'No Māori allowed' - New book explores Pukekohe's history of racial segregation

An American academic's new book explores the shameful history of racial segregation and Māori mistreatment in Pukekohe, south of Auckland, between 1920 and 1950 - with a local kuia who lived it saying "we're still segregated, in a way".

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Robert E. Bartholomew says many have heard of it, but no one knows the full story. Source: Te Karere

No Maori Allowed was written by Robert E. Bartholomew, an honorary senior lecturer at Auckland University's Department of Psychology and Medicine, and explores a turbulent time in the town.

"Few people have ever heard of the racial segregation that took place in South Auckland against Māori during the segregation era, and those people who are familiar with it, no one knows the full story," Mr Bartholomew told Te Karere.

"Between the mid-1920s and early 1960s, barbers in Pukekohe refused to cut Māori hair - there was one barber who did, who had a special Māori-only chair, so people 'didn't catch a disease' - his European customers were complaining.

"At the Strand Theatre, they weren't allowed upstairs, and downstairs they were segregated.

"During that period there was one bar in town that would serve Māori alcohol, and at one point, Māori women had to get served outside behind the bar in a field.

"The taxi drivers wouldn't pick up Māori, the bus from Pukekohe to Auckland and back, if a bus got full and a European got on, the Māori had to stand, and if you didn't stand, you got yelled at.

"The school in Pukekohe in the late 1940s, against the convention of the Education Department, had separate toilets for Māori, and they had monitors in the hallways watching and if you went into the wrong toilet, you got hit with the strap.

"The swimming baths at that school - Monday through Thursday the European and Asians were allowed to go in, and then on Friday they let Māori in, then they changed the 'dirty' water.

"Not a single person would rent to Māori, forcing them to live on the market gardens in a slum area.

"The businesses - not a single business in town would allow Māori to use their toilets or public amenities like a telephone.

"The main finding of this book was that, as a direct result of the racial segregation, hundreds and hundreds of Māori infants and children died who shouldn't have died."

Mr Bartholomew likened the situation to South Africa's Apartheid or the southern USA's slavery eras, saying it was "just as sinister".

"The Education Department knew about it, the Health Department knew about it, the MPs knew about it, the growers knew about it, and no one did anything to stop it."

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Janey Tini Astle, 81, remembers being not allowed use a public toilet and having to go in a field. Source: Te Karere

Pukekohe resident Janey Tini Astle, 81, of Waikato-Tainui, says in some ways, Māori in Pukekohe are still discriminated against.

"It's still there," she says.

"I have to say this - sometimes I can't blame the Pākehā, but then I can't blame the Māori too."

Pukekohe has a "dark side" in the northwest of the town, Ms Astle said, so Māori and people of colour are still grouped together in one part.

She said she doesn't want to tell her now-Pākehā descendents about the harm caused in the past, because she knows it will hurt them.

"I don't want them to feel hurt - my older mokopuna I'll share it," he says.

"They're very different people now - I say different people because they're not Māori, and I don't want to hurt their feelings."

She said she could remember not being allowed to use public toilets and having to go in a field.

Mr Bartholomew said it's important for descendents of people who lived through such experiences to listen to their stories, and to record them.

'No Maori Allowed' is available here.