Forests have ears, and fields have eyes;
Often treachery lurking lies
Underneath the fairest hair.
– Longfellow, The Saga of King Olaf
Treachery is a contemptible thing. To be deceived, to be stolen from, to be stabbed in the back, not by some stranger, but by someone you know and trust; to be betrayed, as Jesus was by Judas, with a kiss; treachery, and its grander cousin treason, are the unforgivable crimes. They succeed because the deceiver occupies a moral universe different from our own. Con-men who make promises with their hands on their hearts and then steal the life savings of the elderly ~ if we are unfortunate, we may perhaps encounter such breathtaking dishonesty even among our own families and friends. How on earth could they do it? How is it possible to look someone straight in the eye, smile and lie to him and then plunge the knife into his heart?
Well, it may be, as that old cynic La Rochefoucauld says, that more men are guilty of treachery through weakness than through any studied design to betray; but from the point of view of the betrayed, that does not make it any better. The end result is the same.
The particular betrayal I am thinking of right now is a bit of a process. It has not yet been completed, but it is under way; and the betrayers are the very people we expect ~ or once, in more innocent days, expected ~ to safeguard our best interests ~ our elected representatives. Somehow, without a qualm, they now consider it entirely proper ~ might even consider it their duty ~ and certainly consider it very convenient, making their lives much easier ~ to put the interests of a handful of big corporations run by and for rich part-Maori ahead of their duty to us. It is not just in the United States that politicians have become corrupt. (I use the word in a general, spiritual sense ~ I do not suggest that anything has happened here recently as crude and obvious as money changing hands; although the way things are going such financial corruption is merely the logical next step. New Zealanders do not have some special anti-corruption gene, and our national life is not as innocent or decent as it was. If corruption were discovered, would it surprise you? After all, there have been a few close shaves already.)
I have just spent some more of my life’s precious hours perusing a number of documents concerning current Maori ambitions to control our country’s fresh water. You may recall that we have been concerned about this issue for some time. The Iwi Leaders Group (henceforward the ILG) commissioned a ‘research group’ called Sapere to do some ‘research’ ~ and surprise surprise, this research concluded that the best thing to do was to ‘settle’ Maori water claims ~ which, without any further investigation, were assumed ab initio actually to be genuine ~ and to settle them, indeed, not just by giving the new Maori neo-tribal elite completely unwarranted rights and priorities in our existing administration, but by fundamentally altering our existing water law so that rights to this public and precious resource could thereafter be owned privately in perpetuity. Given the usual hypocritical cant about the preciousness of water, wai, full of life force, mauri, blah blah blah, it is impossible to imagine Maori being relaxed about this precious resource being in any private hands unless the hands happened to be ~ theirs.
As I explained at the time, there is absolutely no legal, moral or common sense justification for any Maori claim to fresh water. The legal situation is that no-one owns water, and no-one ever has. This was the situation at common law, and the Water and Soil Conservation Act 1967 and now the Resource Management Act 1991 start off from the same assumption. With some very minor and inevitable practical exceptions, anyone wanting to use water has to obtain a resource consent ~ a ‘water permit’ ~ to do so from the local regional council. Because of those statutes, the Waitangi Tribunal did not even have the authority to consider any Maori claim to water and produce its report, since it is now barred from considering any ‘historical claim’ arising before 1992. But anything as trivial as law does not worry the Tribunal now.
As a matter of common sense, when Maori sold land in the past that sale must have included the water on or flowing over the land. How can you separate them? Indeed, that conclusion would follow from the ‘holistic’ nature of the Maori worldview ~ everything is connected, you see, and Maori don’t divide the world up into ‘resources’ the way the white folks do. Come to think of it, it was not that long ago that we were getting sanctimonious sermons from Maori to the effect that the very concept of owning the natural world was an anathema….
And surely if Maori concern is for the common good ~ which is a line they do trot out occasionally, when it suits them ~ what can possibly be wrong with the current system, which has that as its objective? How would generally privatising water, and in particular giving special rights to one particular greedy and ambitious interest group, help to promote the common good more than it is promoted now?
As a matter of simple justice and natural law, water, essential for life itself, must be common property. Who can live without water? If it is privatised then some stranger has control of our very lives. Certainly, water must be allocated to private uses ~ farms, factories, hydro-electric dams ~ for the community’s use and benefit. Our law does this at present by granting water permits to private individuals. But those permits are not in perpetuity, but expire after a maximum of thirty-five years, if no earlier date was set. They are often subject to numerous conditions~ at least in theory, although regional councils are often pathetic in their enforcement. A permit will usually be to use water for some particular purpose ~ if you are granted a permit for irrigation, say, it should be improper to then bottle that same water and sell it overseas, leaving our land and the community high and dry. And ~ at present ~ there is no racial preference in water allocation. The Resource Management Act does refer to the ‘principles of the Treaty’, but only as things which decision makers must ‘take into account’, not even things which they must ‘have regard to’.
And there is no longer any distinct Maori race, but those with some Maori ancestry are New Zealanders like the rest of us. And isn’t racism supposed to be bad? And haven’t we been assured time and time again that after the historical claims of the last generation were settled (yet again) that the past would finally be behind us and we could all move forward as one people?
Well, what happened after Sapere produced its ‘research’? Our government ~ you know, the people we elect to represent our best interests ~ what was their response? John Key ~ the ‘smiling assassin’, as he evidently used to be known in the days when he was making his millions gambling with other people’s money in the none too scrupulous world of high finance? Bill English, the master of the understatement in admitting that it was ‘not a good look’ to be claiming for his family home in his Southland electorate when his family had actually been living in Wellington for some years? Gerry Brownlee, whose title as ‘Minister of Earthquake Recovery’ is regarded by the unrepaired and shoddily repaired householders of Christchurch as nothing but the purest sarcasm? Stephen Joyce, big flash businessman, who, if the Sky City Casino debacle is anything to go by, could not negotiate his way out of a wet paper bag….All of them professing to oppose racial separatism, and all of them having no problem at all with the disgraceful Constitutional Advisory Panel….What did these luminous brains tell us?
Mr English ~ speaking, one must reasonably conclude, for the whole government ~ said that the Crown ‘accepted the general principle that iwi have rights and interests’. So there you are. No legal authority for this ~ ‘findings’ of the Waitangi Tribunal, certainly, as you would only expect, but the Tribunal is not a court of law, the Tribunal in fact flouts the law when it suits it, and the Tribunal is stacked with the very people in whose favour it makes its findings. The courts have never found any special Maori rights and interests. But hey, no problem! Mr English is quite relaxed about selling the people of New Zealand down the river by handing over the river itself. Thank you for nothing Bill.
We did not get a much better response from Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment. He ‘did not accept that Maori have any preferential first right over either nutrient or water allocation. So no notional allocation and no automatic right to ten or twenty per cent for iwi.’
Well that might sound a little better. But there are other ways of killing a cat besides choking it with butter. An automatic right to ten or twenty per cent would never be a desirable way to go about satisfying Maori demands. For one thing, such an automatic right would require parliament’s approval, and thereby excite a great deal of undesirable public opposition. For another thing, of course, ten or twenty per cent might not be enough!
It would be far better, surely, if New Zealanders did not actually notice what was happening. Slide it all in under the radar. To mix metaphors ~ slip the knife between the ribs ~ while still smiling! That’s the way. Far more sensible if the whole matter were dealt with as some boring and complex matter of local government procedure that no-one apart from a few dedicated cranks interests himself or herself in. And so ~ here we are! ~ Dr Smith has the brilliant idea that Maori ‘rights and interests’ in water could be dealt with by giving them ‘an effective voice in the process, catchment by catchment’. And there, the government ‘may set criteria by which local iwi can get preferential access to water, catchment by catchment’.
Preferential access catchment by catchment. In other words, hand the whole matter over to regional councils (so they can take the blame, after the government has altered the law to force them to follow this course) for a death by a thousand cuts rather than by just one. I don’t know about your regional council, but generally they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, and are hardly going to be able to resist the joint government/Maori policy of divide and rule.
(Canterbury, my own province, has not even had an elected regional council for some years. The current government decided that although Cantabrians would still pay regional rates, we would, for a few years, not have elections. We would have taxation without representation. The problem was that the elected regional council was an impediment to dairy farmers getting their hands on Canterbury’s water. The government, then, has already demonstrated its contempt for democracy when the wishes of the people get in the way of handing public resources over to its friends.)
The public ~ sadly ~ do not pay as much attention as they ought to what regional councils do. And we have to ask, indeed, how much attention do regional and district councils pay to their ratepayers? Do they want to serve them? On the 6th of August this year the Iwi Chairs Forum and Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) signed a memorandum of understanding by which LGNZ ‘acknowledges the mana and kaitiakitanga status of iwi over the nation’s land and natural resources’. LGNZ promises always to discuss ‘matters of strategic significance’ with iwi ~ and those matters include ‘economic development, environment, infrastructure, employment, social issues, health, housing, energy and local democratic representation and decision-making’! There is not much that is not on that list. Nor will it be difficult to guess what discussion about local democratic representation will involve ~ its dilution and removal. Thank you for nothing, mayors and councillors.
The parties also agree to a ‘timely raising of issues and a no surprises approach’.
Were you aware of this? I was not. Where was democratic accountability when this was decided on?
Dr Smith’s innocent phrase giving iwi an ‘effective voice’ is interesting ~ and telling. What could be wrong with letting someone’s voice be heard? Who would want to suppress voices? Is this Nazi Germany? (Silly question, actually. We’re certainly bringing the racism back.) But an ‘effective’ voice? By my understanding of the English language, the effective voice is the voice that has an effect. It is a voice that makes the difference. It is the voice ~ effectively! ~ of the decision-maker. Mein Fuhrer!
The Freshwater Iwi Leaders group has been busy. It is always important, if you have nothing valid to say, to take a long time saying it. Make it look impressive, and no-one may notice the highly dubious assumptions and methodology. And so here we have a very impressive-looking eighty-one page ‘Iwi/Hapu Rights and Interests in Fresh Water: Recognition Work-Stream: Research Report’. I will not weary you with its detail; and we should not weary ourselves with its detail, for its very first page starts off with talk of the Maori ‘relationship’ with fresh water, based on long vague Maori words and manifesting itself in kaitiaki rights and responsibilities which have to be seen in the context of a wider Maori world-view based on kaupapa….Wai (water) is a tupuna ~ an ancestor! ~ and also a taonga! Fancy! That’s very handy. And the Maori worldview has an intergenerational focus….And the whole thing goes on from there, in entirely predictable directions.
We should not weary ourselves with its detail, because once we do that we accept the argument on those superstitious, historically fanciful, sentimental and self-serving terms. And those are not the proper terms.
The report starts off from the entirely unestablished ~ and clearly incorrect ~ legal assumption that Maori do have special rights in water. Admittedly, since our elected representatives have already decided to ‘recognise’ these rights ~ without knowing what they are, of course, a blank cheque there! ~ we can hardly blame opportunists for seizing the opportunity. But although both the text of the report and its 293 very full footnotes refer incessantly to findings of the Waitangi Tribunal, choosing to see those as God’s holy truth, in all the report I can see only half a dozen references at most to decisions of the courts, and none of those decisions were on the fundamental question of rights to and ownership of water.
Then, we probably know by heart the report’s tired old stuff about the ancestors and the sacredness and the worldview. It is no more than pious window-dressing for a much less spiritual agenda. The people who will be getting special water privileges will for the most part not even be ordinary Maori, but the fat cats ~ in Chris Trotter’s words, ‘elite-brokered, ostensibly iwi-based neo-tribal capitalist corporations functionally indistinguishable from the foreign and pakeha-owned corporations in whose interests New Zealand politics is now transacted’.
In March this year the Freshwater ILG signed a protocol with senior government ministers, including the Prime Minister. The ILG considers that this protocol ensures that its views will be represented in the Cabinet and policy development process. The ILG and Ministers approved four ‘case studies’ to promote ‘understanding’ of Maori rights and interests. These studies have ‘identified’ several things. One is how water quality can be improved. We may ~ perhaps ~ have no problems with that matter. But there are other matters, undoubtedly highly objectionable. One is how power sharing can be achieved ~ how Maori can share jurisdiction over this public resource with the Crown. Another is how the allocation of water can recognise Maori rights and interests! It would take too long to describe all the brilliant ideas which these case studies have come up with, but they include giving all Crown-owned lake and river beds to Maori and giving the space through which water flows to Maori. Maori would also be involved in all resource consents for water, which could be done by using sundry semi-dormant sections of the Resource Management Act about the transfer of powers and joint management agreements. There will be a guarantee of quality freshwater to every marae and papakaenga in the country. (At whose expense? Suggestions….?)There will be special iwi representation on councils ~ and I doubt that that will happen simply by democratic election. And just in case all this is not enough to achieve the desired results, the RMA will be amended to oblige decision makers to show racial preference in decision-making.
Ah! I almost forgot the funding. In order to ‘build capacity and capability amongst iwi/hapu and councils’, the idea is for a one billion dollar fund to be allocated to an iwi-approved entity for those purposes.
We can see very clearly where this will lead us. Let me quote the courageous and admirable Councillor Roger Haisman of the Gisborne District Council, speaking in September about a proposed joint management agreement with Ngati Porou over one river catchment. He had no problems with the restoration of the river, which was common sense. But the proposal ‘will mean that the iwi have a major say on what happens all over our district, even where there are large areas of land not in iwi ownership….we are handing a major say in what happens to a bunch of unelected people….’
And this is under the law as it is now, not under the law as it will be when our racist Cabinet has had its way. (I note in a Sunday Star Times article of April the 12th this year on the proposed changes that ‘Asked if some existing [water] rights could be removed from farmers and given to iwi, English said ‘I simply don’t know the answer to that’.’
Since he did not say ‘no’, I think we may assume that ‘yes’ is a reasonable possibility.)
All this is happening right now. It is no good for the government to say ‘Oh, there’s no final commitment yet ~ no law changes have been introduced to Parliament ~ there’ll be time for public input when that happens.’ The promises are already being made, and some very rich and greedy Maori are going to be very angry if they are not honoured. Whenever a controversial Treaty settlement comes before parliament we are told that the Crown has already committed itself, and it would be improper for parliament to do anything but ignore the public and apply a compliant rubber stamp. We will be fed the same line here.
By coincidence, I read recently a very interesting Facebook snippet by a young Auckland National Party member providing details of Sir Tipene O’Regan’s extremely tenuous links with Ngai Tahu before he discovered himself as a Maori in his middle years. Only one of his great-great-grandparents was Maori ~ he is, as we would say, only one sixteenth Maori. His daughter Hana (Hannah) now on the Maori Language Commission, is only one thirty-second Maori. (Her biography describes her merely as growing up in ‘a family immersed in Maori Treaty and identity politics’).
First ~ why should people like these, with no more than a slight trace of Maori blood, even be considered as having any better claim to a share in public resources than anyone else?
And second: the young National Party member publicising this information ~ why is he actually in a party that is clearly committed to racial separatism and Maori privilege? They do not represent this young person’s views. They do not represent mine. Do they represent yours?
And so I hope you are not going to vote for them, or any other party subscribing to the new racism.
For a long time I have been reluctant to criticise the National Party, for fear of getting something worse. But let us be honest and give credit where credit is due. The Greens are appalling racists, but it was not Helen Clark and the Labour Party who signed us up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but John Key. Helen Clark’s foreshore and seabed legislation was repealed by National and replaced with something far more palatable to Maori, and now the gruesome Finlayson is falling over himself to oblige Maori with public beaches. National, not Labour, gave us the Constitutional Advisory Panel. And now National is doing this. I cannot see how Labour could be any worse. Judging by past experience, it might well be better. And there may be one or two other parties….
So. Treachery is contemptible, and so are the members of our government. This is not just Key and English and the inner circle, although they are obviously the ringleaders. It is every single National MP who supports and votes for these proposals. Every single one. They may do it out of stupidity, or cowardice, or ambition ~ from our point of view, the precise motive is immaterial. Never mind that they kiss babies, and say the right things, and perhaps even help someone occasionally. The Treaty industry, growing racial separatism, and the preposterous enrichment and empowerment of a new tiny class of corporate part-Maori at the expense of an increasingly impoverished and powerless people ~ this is one of our country’s very biggest issues, and what is our elected government doing? It is betraying us. This is our water, and our country, and they are betraying us right now.
They are cheating lying vermin. Yes, I knew some of them just a little, once. They were ~ perhaps even are, in some sense ~ nice people ~ and they disgust me.