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Casey Costello: How dare you, Kelvin!!! – I stand with Karen

I am hoping you might indulge me as I write about the events of this week and how it demonstrates the dangerous path of division we are being forced down by a Labour Government controlled by its Maori caucus that is yet again demonstrating racist bullying that no other elected representatives could get away with.


On Wednesday I discovered a new hero, something that is rare in New Zealand at the moment.


ACT’s Karen Chhour demonstrated what it means to be a proud, dignified New Zealander who also represents Maoridom in a manner which is inspiring.


In her fight to protect the rights of vulnerable children, she was attacked by an individual that can only be described as a bully and a thug.


Supported by the derisive laughter of his peers, Kelvin Davis attempted to belittle the ACT MP, not by challenging the facts at issue, but by attacking her identity.


(Click here to watch the news coverage.)


Sitting in the lofty heights as the self-appointed determiner of what Maori are and are not allowed to think and feel, he denied Karen Chhour her identity.


Let us not forget that Kelvin Davis, before Labour came into Government, made it a bottom line that he would resign from Parliament if Charter Schools were scrapped. Charter Schools were quickly scrapped under the Labour Government and, demonstrating the backbone of an invertebrate, Kelvin fell silent on his bottom line, with his forty pieces of silver including the deputy leadership.


Charter Schools were the most successful educational system for at risk and vulnerable Maori kids, achieving outcomes that were unprecedented. It seems, however, that once in government, Kelvin was not interested in what’s good for Maori; he’s only interested in advancing himself and a narrative of separatism.


Let us not get bogged down in the need to achieve real benefit for Maori when we can instead deliver a bunch of virtue signalling nonsense that benefits only an elite class of Maori, who can slap each other on the back enjoying the success of bullying those who are trying to advocate for the vulnerable.


But, of course, I will be classified by Kelvin as having the “vanilla lens” that prevents me for exposing a fraud and bully when I see one. I can’t possibly speak until, according to the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, I “cross the bridge that is Te Tiriti o Waitangi” so I can get to understand my Maori world better.


I wonder by whose measure the understanding of my “Maori world” is tested. After six years of advocating for equality of rights for ALL New Zealanders in my role with Hobson’s Pledge, the attacks on my right to speak as a Maori are truly water off a duck’s back. Unlike the Kelvins of this world, I don’t claim to speak for ALL Maori. I am not afraid of my views being challenged and I will debate the issues and demand accountability. I do not need to resort to name-calling and insults that belittle those who have a different point of view. But in Kelvin’s case, I have decided an exception can be made.


Karen Chhour demonstrates the growing awakening of Maori who have tired of the bullies and thugs who claim to speak for “us”. She speaks for accountability, and demands delivery of better solutions without being distracted by this narrative that Maori are incapable of achieving on merit because of events that unfolded two hundred years ago.


Yes, New Zealand can do better in protecting the vulnerable and improving outcomes but this takes serious conversations by intelligent people. And, despite Kelvin’s protestations, being Maori or not has nothing to do with your competency to find solutions.


The impact of Kelvin Davis’s actions is far greater than the offence from the insults in the House because he set himself above other Maori as the gatekeeper for te ao Maori, the Maori World View.


And as you may have seen in the House, he was egged on and encouraged by his Labour caucus who took pleasure in their ability to decide who will be allowed into their exclusive club of Maoridom.


So we now expose the truth of the Labour Maori caucus agenda: we are not being divided just by whether we are Maori or non-Maori, that is too simple. For being Maori, although undefined, now requires you to meet the standard set by Labour. The qualification to join this exclusive club is no longer whakapapa, it is whether you agree with the elected and self-appointed elite.


In 14 years police service, mostly in South Auckland, I saw suffering and cruelty that I have carried with me throughout my life. One night after finishing duty, I remember being so distraught by a certain event that I went home to my mother for a quiet cry in despair about what I had experienced. I was saddened and in some way ashamed because it was a Maori family that had been the perpetrators of what had happened. I told her of my disgust and contempt for those involved and she gently reminded me “that is not Maori, don’t let bad people take away from you what you know to be true, you know what Maori is, Maori is Mama (my grandmother) and Dangy (my grandfather), always remember that.”


And until Kelvin’s outburst I did.


Because Kelvin wants to be the authority on what it means to be Maori, he will decide who has the right to speak. He will determine whether you have qualified to be Maori. According to Kelvin, those whom I experienced and assessed as being pure evil but who were living in the “Maori world” would be more qualified to speak for us. But those of us who he believes live in the “pakeha world” are precluded from being qualified to comment.


But don’t forget that it is not as simple as qualifying under Kelvin’s test because if you do not advocate in agreement with Labour’s agenda then you will also be evaluated by Willie Jackson, the Minister of Maori Development, as “USELESS”. And to be clear, Willie is pictured in the House seated behind the Deputy Leader laughing his encouragement for the attack on Karen Chhour.


This Labour Government has not achieved, in their five years in power, one positive shift in the dial for any measure of Maori outcomes. There have been no better education outcomes, no real reduction in homelessness and no increase in home ownership, no lifting out of poverty, no reduction in prison numbers, no enhancement to mental health………nothing. But rather than hanging their heads in shame or seeking better solutions, they double down, apparently believing the best form of defence is attack. Their failures are laid at the feet of systemic racism and colonisation.


What a perfect scenario: you can be the Government of ineptitude and abject failure but protected from any accountability for that failure – “it’s not our fault, it’s colonisation”.


So rather than be exposed as failures in the representation of Maori interests, the MP for Te Tai Tokerau, effectively the MP for Ngapuhi, just attacks a fellow Ngapuhi, for not being Maori enough to speak.


And yes I know, through public pressure he has apologised and apparently, the giggling Labour MPs behind him are now reported as being the Labour colleagues that were unhappy with the comments. Too little too late!


The rules of engagement have been defined and the penalty for this behaviour was evident in the Prime Minister’s embarrassingly weak evaluation of “he was wrong in his statements being just too personal.”


Really, he was wrong because the comments were too personal? Come on………….


Knowing Kelvin’s supporters will come after me and yet again criticise me for not being Maori enough to comment, I might soften the blows a bit when I mention that my great grandfather and Kelvin’s great grandfather were brothers.


It seems in New Zealand we are not championing the aspirational words of Martin Luther King in that we are not seeking to have our children valued on the content of their character but rather judged on the subjective measure assigned by Kelvin Davis.


But, to Karen Chhour, you are the representative New Zealanders need if we are serious about achieving better outcomes. You have my whole-hearted support.


After receiving the apology, Karen replied with dignity that she hoped that there is a “pathway to move forward and have constructive debates in the future”. These words make Karen more qualified than Kelvin to be a representative of the people of New Zealand.


Don’t let them divide us.



Casey Costello is a trustee of Hobson’s Pledge

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