There are two pieces of legislation wending their way through Parliament at the moment designed to further entrench the crazy notion that the Treaty of Waitangi created an obligation on governments nearly 200 years later to treat anybody with a Maori ancestor in some kind of preferential way.
One is the Public Service Bill, introduced to Parliament last month and now being considered by the Governance and Administration select committee. It represents the Government’s grand plan to revamp the whole public service by repealing the State Sector Act.
The Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins explained that “the current Act is silent on the Crown’s relationship with Maori, and that is something we are changing. We’re requiring chief executives to operate as a good employer, recognizing the aims and aspirations of Maori, the employment requirements of Maori, and the need for greater involvement of Maori in the Public Service… This is another clear signal that we are serious about our commitment to our treaty partners. What is good for Maori is good for New Zealand.”
The minister continues to promote the absurd notion that the Treaty of Waitangi created a partnership between the Crown and Maori, and of course it did nothing of the kind. The whole idea of a partnership between the Crown and any of its subjects is a constitutional nonsense, described as absurd by politicians as different as Jim McLay, David Lange and Winston Peters.
And in creating an obligation on public sector employers to give a preference in their employment decisions to those with a Maori ancestor, the country goes further and further down the dangerous path of affirmative action.
Submissions on the Bill closed on 31 January 2020, meaning that most people will have been too busy with their holidays to bother objecting.
The second is the Education and Training Bill, a piece of legislation which represents a fundamental rewrite of our education laws, giving increased emphasis on all matters Maori. The explanatory notes issued when the Bill was introduced to Parliament in early December noted that:
“One of the primary objectives for [school] boards will be to give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi by:
- working to ensure that their plans, policies and local curriculum reflect local tikanga, matauranga Maori and te ao Maori;
- taking all reasonable steps to make instruction available in tikanga and te reo Maori; and
- achieving equitable outcomes for Maori students.”
All this in a situation where far too many pupils, and perhaps especially Maori students, come out of school with a very poor understanding even of English and other basic skills required to gain meaningful employment in 21st century New Zealand.
In the last couple of months, we have also seen these absurdities:
- The Government decided to allocate a big chunk of the 5G radio spectrum to Maori to act as a “stepping stone” toward recognizing Maori interests in the radio spectrum. What? Can anybody argue with a straight face that Maori owned the radio spectrum in 1840?
- A Far North District councillor called for that council to avoid meeting on 28 October 2020 because 28 October was the day in 1835 on which the New Zealand Declaration of Independence was signed – yes, at the initiative of the British Resident James Busby, signed by less than 10% of the chiefs in New Zealand, and with the chiefs never meeting again as a group.
- Again and again, we’ve seen local councils appointing Maori to council committees. Why? Because they know that any attempt to create racially-based wards would be thrown out by ratepayers, as happened in Kaikoura, Manawatu, Palmerston North, Whakatane and Western Bay of Plenty in 2018, and they want to circumvent the public will by appointing people to committees based on race.
- In Auckland, we’ve seen the Tupuna Maunga Authority – given authority over all the volcanic cones in a Treaty settlement signed by the National-led Government – abuse its powers by riding roughshod over the wishes of the wider public, by barring vehicle access to many of the cones and vowing to rid the cones of all trees which are not indigenous.
- Maori Climate Commissioner Donna Awatere Huata complained that only one of the six members of the Climate Commission is Maori, and that the level of consultation with Maori on the climate crisis has to date been “woefully inadequate” – as if Maori have some inherent right to be consulted simply by virtue of their ancestry.
- The Chief Ombudsman has established a panel of Maori advisers which, he explained, “conveys our role as a watchtower ensuring fairness for all, particularly Maori”. As George Orwell remarked, all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.
And within the last few weeks, two rahui imposed by tribes, banning access by the public to pieces of the coastline.
The most extensive, and the most objectionable because apparently enforced by the Police, was that imposed by Ngati Awa banning people from accessing a large part of the Bay of Plenty coastline, the beaches and the sea out to White Island following the eruption. The ban included the erection of fencing and padlocks, blocking access to Whakatane wharf. Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha said that his “role has been to ensure that [Ngati Awa tikanga] is injected into the operation and that Ngati Awa protocol will be followed.”
The other recent rahui involved a tribal ban on shellfish gathering on part of the Thames Coast, which the Ministry for Primary Industries will apparently be enforcing. It may be entirely desirable that there is a temporary ban on shellfish gathering on a particular part of the coastline, to enable the fishery to recover from over-fishing, but the decision whether to impose a ban or not should surely be made by the Ministry for Primary Industries, not by an unelected group of people claiming special powers by virtue of ancestry.
And the astonishing thing is that we New Zealanders stand quietly by, scarcely raising a murmur of protest. Indeed, to protest is to risk being labelled a racist, whereas in reality it is those who demand special privilege and status based on ethnicity who are the real racists.
Dr Don Brash is an economist and former Member of Parliament. He served as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand from 1988 to 2002.