A Māori grandmother living in an affluent Auckland neighbourhood has been the target of racial abuse, and before New Zealand’s coronavirus lockdown received a letter from a neighbour saying she was not welcome.
Rose Greaves has lived in the suburb of Ponsonby for seven years, and says since she has lived in the area, she has received death threats from the white power movement and threats to burn her house down while she is inside.
Before New Zealand went into lockdown, Ms Greaves told Marae, a bi-lingual current affairs show on TV One, she received a horrible letter telling her she was not welcome in the area.
The letter, written by an anonymous resident in Ms Greaves’ street claims they have lived in the area for more than 20 years.
“Since the time that you have occupied the residence at Vermont St, you have caused myself and my neighbours a lot of upset, to say the least,” the letter reads.
"The language and level of vulgar display of disgusting behaviour that you produce is absolutely vile."
Ms Greaves believes the “disgusting behaviour” the letter accuses her of, is reference to her being Māori.
“My speaking Māori, my being very proud to be Māori, openly proud to be Maori” she explained on Marae.
“That’s who I am.”
Sadly, having been called the ‘n’ word in the past, Ms Greaves says the letter, which also took aim at her traditions was “tame”.
Maori weaving skills passed down from elders
Ms Geaves was taught how to weave from her kuia, an elderly Māori woman or relative, something she does in her Ponsonby home.
“You’re here because housing NZ put you here. You don’t pay any rates, nothing!…You are an embarrassment to Ponsonby!” Full story tonight, 7pm on our Facebook page https://t.co/yV5YTLqNdJ pic.twitter.com/wHxep4ByxQ— MARAE (@maraetv) May 18, 2020
“I make treasures of ancient times,” she explains.
“This knowledge is sacred, passed down and very special to me.
“When I weave, I’m transported back to the time of our ancestors. It’s spiritual work filled with love, that’s really important to me.”
The craft is something Ms Greaves has taught to others, which she says is an honour for her to do.
Her handiwork is displayed proudly in her front yard, something her neighbour labelled as “rubbish” and “pathetic and vile”.
Ms Greaves also spoke the reo language to her grandchildren, family and friends.
The letter, expressed sentiments which were very different from Ms Greaves’ own values.
“Everybody, all ages, all nationalities, from the rainbow [LGBT] community, everybody is welcome here in my house,” she explains.
“And if I had the opportunity to say to the letter writer – come and talk to me! I’m a really nice person.”
Fortunately, friends of Ms Greaves have supported her, including friend Steve Hassen.
Mr Hassen said the person who wrote the letter tried to inflict shame on to Ms Greaves, however he says the shame belongs to that person, not Ms Greaves.
“They don’t want people to know they’re a bully,” he said.
In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the population on Ponsonby was mainly Māori and Pasifica, Marae explained and housing was affordable and it was the “biggest Polynesian city in the world”.
Now, the homes in the area sell for millions and the community is not diverse, yet the area is proud to be left learning and tolerant, however Ms Greaves was still subjected to the vile acts of racism.
The letter, which Ms Greaves shared with Marae states the only reason Ms Geaves lives in the area is because NZ Housing placed her there.
“You don’t pay any rates … nothing,” the letter says, while adding they work hard and pay top rates to live in the area.
Ms Greaves said she doesn’t want the racism to change the person she is.
Whaea Rose has been inundated with so much love and support since we shared her story, including this much nicer letter from her neighbours 😍 We will be doing a follow up on Rose this Sunday on Marae TV1 10am. pic.twitter.com/ppunmdfwvC— MARAE (@maraetv) May 19, 2020
Since the segment aired, Ms Greaves has been inundated with kind words, showing support for her.
She received a letter from some neighbours who said they were really happy to have “more Māori in our neighbourhood”.
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