Whanganui District Council calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Whanganui councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay moved the motion and told council speaking up has "moral and political weight".
Whanganui councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay moved the motion and told council speaking up has "moral and political weight". Photo credit: RNZ / Angus Dreaver.

By Robin Martin for RNZ

The Whanganui District Council has passed a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, condemnation of all acts of violence and terror against civilians on both sides of the conflict and the immediate return of hostages.

It comes as Palestinian militant group Hamas agreed to a Gaza ceasefire proposal from mediators, but Israel said the terms did not meet its demands and pressed ahead with strikes in Rafah.

Councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay moved the motion on behalf of the Palestinian Solidarity Network Aotearoa.

He told council that it had a responsibility to the Palestinian and Israeli families living Whanganui to make its voice heard.

"A community which upholds international law and human rights is a safer community for all," he said.

"Speaking up has moral and political weight."

The motion also called for the New Zealand government to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

"This motion is about us calling on our government to do its bit as part of the international community to stand up for human rights, to stand up for peace and to say that a ceasefire an immediate and permanent ceasefire should be called for in the region and implemented in the region without any caveats attached to it.

"So that then negotiations for a two-state solution and for peace can be achieved."

Chandulal-Mackay said throughout history collective pressure had always driven social change, pointing to the end of apartheid in South Africa as an example.

Earlier, councillor Rob Vinsen had been at pains to ensure the immediate return of hostages was included in the motion.

"I know an Israeli in this community whose family, two of them were murdered during the 7 October attack into Israel. Four of his family were taken hostage. Two still are hostages and that's why I was motivated to put this clause on here about calling for the release of hostages."

Mayor Andrew Tripe spoke in support of the motion.

"We have 101 different nationalities in Whanganui. We live in a global society basically here in Whanganui and my rhetoric is all about peace and unity here in Whanganui and if we can promote that message for Whanganui but also for the rest of the world that's something I hold strong to."

All but one councillor - who abstained - voted in favour of the motion.

Earlier, council received two petitions - signed by more than 2000 people - organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Network Aotearoa.

One called for a ceasefire and the other for the Whanganui council not to do business with companies identified by the United Nations as being involved in the building or maintenance of illegal Israeli settlements.

PSNA spokesperson Sophie Reinhold told council that criticising Israel did not amount to anti-semitism.

"We want to see all the hostages brought home. We want to see an end to the mass slaughter. In 215 days over 34,000 Palestinians have been killed over two thirds of them women and children with thousands more still unaccounted for under the rubble.

"Nothing justifies this. Nothing. Not self-defence, not human shields. Nothing."

She urged council "to give a voice to the call for a ceasefire" in a similar fashion as it had done when it condemned Russia's invasion of the Ukraine in 2022.

The council received the petitions.