The report by Fairfax media that Crown negotiators working for Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson on the Treaty settlement process have picked up million dollar fees shows the Treaty of Waitangi grievance industry has become an insatiable gravy train not just for the iwi elite, but also for ex-politicians and the ‘in’ crowd.1
The 14-strong negotiating team has been paid a total of $5.5 million. Michael Dreaver, an Auckland consultant was the highest earner at $1.5m, followed by Ross Philipson, formerly of the Ministry of Economic Development, who made just over $1m. Former Members of Parliament include justice minister Sir Douglas Graham (who was found guilty last year of making misleading statements while a director of Lombard Finance) who earned $186,901, former MP and iwi chairs forum member Tukoroirangi Morgan who received $439,085, and former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, who earned $29,912.
While Chris Finlayson has defended his team saying the money was well spent, taxpayers may well question the calibre of recent Treaty settlements. Many of those settlements appear excessively generous, significantly extending the boundaries established by previous governments to include ever more place name changes, the extension of the right of purchase of Crown assets to over 170 years, and increasing numbers of ‘co-governance’ deals that give iwi business operators equal power over public assets to that of government agents.
Last year’s Tuhoe settlement is a case in point. At $170 million, its value not only equalled those of the major Tainui, Ngai Tahu and the fisheries settlements, but it also included the co-governance of New Zealand’s biggest National Park – even though National Parks and conservation lands have always been considered ‘off limits’ for Treaty settlement purposes. How the government can justify awarding a private tribal corporation co-governance rights to a key national asset, is a question that has yet to be answered – especially as the deal also granted Tuhoe Mana Mutuhake, which means independence or self-governance. Awarding co-governance rights to our major National Park to a private tribal corporation that intends breaking away and establishing a nation within a nation is pure madness.
New Zealanders have never approved of the inclusion of co-governance deals in Treaty settlements. Iwi claimants are not official bodies – they are private business corporations driven by strong profit motives. Attempts to claim they are Treaty ‘partners’ – which is a convenient political construct promoted by Treaty activists – and therefore entitled to special privileges, should be seen as the fiction that it is. It is not acceptable that unelected, unaccountable private corporations driven by self interest are allocated special quasi-official roles that are not available to other New Zealanders.
Iwi have become experts at soft-soaping the public with talk of the ‘guardianship’ of assets. Let’s not be fooled by their rhetoric. Their agenda is to get their hands on as many public assets as they can, for private commercial advantage. This is evident in their claims for electromagnetic spectrum and of course, fresh water. If the Supreme Court supports the Maori councils’ claim for freshwater, and the government acquiesces to such a ridiculous notion, we will end up having to pay private tribal corporations every time we turn on the tap.
The reality is that the modern-day Treaty settlements are about money, not mana, and the drive for co-governance is about power not partnership.
Just last week Ngati Tuwharetoa, the so-called ‘guardians’ of Lake Taupo, announced that they intend to charge competitors in the New Zealand Ironman competition around $40 a head for the swimming leg of the race. This move to charge for the right to swim in the lake is expected to bring in around $56,000. It will be in addition to the income Tuwharetoa already receives from the commercial tourist ventures that use the lake, from a share of all fishing licence fees, and from an annual Crown payment of $1.5 million.
A similar decision to charge some lake users was made by Ngai Tahu a few years ago. Lake Ellesmere was included in their 1998 Treaty settlement, and at the time, assurances were given by the iwi and the Government that nothing would change regarding the public’s right to use the lake. In spite of those assurances an 8 percent levy on the earnings of commercial eel fishermen was imposed in 2009, and while recreational users of the lake have not been levied as yet, many fear that in time they too will be required to pay this ‘iwi tax’. Locals believe this levy is just the start. They say fishermen and boaties in other parts of the country should prepare for similar taxes being imposed wherever riverbeds, lakebeds and foreshore areas have been included in Treaty deals. They say that mooring buoys, jetties and bridges will soon be fair game for an iwi tax.
In response to complaints about the iwi tax, the Minister of Fisheries said there was nothing he could do, that it was a private matter between the public and the iwi. And there’s the rub – once these deals are done and public assets are given to private iwi corporations, the government washes its hands of any further involvement – they are “private” deals, involving what were public assets.
The problem is that our Members of Parliament have for a long time now adopted a policy of appeasement – they have caved in to pressure from Treaty activists. New Zealanders, who once enjoyed free and unfettered access to our rivers, lakes, and the coast, need to realise that unless public pressure forces our politicians to change course and stand up for the public interest, these spaces will no longer be available free of charge to all New Zealanders in the future. The changes will be incremental, a lakebed here, a riverbed or seabed there, all charges under the guise of ‘guardianship’ funded by ‘environmental levies’ or ‘conservation tariffs’.
I have said this before and I will say it again – public opinion matters. The public are being treated like sheep because we don’t speak out strongly enough. Through these newsletters, the New Zealand Centre for Political Research addresses public policy issues of concern and those readers who forward them on to their networks are helping us to inform the wider public and increase awareness so that collectively we can stand up to the rorts and hold the government to account.
This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator is Fiona Mackenzie, a political commentator with a background in education, finance and marketing, who has been assessing the Treaty propaganda that is being pushed by the Associate Minister of Education, Maori Party Leader Pita Sharples, and the Ministry of Education in our schools.
Fiona explains that when the Ministry of Education found that schools had difficulty implementing Treaty of Waitangi principles, they published a curriculum update to provide ‘guidance’: “The Ministry’s Update is very disturbing because it goes way beyond the teaching of Maori content. It is a blatant attempt to change and control the behaviour of schools, teachers and students, to promote the ‘Maori world view’ and to elevate ‘Maori’ to a superior status not afforded anyone else.”
Fiona ends her article What’s going on in our schools with a plea: “For all the sake of New Zealanders, it is time to end this crusade for Maori domination. We need to face reality and go forward as one united country. While we should definitely celebrate our many cultures, it is vital to the health of our nation that we operate equally under the same rights and obligations. If we persist in trying to revert to 1840 tribalism, re-write history and make economic slaves of those with no Maori ancestry, our problems will only magnify and our futures will become very bleak.”
Sir Bob Jones, an outspoken critic of race-based privilege, has used a recent Herald article to ridicule the sorts of cultural practices that are increasingly being forced onto New Zealanders. He commented on a bizarre ceremony that took place last month when a dead whale was washed up on Paraparaumu beach.
“Launching the Maori counterattack for idiocy talking honours, kaumatua Don Te Maipi, another in need of a dictionary, told journalists that ‘the dead whale is regarded as an ancestor’. Mr Te Maipi didn’t say who specifically regarded that whale so, but if there’s anyone apart from him who does, then the asylum beckons. Mr Te Maipi then moved into padded-cell-and-straitjacket territory when he added that he believed ‘the whale’s death could have been connected spiritually to the death of Bruce Mansell’. Mansell, a non-Maori, was a local shopping centre manager who had died two days earlier. He was not over-weight and certainly not of sperm whale dimensions.”
“An Ani Parata, described as a local iwi representative, piped up and told the same reporter, ‘The whale has given up his life for us,’ adding, ‘This is a significant message to us. We come from a tribe of whalers’. No detailed explanation for this hogwash was given but nevertheless I can assure Ani Parata that the whale not only did no such thing but, in fact, would have been oblivious to her existence. What ‘the significant message’ was, understandably was not explained.”
Sir Bob then concluded, “Imagine if talking tripe was a criminal offence. Mr Te Maipi would be history. In his case it would be a maximum sentence with a minimum 10-year parole term. Ms Parata poses a difficulty, for she’s a woman and the court would be confused by her trespassing into Maori male nonsense-talking territory. Her best bet would be to plead that she was in the middle of a week-long bender and was so drunk at the time that it would be unreasonable to hold her responsible for her words, for which she now has deep remorse.”2
It’s absurd that Maori should have a monopoly on dead whales. They are creatures of the international seas; any attachment to Maori is a fiction created to gain ownership of the valuable whale bones and teeth – and is no more relevant than their apparent belief in Taniwha. It’s time for honesty and frankness in the debate about Maori rights – it’s time to for politicians to stop pandering to a vocal minority and start listening to the majority, but for that to happen the majority must become vocal.