Great South Stories: Past and present colonial aggression

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With the help of NZ On-air filmmaker Rupert Mackenzie has taken cameras out to film an eclectic mix of stories about the lives of interesting characters on the famed Great South Road.

I met academic Tom Roa, a well-regarded kaumatua of Ngāti Apakura and Maniapoto descent, in the hope of learning about Great South Road but from a Māori perspective. 

Tom was quiet, considered, and articulate. As soon as we started talking, he shared some of the emotive, insightful, and confronting stories of Great South Road. In my quest to film this series, I realised I was so naive.

The road was originally built to facilitate colonial aggression on Waikato Māori whose crime was their want to retain their land, and their autonomy. Today, the subjugation and aggression do not stop.

As we arrived in Rangiaowhia a few minutes away from Te Awamutu, Tom recited the story of the Nixon Memorial, a monument that sits proudly on Great South Road. Colonel Marmaduke George Nixon was a leader of the 'Colonial Defence Force' that decimated Waikato and Ngāti Apakura Māori, Tom's people.

Tom explained that the true ignominy of the Nixon statue was that it sits in the tribal area of Auckland's Waiohua Iwi - a people subjected to colonial aggression, and who for years have housed a statue that embodies it.

My trip down Great South Road with Tom Roa has forever changed my perspective. A ride down Great South Road will no longer be a point 'A' to point 'B' exercise, it will be a reminder of how little we know about things we should.

Great South Road is New Zealand’s longest road, starting in Auckland’s swanky shopping quarter of Newmarket and ending in Ohaupo, Waikato Dairy country.

Used by or home to car dealers, churches, residences, food outlets, farmers, the homeless, street rappers, volunteers, and schools, it is a road that intersects and connects our past, the present, and future.

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