The best of The Spinoff this week

Bringing you the best weekly reading from your friendly local website. 

Don Rowe: Grass Roots: the wāhine of Hikurangi Enterprises

“Inside the common room at the Tikitiki school, Melanee Paenga is crying. A director at Hikurangi Enterprises and tutor of the EIT hemp cultivation course, she is one of the few young adults employed in the region. Never a user of cannabis, her life has nevertheless followed the cycles of the plant – like many whānau who live around the annual harvest.

‘Where kids all get new school uniforms every year, I’d have to wait ’til the middle of the year, harvest time,’ she says. ‘It was how for half the year, we could have the things that we couldn’t grow. Bills get paid, it makes sure our power stays on. I know it’s really important for families around here.’

To Paenga, who’s acutely aware of the precarious life whānau live on the coast, legalisation would mean an end to an anxiety which permeates every conversation.

‘It would mean kids don’t have to worry about their dads leaving'”

Ross Webb: NZ’s South African community needs to stop peddling the myth of white genocide

“It is an idea that the white world is under threat and a ‘white genocide’ is upon us. South Africa is central to this theory. If apartheid South Africa inspired international right-wing support and the service of mercenaries like Martin, then post-apartheid South Africa has inspired right-wing condemnation and is used as evidence of white genocide in action.

The connection between New Zealand and South Africa is also relevant for another reason. Like me and my family, many whites left South Africa in the 1990s and have made New Zealand their home. And while ‘white genocide’ largely remains a fringe idea of the far right, nowhere in New Zealand is the idea more accepted and more mainstream than in the white South African community.”

A disappointed cow. Photo: Getty

Lisa Marriott: The claim farmers are becoming an ATM for beneficiaries is nasty and not true

On Monday, newsletter comments by Federated Farmers Marlborough President Phillip Neal expressing his distaste for proposed tax reforms were quoted and reiterated on Stuff.

Neal didn’t restrict himself to the proposed tax reforms. Instead he used the opportunity to engage in divisive rhetoric and beneficiary bashing.  In case you missed it, he said: “Farmers are in danger of becoming an ATM industry, providing the government with farmers’ hard-earned money so the government can then redistribute money to those they perceive as the helpless and needy, but in my opinion, useless.”

Asked about the newsletter, sent to his members on 15 March, Neal extended his comments to note that: “This government seems to be happy to take the money away from those people earning a living and giving it to the downtrodden, who often don’t want to work.”  According to him, “there’s lots of people who abuse the system”.

Neal is unlikely to reflect the views of all farmers with his comments. Notwithstanding this, he must be held to account for his statements.

Shamim Asiani: My mother is Māori. My father is Iranian. I can tell you what New Zealand is

“For many New Zealanders, the idea of a lingering threat against one’s existence is unfathomable. Such things exist in pockets far removed from the lives of the majority of New Zealanders. But for some of us, the threat to our existence has always existed. We have throughout our lives, watched and heard media personalities and politicians, with vast platforms, sow the seeds of a white colonialist, pro-nationalist narrative.

We have witnessed the slow and consistent dehumanisation of Māori, of immigrants of colour, and most recently of Muslims, to mass, white-majority audiences.

It is a privilege to believe that these people, our people, were not capable of being victimised with such hatred.”

Graeme Edgeler: How will the trial of the alleged Christchurch mosque murderer work?

The upcoming trial of a man accused of carrying out the Christchurch mosque shootings will be unprecedented in New Zealand law. To get your head around the process, legal expert Graeme Edgeler casts his eyes over some of the most pressing questions New Zealanders are asking about how it will happen.

Madeleine Chapman: Jacinda Ardern, after Christchurch

“At 9am on Saturday March 16, following an overnight update from the police commissioner, Mike Bush, that total deaths now numbered 49, Ardern was back in the Beehive theatrette.

‘I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change.’

Early Saturday morning, US president Donald Trump had stated he did not think white supremacy was a rising problem. Around the same time that the man allegedly responsible for the worst mass shooting in New Zealand history was appearing in court for the first time in Christchurch, Ardern was asked if she agreed with Trump’s assessment. Without hesitating, she answered impassively.

‘No.'”

John Daniell and Noelle McCarthy: Mātauranga Māori and Western science: two worlds meet to save the one we have

“The interconnectedness of everything is an essential concept in the Māori understanding of the world. Mātauranga Māori – the knowledge, and understanding of everything in our world – starts with Papatuanuku, the earth mother, and Ranginui, the sky father and that everything is related to them.  We are their uri, their children, their descendants. Everything in our world whakapapa back to Papa and Rangi. Humans are the pōtiki, the youngest, and the birds the plants the trees, they’re all our elders. This informs the concept of kaitiakitanga is that sense of long term guardianship, the sense of responsibility for the environment that stretches across generations.

The language of Western science and Matauranga Māori suggests two very different ways of thinking about the world and for much of our history, they’ve been talking past each other. In this episode of Good Ancestors, the way these two methods of thinking intersect, how each can learn from the other and what applying that looks like in the eyes of a family who walks between those two worlds.”

Alex Braae: Free speech under ATTACK! Why Stuff is reining in its comment section

“They say don’t read the comments, but what they really mean is don’t read the Stuff comments.

They’re typically characterised as a haven for brutalising insults, performative sneering and tinfoil hattery. And while that’s all there, it’s not necessarily a total reflection. Sometimes people do actually try to communicate with each other in a vaguely constructive way. It’s rare, but it happens.

But from now on, a lot less of the former will be happening on Stuff. They’ve announced a crackdown on the comments section, with a whole lot of new rules designed to get rid of the assholes. A wide range of article topics – like 1080, vaccinations and the disputed region of Kashmir – just won’t have the comments open anymore. Along with that, they plan to be a lot tougher on where the line that cannot be crossed is. And – in what might seem like an unrealistically utopian development – they even plan to have an ‘editor’s pick’ function to highlight the best, most enlightening comments.”

With questions for media swirling about what their platforms get used for, New Zealand’s biggest news site has closed a huge swathe of their notorious comments section. Stuff editor in chief Patrick Crewdson spoke to The Spinoff about why they made the choice.


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