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PM 'needs to listen to hikoi' - reaction on Wellington streets

6 May 2004

The Government needs to listen to Maori on the seabed and foreshore issue and Prime Minister Helen Clark should show them more respect, Wellingtonians watching the hikoi say.

Hundreds of office and shop workers took time out to watch yesterday's Maori protest march.

Computer support worker Simon Lonsdale, from the Kapiti Coast, described the march as an impressive show of strength from one nation.

Pharmacy worker Lesley Hayes said the march was much bigger than she had expected. "It was quite overwhelming. The number of people and the atmosphere, it was actually quite stirring."

Wellington lawyer Iain Thorpe said he had turned out to see the march as a mark of respect for Maori, something Miss Clark, who refused to meet the hikoi, should have done.

"Obviously, it is a serious issue, they have come a long way and we should be here to show them we respect their views, even if it turns out at the end that I don't agree with them."

He described Miss Clark's refusal to meet the hikoi as "unnecessarily insulting" when she had made time to meet a sheep the day before. He also said more work needed to be done to inform people about the issue so they could form their own view.

"As a Pakeha, your natural reaction is that access to the seabed and foreshore is sacrosanct and nothing should interfere with that right but that is a knee-jerk reaction. But I don't think the issue has been well-reported and I don't really know what the issues are."

Bruce Robinson, a business executive, said the march demonstrated the strength of feeling and unity in Maoridom over the foreshore and seabed. He said Miss Clark's refusal to meet the hikoi was a "slap in the face" for Maori.

Judith Hamblyn, a consultant from Wellington, said the march reminded her of the Springbok tour. "I think back to that and I get the feeling that this could go the same way and really divide us."

Sue Allen
The Dominion Post
© Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2004

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