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Is the Treaty good for New Zealand?

  • February 6th, 2010

TV One's Marae programme is showing this debate organised for Waitangi Day. They tell me they had difficulty assembling the Panel, as well as the audience. The topic is too career risky. I did not know who was my team-mate till I turned up in the studio.

Here are the notes I tried to pare down to the two minutes permitted for the opening.

"The real Treaty, the one signed 170 years ago was an asset to all New Zealanders, Maori and Pakeha. It was way ahead of its time.  The parties were hugely unequal. The British had only just abolished slavery. Maori of course had not. But it promised all equality before the law.

 Now we live with each other, shop, play, work,fight in the armed services together and most of all, have children together. I celebrate that. You know we’re so intermingled that Labour  had to change the electoral law thirty years ago to say you are Maori if you want to be. If the law had stayed the same as Canada and other countries the race seats would have disappeared because there were no longer enough people who weren’t more Pakeha than Maori.


That real Treaty could still be an asset to us all, as I’ll explain, if Maori insisted on genuine respect for it. Instead a small elite is sharing the spoils of propounding a fake treaty. They've abandoned the real Treaty. With their pakeha mates they've sold their own people and the rest of us all down the racist road of perpetual political jostling for power.


In the 1980s a fake treaty was invented, a so called “living document”, a “partnership”  with principles that can mean whatever ambitious judges and politicians (including tribal politicians) want them to mean.


The fake Treaty divides and complicates and funds distinctions and claims to difference when the real Treaty’s clear words meant the opposite.


The real Treaty  support settlements for historical frauds abetted by the Crown. Because Maori were promised to be treated as British subjects, with the then almost unique benefit of the rule of law. Their property rights were over-ridden in breache of the real Treaty. And I’m excited to see the good stewardship of some of the huge assets they’ve established. The generosity of spirit in some of the settlements, on both sides, is a tonic.


But the  Treaty industry has moved to other targets, to permanent privilege and separatism, to demanding race seats in Auckland City Council government, reserved shares in aquaculture, in the air waves, in the benefits of using our native plants and animals, in language. They want separatism in different courts in  a separate welfare system, in separate health provision, in prison and sentencing programmes.


The contemporary claims are rorts. They are dangerous to our democracy, and our ethics.


Most dangerous to us all, Maori and Pakeha are the double standards – the tacit permission given by cowardly pakeha to double standards. Like non-enforcement of basic law against vandals and thieves occupying and traching public and private buildings. Like dithering for days before demanding answers to questions about the  Kahui twin's terrible deaths. Like tolerance of corruption, out of “cultural sensitivity”.


The appointments not on merit – of token people of whom the best we can hope is that they will ber passengers and not get in the way.

The degradation of low expectations, the special tutoring that gives the exam answers out to a group the day before the exam. Even if that story is not true, the belief that it could happen is damaging to our university self respect and expectations of standards. How will we keeping up with our diligent neighbours in Asia when we quietly know our own rhetoric about excellence is bullshit.


None of that is what the real Treaty promised. It offered the opposite, as the Young Maori leaders of the people's renaissance stated so clearly – Te Rangi Hiroa, Sir Tui Carroll, Sir Apirana Ngata.


The real outcome of the fake Treaty is what the book the Bottom Billion identifies as the worst gift to the poor, the message that  politics is the way to wealth and power, get assets by ordering your neighbours to give it up,  not from making things others want to buy, not from education and work and savings.


 Smart Maori kids realise how easily  suckered are guilt ridden Pakeha.. But they’re tempted into the wrong game. They’ve traded the simple clear classical property rights of the Treaty for political power, co-guardianships and rights to veto or hold out for ransom money. Maori have accepted rights to be negative, to force their neighbours to pretend respect to get permissions. But they’ve lost the real power, to the full exclusive and undisturbed possession and use of their land.


They accept the pretended respect for custom by holding trials with marae protocol, but accept that as a substitute for genuine cultural respect. Our stupid law of name suppression and secrecy and laws about recompense would have been dumped if there was genuine respect for the commonsense of Maori tradition. Criminal law was based around public and family shame – whakaama. How can that survive in the face of the “leave it to us” secrecy of the justice and welfare insiders.


I want Maori to be more assertive of traditional values. I want them to stand up against the nanny lawyers in defence of courage, being contemptuous of systems that accept pathetic excuses for hurting others. What about defending muru, and utu?


 The real Treaty  focussed on what we would share for the future. As Hobson said 170 years ago, “he iwi tahi tatou” now we are one people. He summarised the real Treaty. That was inconvenient to those who want a lever to power without having to persuade, so it has been supplanted. It is not good for New Zealand.


But there is much to celebrate. Though they will not say it publicly, I find that serious scholars and people in authority no longer defend the fake Treaty. They admit that it is an invention, that it has no historical legitimacy. They justify it instead on the grounds of necessity – to get "conversation" and other dopey excuses.


The fake Treaty is now worshipped mainly by people who have not read the real one, and they are often well meaning. But for them politics is supreme. They just need an excuse to legitimise putting a race filter over everything, making it the primary stereotype from which to colour other relationships. They want people to engage from primary identities governed by a collective character. They are upset when stereotypes are confused. They want conversations simplified into two sides,  Maori and Pakeha. They want the consequent opportunities to claim representative authority.


They abhor the complexities of our multiple individual roles and identities, of occupation, income, wealth (class), religion, artistic taste, liesure interests, family status (parent, child etc)


And I am hopeful. I honour Marae programme's courage in putting together a programme with such a politically incorrect moot. It is a sign that the real Treaty is making  comeback, after three decades of perversion at the hands of the political class.


It can be restored as a wonderful inheritance, pretty much spent, but a reminder of a noble ideal.


  • Chuck Bird
  • February 6th, 2010
  • 4:38 pm



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Stephen, unfortunately, I did not tune in till half way through the show so I missed your opening talk.  I did get to hear Tim though.  I have not really studied the early history of New Zealand.  However, I find it hard to believe that one side completely abided by the treaty while the other side broke the treaty.  There were no doubt overreactions to small breaches and then retaliation after that.  
The first article of the Treaty states, Maori cede to the Queen of England for ever the entire Sovereignty of their country.  In short that means they will abide by the law.  I do not think it reasonable to claim that individuals or small groups like gangs who break the law are in breach of the Treaty.  However illegal land occupations sanctioned by Maori MPs would appear to be in breach of the Treaty.
It would be good if the government would hold back any settlement money without interest while these illegal occupations take place.
I came to New Zealand in 1966.  Maori did have legitimate grievances.  There were openly discriminated against in accommodation and in some businesses.  I recall seeing ads for flats stating “No dogs and not Maori need apply”.  Such open discrimination is now illegal.  However, it is almost impossible to stop some discrimination in accommodation and jobs.  The best way for it to be reduced is for there to be good will between the two races. 
The behaviour of the radicals does little to enhance good will – nor does the pandering of this government to law breakers.
I hope I will be able to watch the whole show on OnDemand TV soon.

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