About the Author

Avatar photo

Dr Muriel Newman

Two flags, two peoples, a divided nation

Print Friendly and PDF
Posted on

New Zealand has a lot to be proud of but there are some aspects of life ‘down under’ that we would prefer not to mention. Near the top of that list is racism.

Racism is alive and well in New Zealand. That is, anti-white racism of the sort recently made public by a Member of Parliament.

In claiming that ‘Whities’ had been ripping off Maori for centuries, MP Hone Harawira exposed the underlying attitude that drives the Maori sovereignty movement – along with its beneficiaries the Treaty of Waitangi gravy train and indeed the Maori Party itself. This undercurrent of anti-white racism has existed for years but remains one of those truths that most are reluctant to admit and that few have the courage to address.

The New Zealand Centre for Political Research has never shied away from this issue. It is too important to ignore – it’s at the heart of how we feel about our country and is critical for our future.

Unfortunately the Maori rights movement with its assertion of racial privilege has grown strong as a result of the actions of politicians who have been prepared to sacrifice racial harmony on the alter of electoral support. Those individual MPs in government, who have persuaded their colleagues to support Maori rights over the rights of all other New Zealanders to equality before the law, have done the country a grave disservice. As a result of their lack of courage a bloated grievance industry continues to fuel the growing racial divide.

The reality is that over a thirty year period, the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process, introduced to address historic grievances between Maori and the Crown, has been captured by the Maori elite. Many claims have received multiple ‘full and final’ settlements, each one becoming increasingly generous.

To its credit, Helen Clark’s Labour Party said enough is enough and introduced a cut off date for historic claims. But to its shame, John Key’s National Party has now put the whole concept of full and final settlements at risk. As Phil Goff, the Leader of the Labour Party explained in a speech last month, National’s desperate deal to buy Maori Party support for its emissions trading scheme, has resulted in five Maori corporations being able to re-open their “full and final” settlements. This will have set a precedent for the creation of “a permanent class of ‘post-Treaty asset’ – Assets that were once part of a Treaty settlement would forever be eligible for compensation if they were ever affected by adverse decisions by government. If the government ever changed the rules relating to forestry, or tax law, or the exchange rate, here is now a precedent for having to compensate the owners of an asset that had once been part of a Treaty settlement. That’s a bad principle. Full and final settlement would become impossible.”[1]

In contrast, when Don Brash was leader of the National Party, he tackled the growing racial divide head on by declaring that the Treaty should not be used as the basis for creating greater civil, political or democratic rights for Maori than for any other New Zealander. He pledged that National would complete the settlement of historic claims, remove all references to race from legislation (including the undefined “principles of the Treaty”), and abolish the Maori seats.

The response from the public was overwhelming. They were hungry for leadership. They wanted someone to put a stake in the ground and halt the slide to separatism. During his time in Parliament, Winston Peters also consistently stood against Maori privilege, as has ACT. Even Helen Clark occasionally drew a line, preferring to meet Shrek the sheep than the ‘haters and wreckers’ who led the foreshore and seabed hikoi to Parliament.

Incredibly, John Key has now embraced the party that believes that white man should be kicked out of New Zealand, and under John Key’s direction National is now assisting Maori to advance its racial agenda.

Just last week the Minister of Treaty Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson, signed an agreement with Ngati Porou which has been described as “a return of sovereignty to Ngati Porou”.[2] The settlement includes $110 million in cash, ownership of almost 6,000ha of conservation reserves and parks – including forests, scenic and wildlife reserves, hot springs and boat ramps – the right to buy 21 schools and 5 police stations which the Crown would then lease back, the option to buy any state house in the area that Housing New Zealand might want to sell, and the right to “enhance influence” on Gisborne District Council resource management decision-making that might affect the iwi.

In spite of Tuhoe agreeing to a “full and final” settlement of £100,000 in 1958, they are back at the negotiating table pursuing their agenda of “self government”. According to the Herald, Treaty Minister Christopher Finlayson is “keen to keep a lid on public opinion”, especially regarding those government functions that could be devolved to Tuhoe, which include health, building, education, local government and the environment, while tourism, justice, welfare, culture, arts and heritage, taxation and Maori development are proving more problematic! Tuhoe are also demanding full ownership of the 212,000ha Urewera National Park.[3]

The Gisborne Herald recently exposed what really concerns East Coast tribes over the proposed changes to the foreshore and seabed legislation and that is that they might miss out on the getting their hands on the riches: “As you’re aware, there are a lot of oil and minerals in the seabed and if you ask us, that’s what the Foreshore and Seabed Act is all about. Our primary position is affirmation of ownership, but if we can’t get to that, compensation. The amount of resources out there would make the fisheries deals pale in comparison — we’re talking some fantastic amounts that would help with our economic salvation.”[4]

These tribes are also extremely keen to see John Key ratify the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as they have already planned that it will create another lucrative opportunity to squeeze taxpayers: “A simple solution to any vacuum left by the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed legislation was for the Government to ratify the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. When you read that declaration, it gives those people the right to veto laws, the right to royalties over minerals. When you boil it down, it’s really just an extended version of Article 2 – Tino Rangatiratanga. If the Government binds itself to that declaration, it’s not law, but at least we can build some sort of regime that is similar to implementing our Article 2 rights.”

What motivates these acts of racism is not a desire for equality – it is self interest and greed wrapped in a cloak of mana and customary rights. Where modern Maori differ from their waring tribal ancestors is in their unity. They have a common flag and a common enemy.

And that is why the public at large will show absolute disgust and contempt when on February 6th the Maori sovereignty flag will be flown from the Harbour Bridge, Premier House and many other government buildings. These two sovereignty flags – that of New Zealand and that of Maori Treaty rights – will represent the divided nation that New Zealand has become.

In his article The Enemy of Nationhood, David Round, this week’s Guest Commentator, puts it like this: A nation’s flag is a precious thing. It arises out of a long history; it grows with a people and tells their story. The New Zealand flag is no exception. On the blue of the Pacific Ocean shines the Southern Cross, the great guiding constellation of our skies, and in one corner the crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick ~ England, Scotland and Ireland ~ tell of our British ancestors ~ the explorers and pioneers who found New Zealand a barbarous, albeit beautiful, wilderness of warring tribes, and created by their patient heroic labours the land of peace and comparative prosperity we have inherited. Certainly, there is nothing specifically Maori here, and it might be nice if there were, although Maori crossed the blue Pacific guided by the stars, and all Maori, after all, have British ancestry, even if they prefer to ignore or deny the fact; but this is our flag. It is a pretty accurate reflection of our nation and of the traditions and ideals which have shaped and made us and, until recently anyway, inspired us. We shall need those ideals again in future. It is perhaps a bit of an accident of history, but then so are many things. We have never been a great flag-waving nation; we are an undemonstrative, laconic people; but all the same, this is what we are. Our ancestors, Maori and British, have fought and sometimes died for it. A flag is not just a pretty piece of cloth. It is not just a corporate logo; it is not just ‘a symbol’. It is more than that; and that is why the Prime Minister’s decision that the Maori sovereignty flag will fly from Parliament, Premier House, government buildings and the Auckland Harbour Bridge next Waitangi Day is so foolish and ominous a sign. To fly the flag of a movement dedicated to the dismantling of our country shows how foolish and blind we have become. The Maori sovereignty flag is the enemy of the flag it will be flying next to”.

It is tragic for New Zealand that John Key’s National Party is so obsessed with pleasing everyone that it appears to be blind to the agenda of radical Maori and naïve in allowing this escalation of racial division under its watch.

Incredibly the National Party has advanced the Maori sovereignty agenda much more than the socialist Labour Party did. That will prove disastrous for the future of New Zealand and I’m sure will be a huge disappointment to many of those who voted for National at the last election.

At a political level, the actions of the National Party have re-opened the door to the return of Winston Peters – who has consistently argued against racial division and the prevailing partnership myth of the Treaty of Waitangi. It also re-exposes National’s right flank to gains by the ACT Party, should ACT choose to pursue this issue and wrestle away votes that would otherwise go to New Zealand First.

The racism debate needs to be discussed openly and honestly, and without fear or favour. We need to ask which of two paths New Zealand wants to go down. The first is the path of the Maori sovereignty movement that looks to a future shaped by indigenous rights. We know from the experiences of Zimbabwe and South Africa where that path leads.

The alternative path – desired by most New Zealanders – respects indigenous culture but rejects tribalism and privilege for our so-called indigenous population.

Most people want the grievance gravy train to stop. Most people know the train has become a billion dollar industry that has gone beyond righting the wrongs of the past, and most can see that the motivations are now largely selfish.

What is particularly disturbing in all of this is that John Key and his National Party either don’t see it, or are prepared to turn a blind eye because it suits them to do so.


1.Phil Goff, Nationhood
2.Herald, East Coast iwi weigh up $110m cash offer
3.Herald, Tuhoe discusses areas of self-government
4. Gisborne Herald, What comes next after seabed Act?