Cornelius Van Dorp: The First Speaker on Korero Corner in Kaitaia

We live in a democracy, but what percentage of eligible voters turns out each election to determine our political destinies?

Have some (or many) become disillusioned and apathetic because of the falsehoods exuded by politicians prior to elections over the years? Has democracy as we know it run its useful course?

My special guest last night on Voices from the North, Peter Furze, is a former politician and he has developed an initiative designed to return democracy to the people. Korero Corner (korero is Maori Te Reo for speak, discuss or converse, either with an individual or a community) began at the Kaitaia Market prior to our last local body elections. The idea continues to grow and to develop and is getting ready to sweep the nation and perhaps the world. To paraphrase Victor Hugo, there’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

The Soap Box

During the interview we spoke of the surge in importance of labour unions in the 1920s and 1930s and the era of the soapbox where people got up and aired their views. This was an important time in which the people actually doing the work that holds society together began to receive fair pay and working conditions. It would seem in today’s time of economic stress that the unions have lost some of their strength and that the little men and women of the world are struggling to make ends meet. Enter Korero Corner. But first, a little more on Peter Furze.

Peter is a surfer and he pointed out that something like 9% of New Zealanders are involved with surfing in some way. The numbers are even higher across the Tasman, with close to 2 million surfers riding the waves relentlessly pounding Australia’s coastlines. Surfers spend a lot of time immersed in nature and tend to care strongly for the ocean and her inhabitants. Some years ago Peter and others decided to harness the collective strength of surfers and created a group called Surf Break Protection Society to actively lobby against unrestrained coastal development in Whangamata. Peter has since developed Lost Waves, an organisation currently calling for a two year moratorium on all coastal development. Peter suggests we all take a deep breath, stop for a moment and talk to each other before even more waves are lost to development. In parts of America, public access to beautiful beaches is limited to a few wealthy landowners. Is this what the average New Zealander wants to see here?

Korero Corner is a portable stand with built-in sound amplification that can be placed at a market. As with London’s

Speakers' Corner at Hyde Park in London

 Speakers’ Corner, anyone is encouraged to get up and air their views. The beauty of it is that people attending the market are completely free to stay and listen (or get up and respond) or simply move on. Peter would love to see politicians get up and speak and he’d really like to see more people get out and vote. He’s checked the numbers and discovered that only 40% of eligible Maori voters cast their ballots at our last council elections. Peter and Korero Corner’s other initiators, John Kenderdine, Mark Shanks and Max Tobin, are currently actively seeking funding to locally build thirty Korero Corner mobile stands. The idea is that they will be freely delivered to markets around the country where they will be administered by local people. Peter is quick to point out that he has no personal agenda. He simply wants people to begin to publicly express their concerns and ideas and, in so doing, dramatically transform the shape of politics in our world, bringing power back to the people.

Ahipara: Where Peter Furze Surfs Today

On a completely different note, Peter and I spoke of what surfers call ‘The Doctor.’ That’s the half-metre layer of water on the ocean’s surface that contains a high concentration of negative ions and ozone. Spending time in The Doctor seems to enhance health, self-healing of cuts and abrasions, and generally creates feelings of peace and euphoria. I’m not a surfer; surfing wasn’t an option growing up in Southern Ontario. But I’m a swimmer and I know how good it feels every time I immerse myself in the sea, which is just about daily during the season from November to April.

The complete interview can be heard here:

Peter Furze can be contacted on


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