A Rotorua club has pulled its offer to hire out its venue for an anti-co-governance event after learning of its “content” and “volatility”.
By Laura Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
The city’s council, however, has received an inquiry about using one of its venues.
Co-governance already exists in various forms around the country, but it has been a contentious topic recently, with those against it saying it impacts on democracy.
Opponent Julian Batchelor has hosted several anti-co-governance meetings around the country in his Stop Co-Governance Tour. The meetings have sparked controversy and protests, with police in Orewa needed to separate counter-protesters from attendees.
A Rotorua meeting was advertised to be held at the Rotorua Bowling Club on April 30.
However, the club said it had withdrawn use of the facility for the event.
Club manager Nick James said this was “a result of being made aware of the content of the event and the volatility of the presentation”.
“Our club will remain impartial on these types of matters, while all the time ensuring the safety of our club, its members and guests.”
Rotorua Lakes Council confirmed a booking inquiry was made for one of its venues, but provided no other details except to say it would need to be satisfied the event would be adequately managed.
Batchelor made a submission strongly opposing the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill when it was being considered by the Māori Affairs Committee.
“If Māori want to get onto the council, they should be voted on. This is the democratic way of doing it,” he wrote.
The bill would have allowed an equal number of Māori ward and general ward seats on the council, but was scrapped last month. The council’s current structure includes three Māori ward councillors.
Trevor Maxwell is the longest-serving councillor in New Zealand and was last year elected to the new Māori ward.
Asked about the roadshow, Maxwell said co-governance was not a new concept and it played a big part in Rotorua’s history.
For example, the Lakeside 25 concert and Te Arawa kapa haka performance committees worked together to optimise both events “for the betterment of our community”.
Mikaela Matenga was among those who protested at previous roadshow events, including in Ōrewa last week.
Speaking to Local Democracy Reporting, Matenga, (Tūhourangi, Tūwharetoa, Rongowhakaata, Te Arawa) said Rotorua is home, her tūrangawaewae, and she has whānau there.
She believed the events Batchelor was holding spread misinformation and fear, and that he was using the events as a vehicle to be anti-Māori and spread notions of white supremacy.
This information, she said, included that he was telling his audiences co-governance would result in the country being controlled by tribal authority.
She said he described Māori culture as archaic.
Her own definition of co-governance was that it allowed Māori to make decisions for Māori.
Speaking to Local Democracy Reporting, Batchelor referred to the Stop Co-Governance website for both his book and his blog posts when asked what co-governance is to him, and what his concerns about it were.
A blog posted on the site yesterday claimed: “Co-governance is a code for the takeover of New Zealand by tribal companies and their representatives, the end of democracy, the installation of apartheid and seperatism into everyday life, leading eventually to full blown government by tribal rule.”
Batchelor said his concerns included a belief the government was using a fraudulent version of the Treaty of Waitangi.
He said securing venues had become more challenging recently but said they would simply find another venue to replace the one it lost in Rotorua. Batchelor claimed support was growing and forecast 500 people would attend the Rotorua event.
He claimed some venue owners had been contacted by activists and told the event would result in them “smashing” it up. He said no one and no property had yet been damaged.
Batchelor welcomed those with opposing views to attend: “That’s what free speech is about.”
Batchelor was emailed Matenga’s comments for a response but did not respond by deadline. When he spoke to Local Democracy Reporting on the phone, he said he did not have time to go through all points.
The only point able to be put to him was her belief the events spread misinformation and fear, that he was anti-Māori and spread notions of white supremacy.
He said he would ask her to give examples.
Batchelor said in an emailed statement to the NZ Herald this month he was not a racist.
Instead, he said the Government and “elite Maori” were guilty of racism by “signalling” to Māori that it was “a superior race of people”, and in doing so were “turning Māori into the biggest bunch of racists this country has ever known”.
Aotearoa Liberation League created a petition to stop the roadshow. Addressed to Attorney General David Parker, it claimed Batchelor was inciting racial disharmony.
Parker’s response to whether he had seen the petition was, as it was an election year, there would be a lot of people saying things others did not like. Whether he agreed or not was irrelevant.
“We’re a democracy so people have the right to express their views providing they do not break the law.”
He urged people to express their views respectfully and for those who opposed them to do so lawfully.
Prosecutions and issues of public order are a matter for the police, he said, and that a prosecution alleging the offence of inciting racial disharmony could only be initiated with the consent of the attorney-general.
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