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Dr Muriel Newman

Wai 262 empowers Maori elite

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Saturday’s release of the Waitangi Tribunal’s long-awaited report on the Wai 262 indigenous flora and fauna claim is packed full of recommendations designed to empower the Maori elite.1 While the Tribunal is careful to avoid suggesting that Maori should have ownership rights to native plants and animals – something that would evoke a strong public backlash – they have proposed a series of wide-ranging and powerful rights that taken together effectively result in ownership by the back door!

The Tribunal has based their recommendations on the premise that Maori and the Crown are in partnership with shared decision-making responsibilities to promote Maori interests above those of other New Zealanders. Accordingly, their proposals are designed to create new co-governance arrangements for Maori.

The Tribunal would like to see:

  • A new Maori Cultural Board to control the commercial uses of intellectual property such as the haka, carvings, tattoos, songs, and so on, with an official register to ensure proper control.
  • A new Maori Advisory Commission to control Patents and Plant Variety Rights, with the power of veto over applications.
  • Maori having joint authority with the Crown over the bioprospecting of native species for commercial application on all Department of Conservation lands.
  • A new Maori Conservation Authority established that has equal status to the New Zealand Conservation Authority for dealing with all conservation matters.

With regard to existing laws and policies, the Tribunal has recommended that:

  • All decisions made by Maori under the Maori consultation processes of the Resource Management Act should be compulsory.
  • The Wildlife Act should be jointly administered by Maori and the Crown.
  • The role of the Maori Language Commission should be expanded to require, amongst other things, all public sector agencies to prepare Maori language plans.
  • Health system funding to be made available for traditional healing services. (I wonder whether that would include the practice of mokutu or exorcism, which was responsible for the agonising death of Janet Moses in 2002)
  • The role of Maori consultation in the negotiation of international treaties be expanded and strengthened.

In effect, the Waitangi Tribunal is pushing for many of the rights found in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a treaty that the Prime Minister assured New Zealanders was simply aspirational. While the government may not immediately adopt the Tribunal’s recommendations as a whole, as is often the case, such proposals will probably become the agenda and be quietly implemented over time.

When will this race-based lust for power and control stop, you might well ask? It won’t – at least not unless there are major changes. As long as there are special Maori seats in Parliament with governing parties willing to offer those MPs powerful coalition partnerships, it won’t stop. Not only will it not stop, but the demands are gaining momentum to the point where non-Maori New Zealanders are beginning to realise they are being increasingly marginalised by the cunning strategies of a greedy tribal elite, that now has its hands on the levers of power and its fingers in the public purse.

Already the Minister of Maori Affairs has announced that he wants to make the learning of the Maori language compulsory for teachers – probably as a prerequisite for making the teaching of Maori compulsory in schools. He also wants teachers to undergo “Cultural Competency” training, no doubt to indoctrinate them with the sort of “Maori World View” that he would like instilled into children.

Meanwhile, all around the country, iwi are making moves to establish special co-governance arrangements with the Crown over parks, waterways, and anything else they can think to manage. A case in point is the Manukau iwi who are seeking a co-governance arrangement with local and central government for the Manukau Harbour in a deal that would produce lucrative rewards. As a result they are putting self-interest ahead of the rights of local residents, by opposing their plan to spend $28 million on improvements to the foreshore through the creation of parks and sandy beaches. It is the same story with the Northland Te Roroa iwi, who are objecting to a Department of Conservation’s proposal to turn the Trounson Kauri Park and the Waipoua Forest (home to Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s oldest known living Kauri tree) into a National Park. They are opposing the proposal because the National Park legislation does not allow for co-governance deals and so would effectively lock them out of what they believe would be a very lucrative arrangement.

While not much detail has been published about co-governance arrangements, one that did hit the headlines with massive public outrage was the establishment of the Maori Statutory Board of the new Auckland Council. Made up of nine unelected Maori members with full voting rights on all committees, the Board demanded $3.4 million of ratepayers’ money in running costs. But while the original proposal created a furore in opposition, now that things have calmed down, the council has been able to vote in favour of funding to the tune of $3.2 million, with barely a ripple of opposition!

Apart from the uproar over funding, the most controversial outcome to emerge from the Maori Statutory Board has surely been the objection to the Council’s $2.4 billion Auckland rail tunnel proposal by Ngati Whatua representative, Glenn Wilcox, on the pretext that Horotiu, the taniwha who lives in a creek under Queen Street, had not been properly consulted! What was especially bizarre about all of this was that Malcolm Patterson, Ngati Whatua’s official heritage advisor, said he (and everyone else it seems) hadn’t ever heard of Horotiu the taniwha!

Nothing represents the extent to which Maori are treating non-Maori as fools than the apparent existence of taniwha and other manifestations of Maori spiritualism, which are being successfully used to extract brownmail and financial gain. It’s embarrassing and runs the risk that New Zealand will be seen – through the eyes of the world – as a nation of fools instead of a nation that’s 100 percent pure, clean and green, as we would apparently like them to believe.

In 2002 local iwi Ngati Naho claimed the upgrading of State Highway 1 expressway at Meremere was cutting through the domain of their taniwha, Karu Tahi. After much delay, concessions, and a great deal of international publicity, Transit New Zealand realigned the road. In the same year, Northland iwi Ngapuhi resurrected their taniwha Takauere to help oppose the construction of a $100 million prison at Ngawha. After failed challenges in the Environment Court and the High Court, the Court of Appeal refused to hear the case and the prison was built.

Around the same time, Contact Energy paid Ngai Tahu $1.6 million to mitigate their objection on “spiritual grounds” to water rights consents for the Clyde Dam. Ken Mair and the Wanganui iwi used a similar approach against the power company Genesis Energy, over their resource consent for water for the Tongariro Power Station. These days, evoking the spiritual values of water has enabled Tainui to reap lucrative rewards from a $100 million Waikato River settlement deal – a model that is now being embraced by other iwi up and down the country.

When, in 2002, The Last Samurai was to be filmed on the slopes of Mt Taranaki, some Taranaki Maori saw it as an opportunity to commercialise the spiritual and cultural values of “their” mountain by protesting over the fact that they were receiving no financial recognition of their special relationship with Mt Taranaki. It apparently took a $6,000 glasshouse to resolve the issue!

In 2001 Ngati Whatua objected to the mining of sand for the replenishment of a popular Auckland beach on the basis that ancestors were buried at sea. These spiritual concerns dissipated when they were offered 50 cents for every cubic metre of sand extracted in a deal worth up to $1 million. Also in 2001, Tuwharetoa’s demands for excessive compensation prevented the Crown Research Institute from undertaking an important survey of the bed of Lake Taupo using a research submarine – in spite of the deed of transfer specifically providing for such access to be free. And so it goes on.

I asked Canterbury University law lecturer David Round for his opinion on the emergence of Horotiu the taniwha. In his article Horotiu the taniwha stirs he observes:

“Let us be frank. Maori do not believe in taniwha as anything but another pretext for taking us on and showing us how tough they are. Its invention is a posture, a swagger, and we are allowing it to intimidate us. It’s hard to recover once you start going down that road. The taniwha’s parents are greed and stupidity. So why are we wasting a second taking this seriously? Why don’t we just tell Wilcox co where to get off? If we don’t, if we do listen politely to them and then give them something to compensate for the grief caused to their monster, then we are dimwits of the first order. Central and local government please note. But at the very least the taniwha worshippers are clearly a Stone Age people who should not reasonably expect to be regarded as fully capable of appreciating many of the finer things that modern society has to offer, if you see what I mean….

He explains, “We have reached this situation because our self-righteous and cowardly political class is both committed to the Treaty project and afraid to say no even as it becomes increasingly obvious, even to their limited understandings, that the demands will never cease…”

Until we put a stop to the escalation of racist greed and the elevation of Stone Age spiritualism into the mainstream, New Zealand is doomed to third world status and international ridicule. The resurgence of tribalism, fuelled by the pandering of politicians eager to make deals for political advantage, will continue to hold us back.

Australia is already home to a growing number of Maori descendents who want to escape tribalism, and more and more Kiwis who cannot abide

living in a racist country are going abroad. But the forces of tribalism are strong, and are now ingrained throughout academia and the public service. They will not be stopped without a massive effort, which requires everyone speaking out and protesting against race-based privilege at every level of society at every opportunity.

In this content the current constitutional review is a cause of grave concern. A new constitution that encompasses the Treaty of Waitangi, indigenous rights, and the Maori seats, is a primary goal of the Maori elite. If they succeed then New Zealand will become a country permanently divided by race, with a Maori aristocracy based on privilege. Is this the sort of New Zealand you would wish for?

  1. Waitangi Tribunal, Indigenous Flora and Fauna and Cultural Intellectual Property Report