Saturday, September 24, 2016

Latest Wellbeing Survey on Maori in Christchurch post-disaster

I've followed the CERA Wellbeing Surveys since their first back in 2012. The surveys contain an awesome collection of data on how Cantabrians have responded and been impacted by the earthquakes of 2011, 2012.

My main interest has been the impact on Maori. The somewhat jingoistic presentation of the Maori response (how 'resilient' we were, how wonderful our support networks are, et cetera...) is increasingly disturbing given the repeated negative stats coming out of these surveys.

Example, in the latest results (April 2016) of those more likely to say the impact on their everyday lives is moderate or major (23% of respondents) are:
  • Māori (36%)
  • Women (30%)
  • People living with children in the household (30%)
The graph below shows how Maori have answered this question over all the surveys  ...

Data has changed, well different questions are perhaps being asked as we are now 5 years on from the February 22, 20122 disaster. And the data is presented in a patchy manner, making it difficult to track groups over the time of the surveys (which I hope continue). But what they are saying is that the most consistently impacted group are Maori, and it seems to be getting worse.

Now there comes a time when the impact of the earthquakes are diluted and overtaken by other things (working conditions, family security, health, neighborhood factors and so on). But that one particular community, the Indigenous Peoples of a land that promotes its race relations to the rest of the world, continue to record their lack of resilience continues to be ignored the media, policy makers, and politicians (including Maori).

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Not lying down at Standing Rock

I have been following - from a terribly safe distance - events at Standing Rock, North Dakota, where Sioux are opposing a pipeline they say threatens their land and waters.

Red Warrior Camp in southern North Dakota was set up to back the Standing Rock Sioux Nation's fight against an oil pipeline, and has swelled as thousands show up in support. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

I've relied on Idle No More FB posts to keep informed as thousands of supporters have flooded into the area, risking threats and provocation from security personnel (footage of attacks by dogs is particularly visceral).

Just today a decision has come down from on high as the Dept. of Justice, Army and the Interior Department announced construction will pause near Lake Oahe, which is a major source of the Missouri River and an important place for Standing Rock Sioux. 

I couldn't help but compare this to a relatively minor but still gut-wrenching, shit-troubling lack of decision by the NZ Dept of Conservation who refused to a) maintain, and then b) halt demolition of a Heritage listed building at Waikaremoana


It seems the building was caught between a newly established Tribal structure (with truly exciting potential - I emphasise potential - for managing Indigenous land and resources) and mana whenua who have yet to be given the voice we are due.

Anyways, much to ponder. At this stage, awesome achievement at Standing Rock and shameful blundering at Aniwaniwa...

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Water, water everywhere, nor any a drop to drink...

Two cases highlight how governance of our water is struggling for credibility.

First, in Hawkes Bay where over 5,000 residents of Havelock North (pop. 14,000) were struck by gastroenteritis after drinking the local water. The cause of the outbreak was E. coli but the source of the E. coli is not yet confirmed, though the intensification of farming (and particularly dairying) is thought by many commentators to be the problem.

Minister for the Environment Nick Smith in his recent State of the Environment speech at Lincoln University acknowledges Maori have an integral role in ensuring water quality:

Water issues often come down to a clash of values between environmentalists and land owners. Maori have a foot in both camps and are proving to be valuable bridge builders over these troubled waters.

Initial data from GNS shows water in the Havelock aquifer was less than a year old when it should have been 50, which suggests an infrastructure problem which ultimately links back to governance and, dare I say, ownership.

Havelock North residents walking for water right now! (Sept 3rd).

Now we all now the NZ government's position: no one owns the water. Well, that's working out great for sales of toilet paper in Havelock North but most of us forsee only more costs and risks. Des Ratima of the Takitimu District Maori Council is quite explicit about the fault:

"The aquifier sits below recognised polluted river called the Tukituki which comes down from central Hawkes Bay full of faeces, both human and animal. That's how central Hawkes Bay disposes of its sewage. It's been told by regional council to sort that out and so they've gone from river to land based sewerage dispersal. Well, that's just arrogant again because that's finding its way back into the water system,"

Maori are not alone in thinking human and industry waste need to be separated from the land and water we source our sustenance from. Papatuanuku is being maltreated and like any mother, when she is sick, we are not well.

Another example is from Canada where oil leaking into the North Saskatchewan River has exposed local governance - private and public -as not being up to the task of protecting the most basic resource, namely clean water.

I visited Saskatoon in the second week of August and, by chance, met two First Nations activists working to draw attention to the disaster (languaging is important; 'spill' doesn't describe the catastrophe that oil brings to socio-ecological systems).

Emil Bell and Tyrone Tootootsis have established the Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance Network. Several organisations have endorsed KWAN, including Idle No More, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and the North Saskatchewan River Basin Council.

Emil Bell (l) and Tyrone Tootootsis (r).
Emil staged a hunger strike to protest the oil spill.

A collaboration between Idle No More, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Council of Canadians, the National Aboriginal People’s Circle, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (Prairie Region) led to a report on the disaster. One of the findings is that the James Smith Cree Nation need to be supported in its effort to mitigate and monitor the damage to their traditional territory.

We might hope that Ngati Kahungunu will also be supported to ensure water improves within their territory. 

A significant advance in both Hawkes Bay and Saskatchewan would be the formal incorporation of Indigenous voices into the governance of water. Disasters such as the poisoning of Havelock North and North Saskatchewan River provide the opportunity to reinsert Indigenous voices where they should never have been excluded.

Simon Lambert

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