBPT Rip ki a ratou te hungamate. Whakahokimai te ihi te wehi me te mana kia uu kua manawanui ki nga kanohi ora
  • Jayell Smith - 3:24 pm on September 2nd, 2019
    Not cool Denis furious you should of asked me his mum to tell a story about my son.
  • Brother tee - 5:08 pm on September 1st, 2019
    Yo my brother fly high my bro
  • Brett O’Riley - 10:05 am on August 31st, 2019
    A beautiful and equally brutal expression of how we need to connect and heal our communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. Kia Kaha Denis, how do we take this kaupapa forward?
  • todd forsman - 6:51 pm on August 30th, 2019
    Yo fuck to that ma bro
  • Terry Te aho - 5:12 am on August 30th, 2019
    Yo brother Denis alsome korero and well said my and yo brother peters R.I.P never forgotten I my self have been dwn the road of poison p but have changed my whole life around. first and for most for my self my whanau the people around me our BPAMG B.O.P AOTEAROA as ah whole fist Now the rewards of this life my wife my kids are in ah loving place wth our last bby on the way iv never been able to be there for my 6kids 6different mums but 2 wth my partner now due to me giving up meth iv been ah better man leader father gang member for our young ones I would never change this life iv found that I fort never existed I had to dig deep into my soul if i really wanted change and i shore did iv been in places demons didn't want me brother places i shouldn't be dark places i never believed in God till one day in my life i asked for help in the dark i didn't happen over night i had to fight for it and i shore did more then any thing i have in my life I'm going on 300 plus days clean of meth now brother my self now I get high of clean fresh air whanau love seeing my kids grow and being happy being successful wth in my self my whanau and my mahi I had dream job at the age of 14 and that was felling big pine trees for ah logging crew and to have ah family I didn't have az young fella wth the right values now I have that dream job one of the hardest jobs out there due to me giving up my idictions now have my NATIONAL ticket In tree felling have ah beautiful family i would do anything for and make them come first before anything else and have our own clothing printing business and bby girl due any time this weekend iv never got to bring up one of my boys till now witch is 2years old. iv been from his birth and luv it and my daughters haven't been able to be there so my daughter due any time now I will be there az well for her from birth and my other kids when the time is right thank u brother Denis for reading brothers like yur self like people like my self thrive for better
  • Strate up - 11:40 pm on August 29th, 2019
    Wow i couldnt hav said it betta .nigga. R gangsters tha only ones who c the truth ,. Id add that the issue is bigger and not just n our hoods we are and hav been under attack from offshore intrest for at least 20yrs every local indurstrie is being ownd by not us in every aspect of bizo we take investors money and give it back payin bills week to week that gos to comanys off shore supermarkets .dairys gas fastfood elecitronics . And more . The hole system is being expolited goverment and every class of people that r true n.z need 2 become aware of this gangs r the eazyist to blame drugs too but everything is marketed in the same way exploiting our addictive humand nature .its actually happening 2 all european lead contrys around tha world .,,.EVERY1 NEED 2 WAKE THA FUK UP .AND WORK ON THA HARD SOLUTION
  • Adrienne Taputoro - 4:54 pm on August 29th, 2019
    Wow love the korero Dennis ,RIP Pet xo Love an light to all the Whanau xo
  • Jan Hiko - 2:19 pm on August 29th, 2019
    I am so moved by what you have stated.. Aroha mai
  • Unknown - 8:03 am on August 29th, 2019
    Wairoa is filled with methamphetamine and users, so what is the council doing to help this problem....I’ve been away from Wairoa for 15 years and every time I come back our whanau are becoming zombies, from methamphetamine. where is this drug coming from? Well it’s not that hard, obviously it’s not coming from the gang that has very few living there and are financially struggling, so it must be coming from the other gang that is over populated and financially excelling with flash trucks, houses, motor bikes etc......come on Wairoa it’s not that hard to work out, if you as a community really are against methamphetamine then bloody take down the providers at any cost cause it’s costing the community our families! Families before drugs and wealth at all cost !!
  • Jude Robertson - 6:33 pm on August 28th, 2019
    So very sad. My deepest sympathy to all of his whanau. Me tangi, ka pā ko te mate i te marana
  • Marie Vaney - 6:02 pm on August 28th, 2019
    A very strong and desperately needed statement of fact. My fulk support, little brother Arohanui
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