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Andrew Dickens: The two sides of Kaikohe

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Monday, 4 February 2019, 11:40a.m.

It was a beautiful summer’s weekend. Balmy temperatures that meant T-shirts all day and all night.  A pristine day in Wellington as India handed New Zealand another comprehensive lesson in how to play one day cricket. I watched the game with a beer and my youngest son who’s enjoying a fantastic summer before returning to university in the capital.

So who can believe that pre season Super Rugby was being played and the official season is now less than two weeks away. Madness.

But the Blues were playing the Chiefs in Kaikohe. To be honest the Blues were spanking the Chiefs in Kaikohe but that is not the news. The news was that 4000 people sold out the local ground and it was a great day. Simon Wilson has written a lovely story about the fun and festivities and the aroha that surrounded the players for an afternoon in February.

But not all the story. He does mention that nobody stayed in the town. The Blues were in a hotel in Waitangi while the Chiefs bunked down in Whangarei. But what wasn’t mentioned was that there was a tangi happening the same weekend and the departed was big in gang circles.

The main drag of Kaikohe was awash with gang members and their bikes. The pub was taking overnight guests but the publican had closed his bar, on a game day, for fear that the tangi commemorations might get, how shall we say, a little frenetic. But the weekend passed without incident.

So it was another weekend where the two sides of the Kaikohe coin were once again plain. Good people, in a great place, celebrating a good community event but a meth and gang fuelled undercurrent never far from the surface.

Simon Wilson also noticed another interesting aspect to the day. Throughout the official ceremonies and speechifying, and through all the proud moments of how awesome Kaikohe was, there appeared to be not one word of Maori spoken. Not even a kia ora from the mayor of the Far North, John Carter. As Simon says, “it was as if they were blind to the people they were talking to”. I don’t know if it was purposeful but if it wasn’t then that actually makes it even more insidious.

It strikes me that a lot of this is about pride. Pride in people and pride in place. You can’t really expect the people to be proud of the place if there are other people still not proud of a people’s language.

In this week of Waitangi, in 2019, it still amazes me that some people are still so dismissive of the Maori language. And now I’ll be besieged by people calling the language dead and irrelevant.

And then there’ll be the people calling for us to become one people. I think all those advocates still haven’t realised that becoming one people cuts both ways.

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