Still no decision on whether state will apologise for 'traumatic' dawn raids of the 1970s

Almost 50 years on from the founding of the Polynesian Panthers, there's still no apology for the dawn raids that terrified the Pacific community in the 1970s.

Started by Labour and continued when Sir Robert Muldoon's National took over later that decade, the raids saw Polynesians targeted by police - despite most overstayers being European/Pakeha, according to the Government's New Zealand History website

People weren't just accosted in their homes - they were also stopped on the streets and asked for documents, "anything that proved a person's right to be in the country". 

In April, a renewed call for a formal state apology was made

"We are seeking formal recognition of an era of blatant racism from the New Zealand government, so that we can be sure that it will never happen again,” Melani Anae, a founding member of the Polynesian Panthers, told the Guardian.

Rev Alec Toleafoa, one of the group's founders, said they didn't want compensation - just an apology and for the history of the raids to be taught in schools. 

Will 'Ilolahia, original chairman of the Polynesian Panthers, told Newshub Nation on Saturday it was "probably one of the darkest histories in regards to our urban living in Aotearoa".

"It was really hard to be a Polynesian - some of our members were picked up on the streets and asked for passports, like they did in South Africa."

In addition to an apology, he wants the Government to make it easier for Polynesians to get residency - including those here illegally. 

"It's easy for them to say sorry... if we can get the pathways to residency sorted, and the apology, then I think we can show we're adult enough to move on."

Recently there have been calls from the horticulture industry to open up the border to the Pacific Islands quicker, with this year's fruit crop potentially going to waste without enough workers to pick it all. 

Tongan-born 'Ilolahia said there are already 10,000 Polynesians here who'd be willing to do it, because it would pay better than the below-minimum wage jobs they're currently forced to do because they're overstayers. 

"If they were to call out to overstayers here, we would have sorted that problem and [not] have fruit rotting on the ground."

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio told Newshub Nation he's still considering whether to issue a formal apology, and is taking his time to consider all the issues. 

Watch Will 'Ilolahia and Aupito William Sio on Newshub Nation.
Will 'Ilolahia and Aupito William Sio on Newshub Nation. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

"This is important because you're asking the present Government to apologise for something that occurred 50 years ago. I need to be able to look at all angles of that to be able to determine what recommendation I would make to the Government."

Next month will mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Polynesian Panthers. A teenager at the time of the mid-70s raids, Sio remembers them well.

"Traumatic, frightening... one of my sisters said she doesn't like talking about it because it was frightening."

He hasn't yet considered a possible compensation package. 

As for pathways to residency, Sio said he has been in discussions with Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi - also Polynesian. 

"We can't blame people coming here and overstaying because we've got a beautiful country."

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