Last month, I wrote about the way in which radicals are working to reinterpret the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi, often arguing that the Treaty of Waitangi (in English) and Te Tiriti o Waitangi (in te reo) are two quite different documents, and that there is no way that Maori chiefs would have surrendered sovereignty in 1840.
Given the speeches made by Maori chiefs on 5 February 1840, and at the conference of chiefs at Kohimarama in 1860, it is crystal clear that Maori chiefs did in fact surrender sovereignty and understood that that was exactly what they were doing. Despite all its shortcomings, New Zealand has evolved a remarkably successful society based on that acceptance of the Queen’s sovereignty in the decades since.
But still radicals with some Maori ancestry and their non-Maori allies insist that sovereignty was not ceded by Maori chiefs in 1840 and that as a result the Maori New Zealanders of today have a special status superior to that of other New Zealanders.
They go further and argue that because sovereignty was not ceded in 1840, New Zealanders with some Maori ancestry should have an equal status with the much larger number of New Zealanders without Maori ancestry, and should be able to govern themselves.
They seize on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which the Key National Government foolishly signed to appease their Maori Party allies in 2010. That document talks about the importance of “self-determination” for indigenous people and is fundamentally inconsistent with New Zealand’s own constitution which accords equal political rights to all New Zealanders, whether descended from Maori or not. Why John Key’s Government agreed to sign it – when Helen Clark’s Government had explicitly refused to sign it – is beyond my comprehension. At the time, Winston Peters said that signing the Declaration was “the final step on the road to separatism. This is the road to Zimbabwe.”
In various fora since 2010, Maori activists have talked about how New Zealand might not just sign up to the Declaration but actually “implement” it. In March 2019, the Labour-New Zealand First Cabinet charged a nine-person working group to produce a report on how the Declaration could be implemented in New Zealand. That working group reported back in November that year but for some reason the report was not submitted to the Cabinet. Those with a suspicious mind suspect that it was not submitted to the Cabinet then because Labour Ministers would have suspected that Mr Peters’ New Zealand First Party would have killed the recommendations, and I suspect that is exactly what would have happened.
Not until after the election in late 2020, by which time New Zealand First had been dispatched to the doghouse, did a summary of the report appear on the website of the Ministry of Maori Affairs. There it appeared to go unnoticed.
Finally, as a result of a request for the full report made under the Official Information Act by Muriel Newman, the full 120+ page report saw the light of day. And it was immediately clear why the Government had not wanted the report to become public.
I venture to suggest that He Puapua, which is the Maori name of the report, is the most radical document ever produced at the request of any New Zealand Government. It is a very sad indictment of our mainstream media that there has been almost no coverage of that report in the media since it became available in the middle of April.
Chris Trotter first wrote about the explosive implications of the report on his Bowalleyroad.blogpost.com blog on 12 April. David Seymour, the Leader of the ACT Party, did an interview with Peter Williams on Magic Talk radio two days later, and issued a strong press statement that day pointing out that some of the recommendations of the report had already been implemented – exempting some Maori land from rates, preventing ratepayers from having a referendum before councils establish Maori wards, giving Maori greater rights under the Resource Management Act, and introducing a radically revisionist history curriculum into our school system.
He pointed out that even more radical measures were proposed in the report, including significantly increased return of Crown lands and waters to Maori ownership, in addition to Treaty settlements; a Maori court system; and a Maori Parliament. Indeed, what the report recommends is a three tier Parliament – one for Maori, one for “the Crown” (presumably for non-Maori New Zealanders), and one above those two chambers made up of equal numbers of Maori and non-Maori.
At the Northern Region conference of the National Party at the beginning of May, Judith Collins, Leader of the National party, made her strong opposition to the recommendations of He Puapua the major focus of her address. That strong opposition has been the main focus of her speeches at all subsequent regional party conferences.
The mainstream media which have been so reluctant to acknowledge the radically destructive nature of the recommendations in the report are slowing being forced to acknowledge its existence. They are being forced to recognize that this radical agenda is already under way – and indeed, just days after the report was first exposed to the light of day, the Government announced a separate Maori Health Authority, which will have joint decision-making powers with Health New Zealand, the entity with responsibility for providing health services to other New Zealanders.
And for months, some Maori have been calling for a “for Maori by Maori” approach to other policy areas, such as Oranga Tamariki and Corrections.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that New Zealand is at an absolutely crucial point in its history, with a momentous decision to make: we either move forward as a single people, of various ethnicities and backgrounds but committed to the principle that all New Zealanders stand as equal before the law, or we sink towards a society riven with rancor, divided between those who chance to have some Maori ancestry and all the rest of us, moving inexorably towards the Zimbabwe of the South Pacific.
It is a very sad indictment of our mainstream media that there has been almost no coverage of that report in the media since it became available in the middle of April.
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.