'Racism is not going to be fixed with one workshop' - Tina Ngata

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

An anti-racism strategy has been implemented by the Gisborne District Council after pressure from the community and a public deputation by Tina Ngata, imploring the council to undertake the anti-racism journey after its decision on reinstating Captain James Cook's ship Endeavour models.

"Getting a local government body to acknowledge that racism is a factor and commit to addressing it that means we're going to undertake a journey of change and that is something to celebrate.

"It doesn't mean that we're there yet," she says. "it means we're committing to doing the work and starting the journey together."

A report from chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann recommended the anti-racism work should include historical and contextual understanding, with research into the council's policies and practices from the past and present.

"The bare minimum of what's been agreed to is an assessment of the historical nature of racism in Tairāwhiti, so what is our racialised history, how has racism played into policy and also how has policy contributed to racism in the region," Ngata told Te Ao.

Halting contribution to racial disparity

The council approved the approach and further recommendations to identify the significant issues and develop a measurement framework, action plan and workshop.

"It's the development of education and training for both councillors and staff around anti-racism, for our specific Tairāwhiti context, the development of tools that can guide anti-racist policy, so that the policies that come out of Gisborne District Council don't contribute to racial disparity in the region and a set of measures that can track our progress over time."

Tina Ngata says it's a process, and it won't happen overnight. 

"It's not going to be fixed with one workshop. It took 500 years to embed and indoctrinate racism right throughout our society so it is something that's going to take a journey for us to be able to weed out properly of our systems."

"At the moment, anti-racism is existing in the fringes and racism is still very centred. We're going to be flipping the script on that and make sure that anti-racism in centred in our world, and if racism exists, it exists in the fringes. We have to believe we can get to that world, just as we have to believe in our capacity to achieve tino rangatiratanga."

Ngata says the plan should be overseen by a Kāhui Mana Whenua of Te Tairāwhiti.