Dominion Post Editorial: Striking disagreement over SAS raid is more cause for an inquiry

Last updated 05:00, March 29 2017

Lieutenant General Tim Keating's press conference marked the first Defence Force acknowledgement that civilians may have ...


Lieutenant General Tim Keating’s press conference marked the first Defence Force acknowledgement that civilians may have died during a 2010 New Zealand-led raid on an Afghanistan village.

OPINION: The question of a bungled and even law-breaking New Zealand-led military raid in Afghanistan is still wide open.

A defiant press conference by Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Tim Keating has not put the matter to rest. It has raised new questions, and will have left most New Zealanders hopelessly confused.

Both Keating and the journalists who have thrown attention onto the raid, Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, appear firmly convinced they have its details entirely right.

The crucial disagreement is over the manner and toll of the raid. Hager and Stephenson say six innocent people were killed and 15 wounded, but that no “insurgents” died, in a destructive and careless attack.

Keating, however, says nine insurgents were killed, while conceding only that it is possible a faulty weapon on a US helicopter led to accidental civilian deaths in one building.

“In all respects, the conduct of the New Zealand ground forces was exemplary,” he told reporters.

There are other conflicts, too, such as one over the precise location of the village attacked. The Defence Force says it was two kilometres south of the site that Stephenson has identified. It’s not clear how material this odd disagreement is.

Still, the two accounts do chime in important ways. Keating and the journalists agree the operation was called “Burnham”, that it happened on August 22, 2010, that one SAS soldier was injured by falling debris, and that civilians may have died.

No lay person can have much of an opinion on the important claims as they stand. They need rigorous, independent attention.

Keating cast himself, implausibly, as a source of such oversight. “It is not in our interest to push stuff under the carpet,” he said.

Certainly some New Zealanders will happily trust the Defence Force over a pair of freelance journalists. Yet the case is important enough, the gulf in the stories so wide, and the Defence Force’s record with information so streaky, that this must be investigated further.

Crucially, the former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp’s account of the mission as a “fiasco” is wildly different to Keating’s. Mapp has no reason to cause trouble. His remorse over the raid ought to be a decisive spur to the Government to launch an inquiry.

And when Keating said this week that civilians might have been killed in the 2010 raid, it was a blithe reversal of a stance held for years – last week, even – that such allegations were “unfounded”.

In truth, the Defence Force took years to reveal its lead role in the raid, even as other countries and media reported on it within days. That, too, was of a piece with its conduct during New Zealand’s deployment in Afghanistan – exemplified again this week by its three-year fight to stop a review of the deployment being made public.

So there is a need for a serious official interrogation of this raid. Prime Minister Bill English should order it promptly. Both the journalists and the Defence Force are confident and must welcome it. Both versions of this story can’t be right.

 – The Dominion Post

HRF Media Release: NZDF response to “Hit & Run”

It is obvious from yesterday’s briefing by the NZDF that there are two detailed versions of the events surrounding Operation Burnham; and they both can’t be true. That by itself is reason for an inquiry.


Although the NZDF has gone to great lengths to lay out an alternative scenario, it has to be remembered that none of those who spoke at the briefing were on the ground when these events took place. Whereas, the book details a quite different account of events as reported by SAS and PRT personnel in Baghlan Province at the time. It is entirely possible that NZDF HQ have not been told the true story – in other words, that a cover-up occurred not at HQ, but at the operational level.


Last week, the Human Rights Foundation got a long awaited Official Information response from the NZDF that for the first time acknowledged a civilian casualty. From the NZDF briefing, it is clear that there were in fact several civilian casualties and that the original ISAF report referred to this possibility Yet you can read to this day on the NZDF website that “the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded”.


Another clear difference is that Hit & Run names everyone – who they were, where they lived, which families they were from and so on. There is none of that level of detail in the reports of the NZDF.


Defence Chief Keating said at the outset that in a matter of days from local and international intelligence services they knew who had attacked their patrol and the village they came from. After Operation Burnham, they are unable to name even one insurgent killed – they just define an insurgent as someone who “fitted a profile”. Surely they would want to know that they got the right people – otherwise, the job hasn’t been done. Yet it appears the NZDF approach is: if they were dead after the raid, they must have been an insurgent. This, of course, helps if you want to deny there were civilian casualties.


Finally, it’s now clear there were indeed civilian casualties of Operation Burnham and that NZDF knew this at the time, as they say civilians were being used as “human shields”. There are international protocols, which NZDF personnel are required to follow, that where civilians are injured in these circumstances they must search and care for the wounded. Even on the NZDF version of events, nothing was done for the wounded.


All this surely needs resolving. It may be the NZDF version of events that turns out to be the more accurate account. But there is a vast amount of information in Hit and Run that completely contradicts the NZDF account and it that information is verified, or even a significant part of it, NZDF needs to be held to account.


There was another report in the Herald yesterday about the entire Afghan operation and the fact that a critical report had been buried by the NZDF. If the Hit & Run version of Operation Burnham is verified, it will be clear that there is a culture of lack of accountability in the NZDF that needs serious attention. Surely, the only way to resolve these differing accounts is through a truly independent, judge-led Inquiry.



Peter Hosking


UN and Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission report confirms civilian casualties in NZDF Operation Burnham

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission have confirmed civilian casualties in Baglan province on the night of NZDF’s Operation Burnham ( August 22  2010).

In their Annual Report for 2010, UNAWA and the AIHRC (both independent of Afghan and NZ authorities) confirmed that 6 civilians died in Baghlan province that night:

“Several incidents were documented where aerial strikes caused civilian casualties in 2010. Out of 58 incidents that caused civilian casualties, 11 aerial attacks caused five or more civilian deaths. Investigations by ISAF, known to the AIHRC and UNAMA Human Rights, were undertaken in six of these 11 incidents…The five incidents included: on 5 August, 10 civilians killed in Nangahar province; on 24 September, 13 civilians killed in Laghman province; on 21 February, 32 civilians killed in Uruzgan province; on 11 October, 10 civilians killed in Helmand province; on 25 October, 10 civilians killed in Helmand province; and on 22 August, six civilians killed in Baghlan province.” (Fn 40 p24)

View the 2010 Annual Report here:

HRF Chairperson Peter Hosking says these independent reports make clear that NZDF denials of civilian casualties have no credibility and that the NZDF is covering up the incidents outlined in Hit & Run




NZDF admits to suspected civilian casualty in Baglan raid

Logo Media Statement

For Immediate Release

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has now admitted that that there was a civilian casualty in the SAS raid on Baglan, Afghanistan referred to in the book Hit & Run.

In a response to an Official Information Act request sent by the Human Rights Foundation of New Zealand (HRF) in October 2016, received by the HRF just 10 days ago on 15 March, the NZDF states: “The 2010 raid in Baglan involved a suspected civilian casualty.”

Elsewhere, including on its own website, the NZDF continues to deny there were any civilian casualties. The website states:

        “The New Zealand Defence Force stands by the statement it made dated 20 April 2011.

As the 2011 statement says, following the operation, allegations of civilian casualties were made. These were investigated by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures.

The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded. The NZDF does not undertake investigations or inquiries into the actions of forces from other nations.  That was the role of the joint Afghan-ISAF investigation.

The NZDF is confident that New Zealand personnel conducted themselves in accordance with the applicable rules of engagement.”

Peter Hosking, HRF Chairperson, says the OIA admission reinforces the need for a thorough and independent inquiry into the revelations in Hit & Run. The inquiry should have all the powers of a Commission of Inquiry. “Given the involvement of two Defence Ministers and the former Prime Minister, it is essential that the inquiry is completely independent, not just of NZDF, but of the Government. The inquiry should be led by a senior or even international judge”.


Offiical Information Act Request and NZDF Response attached below:

Contact: Peter Hosking 021660275



Human Rights Foundation
of Aotearoa New Zealand
P O Box 106 343

21 October 2016

Defence Headquarters

Ministerial Services

Private Bag 39997


Dear Sir/Madam,                             By Email:

Official information request: involvement of NZ forces in Iraq and Afghanistan

This is a request for information from the Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand (HRF) relating to the role and activities of the New Zealand Defence Force, including but not limited to the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS), in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. New Zealand has contributed towards coalition forces deployed in these regions, and during this period are alleged to have been involved several incidents which are potentially in breach of New Zealand’s human rights obligations under international law.

These potential breaches have been raised in national media and public discussion. Some examples include Jon Stephenson’s article Eyes Wide Shut in Metro Magazine in October 2010, and the Native Affairs – Collateral Damage documentary aired on Māori Television in June 2014, also featuring Jon Stephenson.

The concerns raised include the handing over of prisoners to Iraqi, Afghan and American forces where they are believed to have been subjected to torture; the killing of Afghan nationals, believed to include civilians, in Tirgiran, Baghlan Province, in August 2010; and the killing of Afghan nationals in a raid in Kabul on 24 December 2010.

The HRF request the following information pursuant to the Official Information Act 1982 (‘the Act’) regarding New Zealand forces in Iraq from 2003 to the present date, and regarding New Zealand forces in Afghanistan from 2001 to the present date:

  1. Any and all information relating to the detention of prisoners by New Zealand forces, or by other forces with the assistance of New Zealand forces, including:
  2. the number of detainees; and for each of these:
  3. the dates and reasons for their detention;
  4. whether they were detained by New Zealand forces or by other forces and if the latter, information pertaining to the extent or nature of the involvement of New Zealand forces;
  5. whether they were transferred to American, Afghan or Iraqi forces or otherwise released;
  6. whether New Zealand authorities are aware of any involvement, direct or indirect, that New Zealand forces may have had in the torture or mistreatment of detainees in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  1. Any and all information regarding the involvement or participation of New Zealand forces in actions resulting in the deaths or serious injuries of civilians or non-combatants, whether the result of direct actions by New Zealand forces or by the actions of other forces operating alongside, with the cooperation of or under the supervision of New Zealand forces. Such incidents include but are not limited to:
  2. The raid in Band e Timur, Helmand Province, in May 2002;
  3. The raid in Baghlan Province in August 2010;
  4. The engagement near Dahane Baghak, Bamyan Province, in August 2012; and
  5. The 24 December 2010 Kabul raid.
  1. In relation to the above noted incidents, the full results of any formal inquiries conducted into the actions of New Zealand forces, including the investigation by ISAF into the raid in Baghlan.
  1. Material including operational manuals, rules of engagement and other material relating to the treatment of prisoners, conduct of New Zealand forces and interactions or engagements with civilians and non-combatants.
  1. Information relating to the role and objectives of New Zealand forces, including the NZSAS, in these deployments.

If you are in need of any clarification or further information as to the above, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I understand that a decision on a request for information under the Act should be made within 20 working days of receiving that request. Please advise if you expect to require an extension of time for this request, pursuant to section 15A of the Act.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Hosking



NZDF Response Mar 17


Dairy tax and herd reductions would help achieve a zero-emission economy: report

A new cross-party report suggests emission charges for agriculture will be key to achieving a zero-emissions economy. (FILE)


A new cross-party report suggests emission charges for agriculture will be key to achieving a zero-emissions economy. 

Renewed calls to tax dairy emissions and cut the national herd by up to one third are among several ways to curb New Zealand’s greenhouse gasses, a new report says.

The Net zero in New Zealand report, commissioned from UK-based company Vivid Economics, stated almost half of our greenhouse gasses came from biological emissions.

However, Federated Farmers national vice-president Anders Crofoot said the idea of an emissions tax on agriculture had been considered previously, but was deemed too expensive.

Federated Farmers national vice-president Anders Crofoot said the idea of an emissions tax on agriculture had been ...


Federated Farmers national vice-president Anders Crofoot said the idea of an emissions tax on agriculture had been considered previously, but it was decided to be too expensive to implement.

The report suggested cutting overall animal numbers by 20-35 per cent, but Crofoot said this would be unpalatable to farmers and the economy until there was an alternative to dairying that would bring in similar cash.

Vivid Economics managing director John Ward said New Zealand was unique for having a low-carbon energy sector.

Agriculture accounts for the highest percentage of total emissions of any developed country.

“New Zealand looks today like a lot of other OECD countries are likely to look like in 20 or 30 years time. A lot of them have a carbon-intensive energy stock and are really heavily focusing on that to bring emissions down, and to look at agriculture later,” Ward said.

The research explored how to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, as set out by the Paris Climate Agreement.

Changing land use patterns would be among the biggest factors in deciding whether New Zealand succeeded or failed in achieving its emission goals, Ward said.

“That’s away from agriculture, towards horticulture, crops or forestry. Those trends are gradual, we’re not saying you have to go out and shoot your cows tomorrow.”

Three general recommendations were made to give policymakers a proposed blueprint for the future.

The first recommended the country focused on using low-cost emission-reduction opportunities but not make significant changes to land use. This would result in projected emissions reductions of less than one per cent each year leading up to 2050.

The second saw New Zealand make use of emerging technology and move away from pastoral agriculture, reducing animal numbers by up to a third, resulting in an annual reduction of 3-4 per cent in the same period.

Finally the ‘resourceful’ pathway relied on planting trees to offset residual emissions. An extra 1.6 million hectares of forest would reduce emissions by around 3 per cent annually.

 – Stuff

‘This is a stain on our country that needs to be sorted out’ – Nicky Hager calls for inquiry over claims civilians died in operation by Kiwi SAS troops



Author Nicky Hager has hit out at the New Zealand Defence Force statement that rubbishes his allegation Afghanistan civilians were killed in a New Zealand SAS raid.

The investigative journalist yesterday released his new book called Hit & Run in which he claims former Prime Minister John Key signed off on a raid by the SAS in Afghanistan that was in retaliation to a Kiwi soldier’s death.

He claims six civilian villagers were killed and 15 injured in the raid and alleges that the SAS burnt up or blew up about a dozen houses. Mr Key has yet to respond to the allegations.

Play Video

‘We’re not going to be rushed into an inquiry’ – Bill English responds to ‘politically motivated’ allegations in Hager book

The PM says he will speak with officials to get background on what is alleged in Hit and Run.

Prime Minister Bill English today that “these are not new allegations or assertions” and that “we’re not going to be rushed into some new inquiry”. He said he would be receiving a briefing today from officials on the allegations in the book.

Play Video

‘We were approached by SAS who were feeling guilty about what happened’ – Nicky Hager reveals background to explosive claims

It’s alleged in a new book that NZ SAS troops were involved in a raid in Afghanistan in which civilians died. The Defence Force has rejected the claims.
Source: Breakfast

Mr Hager told Breakfast this morning the information on the raid had been “locked down” by Defence Force authorities, and called for an inquiry.

It was only when Mr Hager and co-author Jon Stephenson were approached by members of the SAS and others who felt “guilty” they became aware of what happened, he said.

Play Video

Bill English quizzed by reporters over Nicky Hager’s controversial SAS Afghanistan claims

The Prime Minister says he wants to discuss claims made in Nicky Hager’s latest book, Hit and Run, with officials this afternoon.
Source: 1 NEWS

The operation happened after New Zealand soldier Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell was killed in an incident in Afghanistan in August 2010.

The allegation by Hager and Stephenson is that 19 days after that, SAS troops conducted a raid effectively in retaliation for that to try and find the insurgents responsible.

Mr Hager alleged the operation went wrong due to “rage, rashness and lack of care” taken by members of the SAS.

“They blew up houses, they burnt down houses. This is not how NewZealand military normally works,” he alleged.

Mr Hager said he and his co-author had been in contact with families of those who had apparently been injured or killed.

“This is a stain on our country that needs to be sorted out,” he said.

“It’s time New Zealand finally faces up to this and apologises.”

“The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded”

Mr Hager’s response came after the New Zealand Defence Force released a statement, which said, “New Zealand personnel conducted themselves in accordance with the applicable rules of engagement.”

It stood by a 2011 statement which read, “following the operation, allegations of civilian casualties were made. These were investigated by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures.

“The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded.”

It said the Defence Force does not, “undertake investigations or inquiries into the actions of forces from other nations”, as it was the role of the Afghan-ISAF investigations, after Mr Hager asked for an investigation into the incident.

He questioned whether the New Zealand Defence Force were aware of his claims after the response from its statement released.

“Maybe they haven’t been told the truth,” Mr Hager alleged.

Gordon Campbell on the conflicts over abortion

March 15th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Tomorrow morning, the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) will appear at Parliament to make the case that an abortion law passed 40 years ago may now need to be reviewed and modernised, in the light of 21st century attitudes and practices. You’d think that this would be a no-brainer. Yet the same kind of social regressives who framed and passed the original 1977 abortion legislation – and they now include the current Prime Minister – are saying there’s no problem, move on.

Lets make it really simple for the MPs. The process of review and change could easily proceed in two separate stages. Step one: abortion could and should be de-criminalised via a simple parliamentary process whereby abortion is taken out of the Crimes Act, and put where it belongs – into the Health Act, as a medical procedure between women and their medical practitioners, at the very least. Arguably, given the availability of chemical options in the 21st century, it can and should be regarded as a choice for women alone. Either way, this is a medical procedure, not a crime.

Meaning: de-criminalisation can readily be achieved while Parliament revisits the grounds for obtaining an abortion, which is currently managed via a process involving two certifying consultants. The certification part of the picture is also in need of review, and updating. (eg abortion is not available on an equal basis, in all regions of New Zealand. The extent of such failures in equity re abortion services would be one of the purposes of having a comprehensive parliamentary review.)

But back to the de- criminalisation process for a moment. In Britain this week, the process of de-criminalising abortion was successfully put on the rails:

MPs have won the right to introduce a bill to Parliament which would decriminalise abortion for the first time by repealing a law that dates back to Victorian times. A ten-minute rule bill introduced by Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Hull North, sought permission of the House to change two sections of a law passed in 1861, before women had the vote. It succeeded by 170 votes to 142, a margin of 32.

Johnson argued that the law was unfair and inappropriate in an age when women can and will access abortion pills by post because they want to be able to terminate their pregnancy in the privacy of their own home. As the law stands, doing so is technically punishable by life imprisonment under sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act – both for the woman and for anyone, including a doctor, who helps her.

Something similar could readily be done here, if the political will to do so existed. Earlier this year, the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRANZ) released poll results that showed just how much Parliament is lagging behind public opinion on abortion. Those poll results have been usefully collated by the NZ Herald in this fashion:

Respondents were asked if they supported abortion being legal in a number of situations. The results were:

• Pregnant woman is likely to die without an abortion
Legal: 77 per cent
Illegal: 5 per cent
Unsure/refused: 18 per cent

• Pregnant woman’s health is likely to be permanently harmed without an abortion
Legal: 76 per cent
Illegal: 6 per cent
Unsure/refused: 18 per cent

• Fetus has no chance of survival
Legal: 76 per cent
Illegal: 6 per cent
Unsure/refuse: 18 per cent

• Pregnancy is the result of rape
Legal: 73 per cent
Illegal: 8 per cent
Unsure/refused: 18 per cent

• Pregnancy is a result of birth control failure
Legal: 55 per cent
Illegal: 24 per cent
Unsure/refused: 21 per cent

• Pregnant woman can’t afford to have another child
Legal: 54 per cent
Illegal: 27 per cent
Unsure/refused: 20 per cent

There are no grounds for complacency. What the age of Trump has shown is that women cannot continue to rely on past nod-and-wink tolerance as a reliable safeguard, in future. Only a few years ago, a court challenge mounted by the Right To Life movement in 2012 to the current abortion certification process failed in the Supreme Court by only the narrowest of margins, in a 3-2 split decision.

As many observers have pointed out, the 1977 legislation is a conservative law on the books that has been interpreted liberally in practice. It may not always be interpreted liberally in future. Currently for instance, the law does not allow the validity of the decisions made by certifying consultants to be challenged in court. This safeguard rests however on a single precedent set in 1982 – Wall v Livingston. Two of the justices who upheld Wall v Livingston in the 2012 proceedings – Tipping and Blanchard – have since retired. As Alison McCulloch wrote in her Werewolf article in 2012:

Right to Life’s action took aim at a fault line running through the abortion regime in New Zealand, and until the underlying tension between a liberal abortion practice and a conservative abortion law is resolved, there will be more cases, more challenges, more threats to abortion access and New Zealand will fall farther behind than it already has in providing timely abortion care. A 2010 studyshowed that compared to other developed countries, abortions are accessed much later in New Zealand, increasing the risk of complications. And though the study didn’t take aim at the law, the cumbersome approval procedures it demands are clearly the major factor in delaying access to abortion.

Chemical abortion, self administered, is one way forward through the current impasse. McCulloch’s 2012 survey of the chemical abortion situation is available here.

Last year, the eighth report by New Zealand to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Towards Women (CEDAW) noted that:

137. Abortion rates recently hit a 17 year low (down to 14.4 per 1000 women aged 15–44 years). A recent High Court ruling regarding the legal grounds for early medical abortions may pave the way for greater availability of this less invasive procedure.

So let’s take stock: a cumbersome law that delivers abortion services inequitably throughout New Zealand. A conservative law that criminalises abortion, and relies on subterfuge to operate in the liberal fashion that the public expects, and demands. Abortion procedures being partially abetted and superseded by chemical agents, self administered, by those able to access and afford the pills involved. And a Women’s Minister and deputy PM busily chirping that she’s ‘pro-choice’ to liberal voters in Auckland while otherwise sitting on her hands. Yep, nothing to see here, move on.

Footnote: Since the PM and the deputy PM are in conflict over abortion, should this be taken as one of those conflicts that if we were talking about Labour and the Greens would be seen as a sign of innate instability?

International Women’s Day, 47 years on, how far have we come?

8 March 2017
Sandra Coney

Greetings on this International Women’s Day, a day when we should celebrate the progress of women, but also think about the tasks that are still unfinished and need to be addressed.

I have very vivid memories of the early women’s liberation movement and am often brought up short when I realise how long ago it was. Broadsheet was started 45 years ago and even the Cartwright Inquiry was 30 years ago

In 1970, I gave birth to my second son. A group of us was in the 5th year of getting a crèche – the 1st in New Zealand – up and running on the campus. We were famously told by a member of the University Council that we had to choose between motherhood and higher education – we couldn’t have both.

I got involved in women’s liberation not long after, on the invitation of the late Sharyn Cederman, a colleague of Sue Kedgeley’s, though I said to her I didn’t need it for myself as I had a kind husband, but could see that other women needed help.

When my marriage broke up, it is worth comparing what wasn’t there with now, as I find younger women completely oblivious of the gains that were made. There was no DPB, nor benefit of any sort, and many women with babies were forced to take unpaid housekeeping jobs that involved sleeping with the boss.
In 1970 there was no equal sharing of the marital chattels on marriage breakup. There was no Matrimonial Property Act, you received what your husband agreed to give you. If you went to court, your role in running a household and bringing up children counted pretty well for nothing.

If you came out of that with enough to put a deposit on a house, the bank would expect you to have a male guarantor.
Of course, there was no such thing as equal pay in the private sector in 1970. Only 4% of working women in the private sector had equal pay laid down in an award.

My first job was as a counsellor at New Zealand first abortion clinic, in Remuera Auckland. This made it possible for women who could get there to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

The road to reasonably available safe free abortion was a long one. Just that one battle involved multiple fronts and huge effort: there were police raids of the clinic, a High Court case against the clinic doctor, Jim Woolnough, a royal commission, serious arson, a planned bomb attack on the hospital, and several acts of parliament by MPs opposed to abortion.

It’s interesting, thinking back, how every battle that was fought or won, involved multiple antagonistic stakeholders. It was not the same group that opposed abortion, as fought equal pay, or opposed home birth. Sometimes they coalesced, but feminists had to be flexible, nimble and persistent, and everywhere.

On IWD it is good to reflect on where to from here? What are the big issues that need tackling for women and how can we tackle them.

I want to raise here a precept of the early women’s liberation movement that is still highly relevant. That is, you measure women’s progress not by how women are doing at the top but how they are doing at the bottom.

Yes, women on boards, and women as CEOs and so on, are important, but it is much more important to put effort into improving the position of the women who are doing worst.
That’s why I think that the campaign for a Living Wage is so important. Women workers are disproportionately clustered in low paid work, part time work, and casualised work.
To its credit, Wellington City Council has already adopted a Living Wage and I am pleased to say that the Auckland Council mayor, Phil Goff, has supported a living wage and this has gone out for consultation in the Annual Plan.

So, Number 1, a Living Wage.

Number 2, restoring the relativity of benefits, and increasing benefit levels and other support for sole parents who are disproportionately poor. The well-argued programme put forward by the group Child Poverty Action would improve the position of many women immensely.

Number 3, a real campaign against sexual stereotyping of girls
The women’s liberation movement made this a priority. We focused on education and sex stereotyping in children’s literature and the school curriculum. Those campaigns were very successful at bringing about change.

But we have slipped backwards. I am astonished at the gendering of toy shops, the aisles of pink, the fairy shops, the tulle dresses, the hair bows for babies – the enormous slippage that has occurred since we boycotted shops and letter-bombed manufacturers who stereotyped girls and boys. You hardly ever see a girl these days with short hair. Girls are being groomed as tiny Princess Elsas or Annas, rather than a Mowgli who does not need the opposite sex as a motivation.

Number 4, action on Violence against women.

In the Auckland Sunday paper, Ruth Herbert, the founder of a new organisation speaking for victims of domestic abuse, The Backbone Collective, pointed out we have the highest rate of women experiencing violence and abuse in the developed world.
Violence against women is New Zealand’s dirty big secret.
The first refuge was set up in 1974 in Christchurch, 43 years ago. There have been numerous initiatives to help women who face violence, but it is my perception that it has got worse, and the level of violence has got worse.
Until we face the causes of the violence, no number of “It’s Not OK” marches through the street will get us very far. There is something badly wrong about the way we model masculinity in New Zealand.
So why haven’t we made more progress in these “unfinished business” issues.

The women’s movement really ceased to exist as an organised force in the mid-1980s. This coincided, probably not randomly, with enormous structural change to New Zealand.

You will recall that the Govt, a Labour one, continued by the following National govt, went into a death dance with the captains of corporate industry and international finance. Govt institutions and agencies were handed over to these millionaires to reshape the New Zealand public sector in the model of the market. This also involved winding back the state, which had been the support and safety net people of my generation and those before.

Perversely, despite subsequent market failures and international money market collapses, despite the accumulating evidence of the social cost of restructuring, there has been no resiling from this course.

The 80s fracturing of the social structure and the social consensus it relied on, with the new dogma of individual responsibility, was something the women’s movement did not survive.

At the beginning of this period, 30 years ago, Phillida Bunkle and I published the Metro article – the unfortunate experiment at NWH – which led to the Cartwright Inquiry and sweeping reforms in the health sector. We did this through the organisation Women’s Health Action, but we were supported by a network of feminist women’s health groups throughout New Zealand, a strong union movement, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The Ministry was represented throughout the Inquiry by legal counsel and played a key role in drawing out issues for women, and especially Maori women.
It is this strong, organised feminist network that is missing now. Could a Cartwright Inquiry be achieved in 2017? The answer is somewhere between No and Only with the greatest difficulty.
For right now, the truth is, the women’s liberation activist groups have withered away, and we only have the mainstream women’s groups to provide any longevity, stability and sustainability for the women’s movement.

What they have got going for them, and what is lacking elsewhere, is organisation: doing the hard yards, progressing through the formal routes, keeping agendas on the table year after year. And when you look at issues like pay equity, it is very much year after year, decade after decade.

New methods have come along, such as social media, online petitions, and so on. I am a little dubious about the effectiveness of these. They are instantly activated, but are equally instantly gone. They lack sustainability and it is not clear how much they achieve.
Just a final question for IWD. The Auckland Sunday paper magazine led with a feature article “Has Feminism become Feminism Lite” as in L I T E. This feminism will be “guaranteed not to – add weight, Increase body hair, Reduce sex appeal, Offend anyone and Change anything.”

So my final question is, can women have it all? Can we cling onto to some of the trappings of traditional femininity, and be powerful agents for change. My answer is No. You cant make compromises and not be compromised. You cannot expect to be treated like an adult while hugging your chains.

One of the slogans of the women’s movement, was, We don’t want a slice of the pie, we want to rebake it.

Well, we haven’t. We’ve been satisfied with the slice. We’ve argued about getting a bigger slice, but we haven’t rebaked the pie. In fact the pie we started with in the 1970s, based on the welfare state, was better for women than the New Zealand we have today. Women were powerless to hold back the restructuring of New Zealand, and indeed some thought they could make gains for women within it. Some women even led the changes.

We have ended up with a New Zealand with wide and worsening inequalities, and women suffer most in this type of society, directly and indirectly. On this International Women’s Day, as a task for New Zealand women, I’d like to see the setting of an agreed agenda that would bring about real significant change for girls and women at all levels. A bit like a Working Women’s Charter updated for the 21st century. Now that would be a project women everywhere could work on, and it might just bring us back together as a powerful force for change.

Family violence victims given ‘new voice’ by survivor-founded NGO

By Anna Leask NZ Herald

A survivor of family violence has set up a new initiative to help victims, saying there is an “overwhelming disarray” in New Zealand’s current response system to violence against women.

The Backbone Collective is an independent body aiming to take action against domestic and sexual violence towards women.

The collective was formed by a national coalition of survivors of violence, led by Ruth Herbert.

“I can’t change the system alone – I can’t even change it working with a small group of other committed women – we can only change the system if we join our voices together to make one very loud chorus,” she said.

“By working together we can turn things around for our daughters and granddaughters.”


Hebert previously worked as the director of family violence at the Ministry of Social Development and was the executive director of the Glenn Inquiry – an independent inquiry that provided a detailed outline of initiatives and reforms required to develop an integrated system for family violence in New Zealand.

“I have spoken out for a long time about how the response system needs to listen to the voices of survivors of Violence Against Women if it wants to make a difference.

“I am a survivor of domestic and sexual violence and I receive regular contact from other survivors who have trusted me with their stories and experience of the system – and in particular their struggles with the system.

“I remain passionate about ensuring women’s voices are heard… The time is right for The Backbone Collective.”

The Backbone Collective was formed by a national coalition of survivors of violence, led by Ruth Herbert. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Backbone Collective was formed by a national coalition of survivors of violence, led by Ruth Herbert. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Further, she said the Family Court was failing to keep women safe, and they were returning to violent partners as it was easier than “battling” the “too-hard” legal system and trying to hold their abusers accountable.

Herbert said Backbone would focus on examining the present response system through the eyes of its users – women who have experienced violence and abuse.

It would also act as a watchdog of the Government, the legal system and all agencies working within the response system by tracking actual progress against government work programmes and recommendations from other major reports.

“We want to make sure that the system that is supposed to protect women and their children is more consistent and powerful than the abuser,” she said.

“No one else is asking women how to achieve this goal.

“Women are the expert users of New Zealand’s response system – this is why we use their feedback as evidence for change.

“Women who have experienced violence and abuse are central to improving the system. We want to hear from women who have experienced violence or abuse.”

Herbert said the current system had “huge cracks” but feedback from women could make “all the difference”.

“You can’t fix what you don’t measure. We need to monitor and measure the system to see where it is going wrong,” she said.


Herbert said a “wrap around” approach was needed to curb New Zealand’s rate of intimate partner violence which is the worst in the developed world.

“An integrated system would wrap around women and their children, keep them safe and help them rebuild their lives,” she explained.

“Each part of the system would ‘talk to the others’ and share information about how to best support a woman and her family.

“Processes that women go through after reporting violence can include communicating with the police, GPs, safe houses and family courts as well as countless NGOs and Government departments.

“Women need to know that when they reach out for help the system will be there to help them (but) instead women tell us they are finding a system that doesn’t understand their experience, that minimises the violence and abuse and that fails to protect them and their children.”

Visit The Backbone Collective for more information.

If you’re in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don’t stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women’s Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 – 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day – 0508 744
• It’s Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice:
• National Network of Stopping Violence:
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men’s violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.

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If you are reading this information on the Herald website and you’re worried that someone using the same computer will find out what you’ve been looking at, you can follow the steps at the link here to hide your visit. Each of the websites above also have a section that outlines this process.

Supreme Court rules in favour of Nelson Māori

Mihingarangi Forbes


The Supreme Court has ruled the government must honour a land deal struck in 1830s between the New Zealand Company and Māori in the Nelson region.

Supreme Court in Wellington

The Supreme Court. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The decision in favour of Wakatū descendants has come after a seven-year court battle with the Crown.

Wakatū Incorporation, representing about 4000 shareholders descended from the original Māori customary landowners, argued in court that a promise that Māori would retain one tenth of land purchased by the New Zealand Company was never upheld. The trust was also meant to exclude the iwi’s pā, urupā and cultivations from the land purchases.

Four of the five Supreme Court judges found the Crown owed fiduciary duties to the trust, which was to reserve the land for the benefit of the Māori customary owners.

The Supreme Court ruling overturns previous High Court and the Court of Appeal decisions.

Chief Justice Sian Elias said there was “overwhelming evidence on the historical record that the Crown intended to and did deal with the reserve land as a trustee”.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the High Court to determine a remedy.

The Tenths deal

The New Zealand Company bought 151,000 acres to settle the Nelson region, of which, under the deal, 15,000 acres (6110ha) were to be held in a trust for Māori landowners in perpetuity.

The trust was called the Nelson Tenths Reserve.

With the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 came a law which allowed only the Crown to purchase land from Māori. Commissioners were required to look at pre-1840 purchases.

It was confirmed that the land purchases were valid and a tenth of the land was to be reserved for Māori.

Ten thousand acres were never transfered into the trust. Of the 5000 that were, more was lost, and by 1977, when the Nelson Tenths Reserves were vested in the Wakatū Incorporation, just 1626 acres (658ha) remained.

The claim

Wakatū argued in the court that in 1840 the Crown agreed to act as trustee.

It said Māori landowners were never granted their full entitlement of land and pā, urupā and kai plots, which should have been excluded from the agreement.

The incorporation argued the Crown had breached its legal duties by significantly reducing the already allocated land and failing to allocate a further 10,000 acres.