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Mike Butler

No hearing for non-iwi constitutional group

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A polite “thank you but no thank you” was the official response to a request for a meeting with Ministers Bill English and Pita Sharples to discuss constitutional issues detailed in the report A House Divided. Did the Iwi Leader’s Group get to discuss such issues directly with the government? No and yes! The next meeting is on Wednesday at Waitangi and constitutional issues may be on the agenda.

A House Divided is the Independent Constitutional Review Panel response to a review of the constitution that resulted from the National Party’s coalition deal with the Maori Party after the 2008 election

It reported on 1222 submissions from all over New Zealand that showed 97 percent wanted local government Maori seats abolished, 96 percent wanted the separate Maori roll abolished, and 96 percent thought the Treaty of Waitangi should not be included in our constitutional arrangements.

A House Divided assumes, as a starting-point, that equal rights of citizenship for all citizens are desirable, that discrimination on the ground of racial ancestry is undesirable, that our constitution should be directed to the common welfare rather than to serving the interests of any particular group or groups, and that a divisive tribalism which puts the interests of ones own race, class, religion or caste before that greater good is to be discouraged.

The official review, by the Constitutional Advisory Panel, appeared fundamentally flawed because its terms of reference, personnel, and operating procedures, seemed to predetermine results without any actual genuine public awareness or input.

Setting aside any outrage over this expected official snub, the government’s regular meetings with this association of Maori 50 percenters is co-governance in action – like it or not. Iwi Leaders Group members may be described as 50 percenters because they routinely claim half of everything.

While this Maori association has been generously described as performing commercial and policy functions, it operates like a one-way destination, a sink hole, for the nation’s wealth. Little returns to the nation by way of tax because apart from minimal GST requirements, these new entities are classified as charitable, and therefore tax-exempt. The ruling party of the day expects a return in terms of votes.

Co-governance has its origins in consultation-co-operation-compensation dogmas of the so-called treaty principles that were conjured up in 1987.

When trying to implement the partnership principle, well-meaning clots in the 1980s government looked for an “appropriate Maori” negotiate with, and thought the New Zealand Maori Council seemed to fit the description. Indeed, at that time that body forced the government to partnership-share State-owned enterprises and commercial fisheries.

But that was then and this is now. Settlements of land grievances have created and funded new “tribal” bodies, and it was only a matter of time that a leader of one of these bodies saw the benefits of uniting these groups – which happened in 2005, when the first Iwi Chairs Forum convened in Kaikoura.

Treaty settlements made these new tribal bodies phenomenally wealthy, with Ngai Tahu and Waikato-Tainui net worth each at around $1-billion. Mandated groups now own huge tracts of forestry land, some important national resources such as geothermal steam, lake beds and some of NZ’s most profitable tourism ventures.

The forum set up an Iwi Leaders Group on Climate Change in 2007 to ensure Maori land owners would get the most out of the emissions trading scheme. The same year the forum set up the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group to claim fresh water and position their group in a nation-wide freshwater framework.

Iwi leaders have positioned themselves to acquire strategic assets such as shares in electricity generators, and an inland port at Ruakura, Ngai Tahu has put up substantial cash for the proposed Ruataniwha dam in Central Hawke’s Bay.

Therefore, over 25 years governments have created and funded Maori groups that have united and now have regular meetings with the government to claim half of everything in the name of treaty partnership.

Having attained undreamed-of wealth, these pumped-up partnership playthings set their sights on grabbing political power. South Island tribe Ngai Tahu told a 2005 constitutional review “that the greatest shortcoming of New Zealand’s current constitutional arrangements is their failure to fully recognise the fundamental significance of the Treaty of Waitangi”.

A renewed push in 2008 resulted in the Constitutional Advisory Panel that released its report in December of last year.

The government has declined meeting with the non-iwi Independent Constitutional Review Panel on the grounds that it is not meeting with other groups. But if the Iwi Leaders Group chooses to raise the issue at the next regular meeting, which is on Wednesday at Waitangi, the government will be happy to discuss it.

A race-based system of co-governance has emerged. Everyone gets to elect representatives who form a government. But this elected government acts as though it is in partnership with non-elected private Maori groups that have been created and funded by – the government.

If you don’t like the race-based governance that we have, you have two votes this year to register disapproval. Or, you could try to talk to your MP. Good luck with that!