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Dr Muriel Newman

Are we one or two?

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Our society has its fair share of charlatans. They come in many different guises. Some use the mantle of environmentalism. Greenpeace has been campaigning against asset sales on the basis that profits might go offshore. Yet their annual report shows that last year they sent almost a quarter of the $8 million they collected from the donations of New Zealanders offshore to their international body!

Others have used the cloak of tribalism to persuade successive governments to transfer, for their own private purposes, enormous wealth and power from the public of New Zealand. Masquerading as servants of their peoples, an elite group of tribal leaders, assisted by advocates in many different areas of public life – politics, the media, the state service, academia – have persuaded governments to give them public riches they do not deserve. Today they are claiming the ownership of New Zealand’s water. Last year they were given the right to make secret deals for the ownership of our mineral-rich foreshore and seabed. Before that, the Clark Government gave them a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum – hardly something that tribal leaders could claim they “owned” at the time of the signing of the Treaty.

This current claim for water is nothing but an extortionate claim for free shares in the about-to-be floated state owned enterprises. It follows hard on the heels of demands for the ownership of New Zealand’s plants and animals, including their genetic codes. The Wai 262 Flora and Fauna claim is still awaiting the government’s response.

If we look ahead, judging by the present tribal protest action over exploration rights for minerals, and oil and gas, corporate iwi are no doubt readying themselves for new claims. This time it will be for the ownership of all of New Zealand’s minerals, along with another attempt to gain control of the country’s reserves of oil and gas.

And let’s not forget what could be regarded as one of the tribal elite’s greatest victories – the Maori Party’s success in persuading John Key’s government that secretly signing New Zealand up to the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to potentially give self-defined “indigenous” groups special governance powers and rights above those of every other citizen, was in the best interest of New Zealand. To her credit, then Prime Minister Helen Clark stood her ground and rejected all such advances a few years earlier. She could see the inevitable consequences.

It is not beyond the bounds of comprehension that there will be a claim for the ownership of the air we all breathe, and perhaps there will even be a proposed levy on all citizens who cannot claim Maori heritage – for the privilege of living in “their” country.

Are such things as claims for the air we breathe fanciful? Not if politicians continue to put the interests of an ill-defined racial group ahead of the rights of all New Zealanders. The fact is that if the wider public continues to sheepishly accept these outrageous race-based deals by the ruling party, then our rights as New Zealand citizens will continue to be trampled by self-serving deal-making politicians.

It appears that the New Zealand public has been somewhat conditioned into acquiescence by the tactics of the iwi elite. Firstly they use the publicly funded and outrageously biased Waitangi Tribunal to deliver favourable decisions based on their fabricated versions of history – complete, as we are now hearing, with evidence based on taniwhas and other forms of pagan spiritualty. If the government refuses to accept the Tribunal’s resolutions – which, fortunately, are not binding – the demands are then transferred into the court system using legal aid to fight any opposition to the highest level. In doing this they rely on eventually striking activist Judges who support the elevation of Maori rights. Going by past history, there now seems to be no lack of such advocates.

The public of course, find such tactics bewildering. It is difficult to understand some judicial decisions, let alone have the confidence to criticise them. Those that do speak out against Maori rights arguments are usually accused of racism. As a result, the public has been increasingly cowed into silence and opposition to outrageous developments is now muted.

But the problem is that unless New Zealanders step up and pressure the government through public opinion to recognise that that the only legitimate option is to act in the best interest of all citizens, we are heading towards a two-tiered society dominated by tribal influence and racial division. It is hardly the model of a modern democratic nation striving to succeed in a global world.

In considering iwi claims to water and all other public resources, the point that is largely overlooked is the fact that these claims can only have real legitimacy if tribal leaders can convince the government that they represent a group of citizens who are separate from all other New Zealanders. In spite of their desire to depict themselves as being separate, Maori clearly are not. They are as much a part of the general population as anyone else. Rapid intermarriage over the last 200 years means that tribal populations are no longer distinct – they are all of mixed race.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator is Dr Elizabeth Rata, an Associate Professor of Education at Auckland University, who has spent her career exposing how bicultural policies, aimed at better social justice outcomes for disadvantaged Maori, have subverted democracy and led to the formation of a powerful and wealthy elite within Maoridom. In her article she explains that the notion that there are two separate peoples in New Zealand is a political fabrication that should be rejected:

“To claim that there are two separate ‘peoples’ each with rights to ‘public’ resources under the control of separate political entities is the fundamental  flaw in the iwi case. It deserves rebuttal. Despite the insistence on a primordial difference, Maori and non-Maori are not two distinctive peoples with that distinctiveness justifying separate political categories. At present ‘New Zealand’ is the political entity and its public are all the nation’s citizens. This means that citizenship, not tribal membership, is the political category. All New Zealanders belong to this national category. Yet the iwi strategy of a separate people, aligned with the equally effective strategy of ‘partnership’, is powerful politics.”

Dr Rata blames the politicians who foolishly gave political power to what is effectively an elite lobby group of Maori business corporations, for the predicament we are in today. Their unrelenting greed for money and power is now threatening the very future of New Zealand.

So what is the basis of the claim by tribal leaders that they are a separate group that deserve separate powers and rights above those of all other New Zealanders?

They use the first settler argument, of course, to claim that because they were early immigrants they should have special rights. So what? Every New Zealander has immigrant roots – in the early days our ancestors all arrived by sea; now it’s mostly by air. New Zealand has no “indigenous” racial group in the way that some countries have tribes that can trace their origins back to almost the beginning of mankind, with little outside intermarriage. There are no such ‘first peoples’ in New Zealand, just immigrants.

Another myth perpetrated by tribal leaders is that the first settlers ‘owned’ the whole county. This is totally illogical and a complete fabrication. New Zealand’s small population did not “own” the whole country. In the days before private property rights were established by the rule of law, people “owned” what they could defend. Common areas like mountains and wilderness areas, the foreshore and seabed, rivers and lakes, were not “owned” by anyone but were used by all. The same goes for resources – minerals, the sea, the air, our water, wild animals and plants, and other common goods.

It is this reality that makes the Maori Council claim for water such a complete and utter farce – especially when the evidence of an ownership right is based on the existence of taniwha. The Herald reports that the Maori Council’s lawyer Felix Geiringer told the Waitangi Tribunal that a belief that taniwha were the guardians of waterways is evidence that Maori believed they ‘owned’ the water: “People say ‘in this resource is my taniwha, my guardian spirit. He protects me, he protects my water resource. He’s not your taniwha so if you are going to use that resource without my permission, he will do terrible things to you’. It’s not a joke, it’s a very strong indication that hapu was telling the world that this was their water resource and it couldn’t be used by anyone else without their permission. That is the very essence of a proprietary relationship.”

But such nonsense doesn’t stop there. Why for example do Maori have to be specially consulted over every consent application under the Resource Management Act? Why do they have special rights over the gathering of seafood instead of being bound by the same rules as everyone else? Why do they have special rights to dead whales – which are hardly indigenous creatures –  to the point of being able to prevent legitimate scientific analysis of the cause of stranding and death? Why do they have the exclusive right to greenstone?

While these are undoubtedly vexed issues, more troubling developments are now underway, that threaten the very foundation of New Zealand’s democracy. Thanks to the Maori Party, a $4 million government-funded project is now being rolled out to replace our existing constitutional arrangements and the sovereignty of Parliament, with a new written constitution based on the Treaty of Waitangi as supreme law.

Dr Rata has been watching the progress of this review and believes “The threat of a race-based constitution in New Zealand is now very real”. She ends her excellent article, New Zealand Constitution: Why iwi have got it wrong, with this: “There is still only one New Zealand public. There is still one New Zealand government, however compromised it has allowed itself to become. If the value of a single constituted New Zealand public is not understood and protected, it is possible that a new constitution will recognise a race-based polity with an, as yet, unknown degree of power. At that point the fundamental incompatibility of the racial tribe with democracy will be too obvious to ignore but too entrenched to resist. The loser will be democracy. It will also be New Zealand.”

There are not two separate people in New Zealand as the Maori elite try to claim. We are now a country of many different people of different backgrounds and beliefs united by the fact that we are New Zealanders first. If we are to forge a successful future, we must have a strong belief in ourselves and our country. It is time the politics of division – which the political class has imposed onto our country – is put behind us once and for all. We are all New Zealanders and that is all there is to it. Anyone who doesn’t like that fact, should leave.