Stuff reports today that someone damaged the Hatupatu rock, beside State Highway 1 near Atiamuri, with a sledgehammer. This could have been simply a mindless act of vandalism (God knows they’re common enough), but predictably, someone has suggested it was a hate crime.
I know the Hatupatu rock; I remember stopping there when our kids were little. They were familiar with the legend of Hatupatu, and how he hid in a cavity in the rock to escape Kurangaituku, the terrifying Bird Woman, because I had read them the story many times.
The hate crime theory has been advanced by South Waikato district councillor Arama Ngapo Lipscombe, who’s quoted as saying: “I am absolutely disgusted that anyone should choose to deface a wahi tapu site. It is a significant site that is part of our local and national history.
“It leads one to think that maybe this is a hate crime. A significant site to Maoridom has been deliberately attacked. There’s no other way to put it.”
Now it strikes me as a bit of leap to assume the vandalism was motivated by hatred, but perhaps we should consider that possibility. If indeed it was a “hate crime”, we need to ask how the putative hatred is being generated, and by whom.
Certainly the politics of race in New Zealand have become steadily more heated and polarising – not just between Pakeha and Maori, but also between the white majority and a few vociferous members (a small minority, as far as we can tell) of some immigrant communities.
Note that I say the politics of race rather than race relations, because relationships between people of different ethnicities in New Zealand – including Maori and Pakeha – remain overwhelmingly respectful and harmonious. But how long this will continue, when ideologically driven agitators are doing their best to create grievance and division, is a moot point.
It needs to be noted that the people dialling up the heat in the race debate are not hateful whites. The inflammatory rhetoric is coming from those who defame New Zealanders daily as racist oppressors and white supremacists.
To call it hate speech may be hyperbolic, but there’s no question which participants in the so-called culture wars are using language likely to incite ill-will and hostility. The danger is that the further this escalates, the greater the likelihood that inarticulate people who resent being harangued by incessant woke propaganda will decide to strike back in the only way they know how – for example, by attacking places and objects precious to Maori.
So while we can’t be sure the vandalism to the Hatupatu Rock was a hate crime, no one can rule out the possibility that it's a primitive backlash. The irony is that by jumping to the conclusion that it was a hate crime without any clear evidence, Arama Ngapo Lipscombe is guilty of cranking up the social tensions that make hate crimes more likely.