Key dismisses hikoi

From: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/2437819/Key-dismisses-hikoi

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LATEST A hikoi against the proposed Auckland Supercity is unlikely to make a difference, is premature and the wrong forum to raise concerns, Prime Minister John Key says.

The hikoi was sparked over the dumping of the Maori seats from the Auckland super city proposal – in contrast to a Royal Commission recommendation.

Hikoi are planned from Auckland’s south, north, east and west with up to 10,000 protesters expected.

Marchers are planning to converge at the bottom of Queen Street by noon before walking to the Town Hall and Aotea Square.

Hikoi organiser IHI (Iwi Have Influence) aims to reverse the Government’s decision, ensuring there are at least three Maori seats.

Mr Key was asked on TV One’s Breakfast show what he thought about the protest and the disruption it would cause.

“Obviously people have a right to protest and we respect that,” he said.

“(But) I can’t help but wonder if they are a little bit ahead of themselves.”

The right forum to raise concerns was through the parliamentary process, he said.

The select committee soon to start looking at legislation setting up the council would consider the issues raised by the protest, Mr Key said.

It would look at the governance structure, how councillors were elected and issues around Maori representation.

“I don’t think the hikoi of itself will make any difference really. . .we are going to go through the select committee process, that’s not a whitewash we are actually going to listen to what happens there. We are trying to work on getting an outcome that works for everyone.”

On Maori representation National preferred the idea of an advisory board than appointed seats.

“We certainly didn’t like the idea they were appointed, rather than elected.”

Mr Key said Labour had supported a unitary council and the majority of Aucklanders were also behind it.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide told the programme the Government was listening and did want to engage with local iwi and discussions with the Maori Party were continuing.

“I have to say though it’s pretty tough to imagine a situation where you have a reserved place or places on the council for a local tribe.”

Mr Hide said having a supercity would help sort out transport issues in Auckland.

Hikoi organiser Ngarimu Blair told Radio New Zealand this morning the goal was to “galvanise” Aucklanders in supporting the inclusion of Maori seats.

“(It’s) also giving them a voice (for) their concerns about how their democratic rights are being ridden roughshod over through this very rushed process,” Mr Blair said.

He said the intention was not to inconvenience Aucklanders.

“That’s why we have the hikoi at lunchtime. If we were aiming to cause disruption we would have had it at rush hour.”

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PROTEST BEGINS

In Papakura, in a misty dawn ceremony on the ancient pa site of Red Hill, the prayers of a karakia rolled through suburban streets. Around 30 people, huddled in jackets, gathered to mark the start of a day of protest.

It was one of many small gatherings around the region as hikoi marchers prepared themselves. From Red Hill the group planned to drive to Papakura Rail Station where they expected to meet around 500 others and take a train into central Auckland.

Macky McGregor said she had to turn out to march. “You’ve got to fight for your rights.”

She was against the whole concept of a super city but particularly angered by the government decision to ditch special Maori representation from the super council – going against the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Auckland governance.

Also showing her opposition was Stacey Brown, carrying 10 month old Manaia. “It’s like they’ve taken away all our rights,” she said.

ROAD CLOSURES, DELAYS

The Transport Agency says the protest is likely to cause significant delays for commuters travelling on Auckland’s motorways, and says commuters should consider leaving their vehicles at home and use public transport instead.

From noon to 1pm, Queen St between Customs St East and Wellesley St will be closed.

From about 12.30pm to at least 4pm, Queen St between Wellesley St and Mayoral Drive will be closed to accommodate the rally outside the town hall.

Several other roads throughout the city will be closed to traffic at various times of the morning, including inner Auckland Domain roads from 6am to at least 11am.

The hikoi is also expected to impact on bus services to and from the city, and people who would usually travel this way should contact the MAXX call centre on 09-366-6400 for information about alternate or cancelled routes on the day.

The rally is expected to finish at about 4pm, with participants making their own way back to their vehicles and original meeting points.

– with Rodney Times and NZPA

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