About the Author

Avatar photo

Dr Muriel Newman

Equal Rights an Election Issue

Print Friendly and PDF
Posted on

Iwi_chairs_forumLast week Radio NZ ran the following story on Waatea News: The Crown is being asked to commit $1 billion to Maori social services. Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt says Treaty settlements have dealt with historical breaches, but not social grievances… Marae chair Neville Baker says there have been some discussions about taking a contemporary claim to the Waitangi Tribunal.”[1]

Is this suggestion of social grievance claims a signal of where the Treaty industry might be heading? If such a suggestion attracts little public opposition, will that be taken as tacit approval and lead to an avalanche of such claims against the taxpayer?

Well, the NZCPR is not prepared to be silent. We say not only is any suggestion that social dysfunction is a Treaty matter preposterous, but it is an admission that the multi-million dollar race-based “by-Maori, for-Maori” social service experiment – that has been operating since the eighties – is a failure and should be scrapped.

Simon Chapple, a senior research analyst with the Department of Labour, pointed this out in 2001 in a report on “Maori Socio-Economic Disadvantage”. He found that Maori ethnicity is not a general predictor of poor social outcomes: “Generally speaking, being Maori does not appear to directly cause observed average earnings and employment gaps”. He explains that age, education, literacy and local labour market conditions are the most important factors in socio-economic disadvantage – along with “sub-cultural associations with benefit dependence, sole parenthood, early natality, drug and alcohol abuse, physical violence, and illegal cash cropping”.[2]

In other words, social dysfunction is not a race issue – young, uneducated, single parents of any ethnicity who are on welfare and live in unstable households, are likely to be at risk, especially if they have a dependency on drugs and alcohol.

Mr Baker has also misrepresented the purpose of Treaty settlements. The settlement process was sold to the New Zealand public as a way of putting right claimed historical wrongs – using public money and resources to improve the wellbeing of tribal claimants by helping them to achieve social and economic independence.

In those cases where Treaty settlements have been completed (some for the fourth or fifth time!), the status of the social and economic wellbeing of tribal members rests with iwi leaders, who have collectively received close to $2 billion of public money and assets. If tribal members are disadvantaged, those iwi leaders who control the purse strings should be held to account, since the elite groups running tribal corporations ensure they are well looked after – as last year’s annual report from Ngai Tahu shows only too clearly, with 81 employees earning over $100,000 (up from 67 in 2012) at a total cost of $15 million, with the highest paid in the salary band $710,000 to $719,999![3]

Even when Treaty claims haven’t been completed, millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money has been pumped into tribal coffers through many different avenues including fisheries and forestry settlements, as well as generous funding for the preparation of claims from Legal Aid, the Office of Treaty Settlements, and the Crown Forestry Rental Trust.

A case in point is the Northland tribe of Ngapuhi, which in 2005 received the country’s second biggest fisheries settlement of $63 million. Being the largest iwi in the country (the 2013 Census shows 125,601 people claimed Ngapuhi ancestry) they are angling for the most expensive Treaty settlement. Ngapuhi leaders maintain that because they are four times larger than Tainui, Ngai Tahu or Tuhoe, which each received settlements of around $170 million, they should be entitled to a sum that is four times larger at $500 to $600 million. That most of the land they claim was ‘lost’ was actually sold by the owners, and that many so-called descendents have only a trace of Maori blood, does not seem to matter. When it comes to the settlement of Treaty claims, the government is a soft touch and appears care-free when handing out public money and assets.

The fact that the size of claimant groups influences the quantum of settlements helps to explain why some iwi are so aggressive in trying to get people to sign up. But it also raises the bigger question of who exactly should be able to call themselves Maori?

The 2013 Census shows that 668,724 people claimed they were of Maori descent – up from 643,977 in 2006. Of those, 535,941 indicated they were affiliated to one or more iwi – up from 512,325 in 2006.

The problem with the census however, is that anyone who declares even a smidgeon of Maori blood, is counted as if Maori is their only ethnicity. In other words, someone who is a New Zealand European with a very distant trace of Maori blood, say 1/32nd (meaning they had a great-great-great-grandparent who was Maori) – making them 97 percent European – is treated by the government as if they are full-blooded Maori.

This bizarre situation relates back to a relaxation of the legal definition of Maori that took place in 1974. Up until that time, someone could only be categorised as being of Maori descent if they had 50 percent or more of Maori blood. This defined Maori as, A person belonging to the Aboriginal race of New Zealand and includes a half-caste and a person immediately in blood between half-caste and a person of pure descent from that race.

The Maori Affairs Amendment Act 1974 re-defined Maori as, A person of the Maori race of New Zealand; and includes any descendent of such a person.

The blurring of blood lines through intermarriage is an issue for indigenous groups around the world. In Hawaii, the 50 percent blood quantum requirement still exists, as it does with some American Indian Tribes, while others have relaxed the blood quantum criteria from 1/2 to 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, or to a lineal descent requirement.

New Zealand’s ‘solution’ means that growing numbers of people, who through two-centuries of intermarriage are of an increasingly multi-ethnic heritage and almost wholly non-Maori, are able to enjoy special Maori-only privileges. These include Maori-only schools and education scholarships, housing projects, health-care prioritisation, special welfare initiatives, and even Maori-only programmes for prisoners.

Increasingly Maori-only positions are being established in highly competitive university courses, as well as on government boards and agencies – such as Pharmac, the government’s drug buying agency, which has just advertised for a Manager of Maori Responsiveness, whose responsibility will be to ensure the senior leadership team “are informed and understand how to effectively partner with Maori and forge deep and meaningful relationships”.

Then there are Maori-only consultation rights under the Resource Management Act – as property owners in Auckland are just finding out, now those rights over so-called sites of significance to Maori have been incorporated into the Unitary Plan.

Co-governance is a race-based arrangement that is increasingly used by politicians to appease tribal leaders – even though it seriously undermines the democratic rights of all New Zealanders, as public parks, rivers, lakes, and the coastline increasingly come under the control of agenda- driven race-based representatives.

Then there are special tax rates of 17.5 percent for iwi corporations that register as Maori authorities (compared to non-Maori rates of 28 percent company tax and 33 percent for trusts), with tax-free status for those that can convince officials their businesses are charitable or based around a marae.

Other race-based anti-democratic anomalies include Maori-only seats on local councils, Maori-only local government Statutory Boards and liaison committees, and the Maori seats in Parliament.

New Zealanders must face up to the fact that the creep of race based privilege is expanding more rapidly, not only as the iwi elite become more powerful, but also as more and more people in positions of authority think pandering to Maori demands is the politically correct thing to do – especially at local government level.

A recent case is the Local Government Commission’s plan to establish Maori Statutory Boards in any area that puts forward amalgamation proposals – against the wishes of locals.

The Northland Regional Council appears to be following suit, announcing plans to appoint a Maori Advisory Committee to influence council decision-making in the region. But instead of asking for resident and ratepayer approval through a referendum process, they are hiding their proposal for this race-based body inside the regional planning process. Silence on the issue will be taken as public approval.

Nor should the influence of academia be underestimated.

This week’s guest commentator David Round – a law lecturer at Canterbury University and Chairman of our Independent Constitutional Review Panel – has shared with us his review of a new book, Treaty of Waitangi Settlements. It contains a collection of essays by leading academics and lawyers, most of whom have been involved in Treaty process: “Nearly all of them could fairly be described as members of the new youngish professional elite doing quite nicely out of the Treaty industry.”

David is highly critical: “This book is a political tract masquerading as an academic treatise. But every book written on the Treaty is a political book. The only difference is that some books are open about their underlying beliefs, and most are not. This one is not. It is just another intellectual prop to support the next stage in the never-ending demanding-with-menaces which our race relations increasingly resemble.

He concludes his review with this: “This book shows a complete ignorance of the point of view of the majority of New Zealanders, and must confirm their worst fears that the Treaty gravy train, already so obnoxious and so unsuccessful in bringing any benefits to ordinary Maori, is only beginning its long profitable journey, and that the choice we face is between derailing it or being derailed ourselves as a coherent, peaceful and prosperous nation.”

So what do we do? Do we say and do nothing, while a powerful race-based elite increasingly tramples on our democratic rights in their pursuit of ever greater constitutional privilege? Or do we take a stand?

Distinguishing citizens on the basis of their ancestry is – by its very nature – fundamentally abhorrent to free people whose institutions are founded on the doctrine of equality. In a number of US states, when preferential treatment based on race, gender and ethnicity meted out by their government became unacceptably divisive, citizens took the law into their own hands by forcing a referendum. California led in 1996 with Proposition 209: “The state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, colour, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”

If New Zealand had binding citizen’s initiated referenda, then the public could require that a colour-blind government treats all citizens equally in law. But since our referenda are not binding, we need politicians to lead the process of change for us. Equal rights is a key election issue for a majority of New Zealand voters who are looking for parties committed to ending preferential treatment based on race.


Should the equivalent of Proposition 209 banning preferential treatment based on race be enacted in New Zealand?

Click HERE to see all NZCPR poll results



1. Radio NZ, $1b needed for social services – marae
2. Simon Chapple, Maori Socio-Economic Disparity
3. Ngai Tahu, Annual Report 2013