Dr Michael Bassett
Constant repetition of assertions that Maori have a Treaty of Waitangi right to dedicated seats on the new Auckland Council doesn’t make them correct. It is clear that neither Tuku Morgan nor Len Brown, nor most of the other advocates of separate representation, has read the Treaty, sometimes called our founding document. It is a simple treaty of three clauses. It was written in 1840 when nothing approaching today’s concepts of democracy existed anywhere in the world. There was no parliament, nor any councils in New Zealand. Consequently there was nothing that could be deemed an Article Two “taonga” to be preserved on behalf of Maori. What there was in the Treaty, however, was an Article Three guarantee to Maori that the Crown would give Maori “the same rights and duties of citizenship as the people of England”. In other words, when it came to politics, Maori rights would be the same as everyone else’s.
There are few futuristic ideas that have lost their sheen as quickly as the notion that settlements of Maori grievances would improve New Zealand’s race relations. Our ancestors were sceptical. There were inquiries into grievances in 1921 and 1927, and Prime Minister Peter Fraser told Maori in the 1940s that he would settle the eleven sets of identifiable grievance that Maori had against the Crown. Several “full and final settlements” were made between 1943 and 1947. But most of the money paid to Maori trust boards was wasted.