APPA Stands Against Systemic Racism

Published by Liam Prince on

Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance (APPA) stands in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter. APPA stands firm with all those around the world working to illuminate and deconstruct institutional racism, to demand an end to police brutality, and the ongoing oppression of Black and Indigenous peoples, and People of Colour. 

On behalf of APPA, we send strength and support to the loved ones of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Sean Reed in Indianapolis, Tony McDade in Florida and to too many others who have suffered at the hands of those employed to ‘serve and protect’ all of its state’s citizens.

APPA acknowledges that these same injustices and oppression exist around the world, including here in Aotearoa New Zealand. APPA acknowledges and stands against all forms of racism and injustice toward Māori and Pasifika peoples, including institutional racism and discriminatory police and penal system power in this country.

As a colonial state, New Zealand’s (NZ) legal and political institutions were constructed on notions of White supremacy. Many of these institutions were actively used to dispossess Māori of their lands and take the lives of Māori who opposed them. NZ has a history of both conscious and unconscious racism within its institutions, whose actions have caused intergenerational harm to Māori not only physically, but also spiritually, socially, culturally, and psychologically. 

Examples of NZ’s long history of disproportionate police and criminal justice power being used against Māori include the invasions and ransacking of Parihaka in 1881 and Maungapōhatu in 1916, through to the raids in Te Urewera in 2007. The dawn raids of the 1970s and 80s are a well-known example of excessive police power used against Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand. Today, Māori men and women make up 50% and 63% of NZ’s prison population, respectively. First-time Māori offenders are seven times more likely to be charged, and twice as likely to be sent to court, than Pākehā offenders. Furthermore, Māori are over eight times and Pasifika peoples nearly four times more likely than Pākehā to have various force tactics (e.g. handcuffs, baton, taser, pepper spray, firearm, dog) threatened or used against them when confronted by Police (see full stats here). Despite countless reports on the institutional bias against Māori throughout our criminal justice system, including the seminal Puao-Te-Ata-Tu report in 1988, reports by experts like Moana Jackson (He Whaipaanga Hou), and organisations such as Just Speak, very little has changed in practice over many decades.

APPA acknowledges that injustices against Māori, Pasifika, Black and Indigenous peoples, and People of Colour also extend into the areas of waste, pollution and ecological degradation. NZ has long treated indigenous and foreign lands as disposable, from the use of the Public Works Act to confiscate Māori land in order to construct landfills to the exports of our plastics and other waste to Southeast Asia. We acknowledge the many acts of injustice done to the Pacific Islands and their peoples including the pollution and destruction caused by mining, deforestation, tourism and trade (including the dumping of pesticides restricted by the World Health Organisation), commercial fishing waste and over-fishing, nuclear testing, dumping of waste from biological weapons testing and irradiated soil, and other military-related waste, and that Pasifika peoples are some of the first to lose their ancestral lands as a result of sea-level rise and more frequent and damaging storm events from climate change.   

APPA acknowledges and stands with Māori, Pasifika, Black and Indigenous peoples, and People of Colour on the front lines of protest against fossil carbon extraction. This frontline frequently involves face to face conflict with police and legal battles with Government, from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline in the US, to the Waorani and Kichwa lawsuits to halt mining and oil extraction on ancestral lands in Amazonian Ecuador, to the steadfast work of Te Ikaroa (made up of 80 hapu and iwi) in combating Statoil and Chevron drilling for oil off Te Tai Rāwhiti/East Cape. 

APPA acknowledges and stands with Māori, Pasifika, Black and Indigenous peoples, and People of Colour to let the world know that they face the worst impacts of climate change, waste and plastic pollution. We recognise the tireless mahi of rangatira Māori who, through organisations like Para Kore, ensure that all conversations concerning the wellbeing of human existence and the natural world go beyond the exploitative and supremacist cultural values that many Pākehā institutions were built on.

APPA’s kaupapa is to “prevent plastic pollution in Aotearoa and Oceania as an integral part of restoring the mauri of Papatūānuku (Earth Mother) and Tangaroa (God of the Sea)”. Our kaupapa recognises that the causes of violence against the natural world often stem from the same exploitative and supremacist values that underpin other forms of violence such as racism. 

APPA’s mahi (re)connects people with people, and people with environment, emphasising the value in all things and all people, and the interrelationships between all things. Our work is local and global and grounded in environmental and social justice.   

Justice is not possible until all people are safe from symbolic, physical, and systemic violence. We recognise the value and dignity of all people, no matter the colour of their skin or their ethnic identity. We stand with the millions of people around the world supporting #BlackLivesMatter, and acknowledge our responsibility to stand against injustices towards Māori and Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa and Oceania.  We lift our voices to demand justice, for all people, and for the planet, and commit to take action in support of these demands.

APPA pledges to:

  • Call out and condemn all forms of racism in APPA’s field of work and beyond

  • Amplify the voices of Māori, Pasifika, Black and Indigenous peoples, and People of Colour by sharing their content through our group’s and individual members’ online channels

  • Increase the diversity of the APPA membership and committee, and ensure representation of Māori, Pasifika, Black and Indigenous peoples, and People of Colour in our webinars and speaking events

  • Donate to #BlackLivesMatter, and local causes such as SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape / #ProtectIhumātao)

  • Add these actions to APPA’s standing agenda for our monthly meetings to hold ourselves accountable

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Liam Prince

Liam Prince

Chair of APPA // Founding Director, along with partner Hannah Blumhardt, of The Rubbish Trip, a fulltime zero waste roadshow offering presentations and workshops to community groups, schools, organisations and households across New Zealand about how and why individuals can reduce their waste footprint. Our talks are based on our own research and experience having lived without a rubbish bin since the beginning of 2015.

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