First published on Saturday the 7th of May, 2016, this piece comes in at number 2 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2016.
New Plymouth. If you’re not from New Zealand, we’ll forgive you for having never heard of it. Found on the west coast of the North Island, the provincial city is famous for its coastal walkway, nearby Mount Taranaki and now, its simmering racism.
This week, that racism was thrown into the national spotlight, with the news that current Mayor Andrew Judd will not seek re-election. Why? It may have something to do with being abused at the Santa Parade, or perhaps the revolting experience of being spat at in the supermarket in front of his children by an anti-Māori racist.
Taranaki. Like no other, indeed.
I can’t say I’ve ever heard somebody describe himself as a “recovering racist”. Such unflinching self-knowledge is rare. Yet Andrew Judd used exactly those terms on Thursday night’s Seven Sharp, revealing his personal journey from ignorance to understanding.
He started out, by his own admission, at a place where he recalled thinking, ‘we’re paying them out, what’s wrong with them?’, ‘they’re the ones with the problem’ and even, ‘hang, Māoris’. Then he read a Treaty settlement and something shifted. He went on to read Robert and Joanna Consedines’ Healing Our History and found himself setting off down a path of education and enlightenment.
Gradually, he became a staunch Māori advocate, calling for the establishment of a Māori ward on the New Plymouth Council – a move that passed, but was then repealed after Grey Power forced a public referendum. It says rather a lot about the population’s understanding (or lack thereof) of Māori issues that the referendum resulted in 83 per cent of the population opposing Māori representation.
In the face of continued abuse at the hands of irate racists, Judd has decided not to stand for re-election. New Plymouth should be deeply ashamed.
Mike Hosking, editorialising with abandon after Judd’s Seven Sharp appearance, branded him as “completely out of touch with middle New Zealand.” If one were so inclined, however, one could likely guess which side of history Hosking and 83 per cent of the New Plymouth population will end up on.
Here’s hoping there will be more mayors like Andrew Judd. And that New Plymouth can take stock of its newfound national infamy and sort its shit out.