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Dr Muriel Newman

Waitangi Day Reflections

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Waitangi“I’m over Waitangi Day. It is repugnant. It’s a ghastly affair. As I lie in bed on Waitangi morning, I know that later that evening, the news will show us irrational Maori ghastliness with spitting, smugness, self-righteousness and the usual neurotic Maori politics, in which some bizarre new wrong we’ve never thought about will be lying on the table.

“This, we will have to address and somehow apply these never-defined principles of the Treaty of Waitangi because it is, apparently, the next big resentment. There’ll be lengthy discussion, we’ll end up paying the usual millions into the hands of the Maori aristocracy and God knows where it’ll go from there.

“Well, it’s a bullshit day, Waitangi. It’s a day of lies. It is loony Maori fringe self-denial day… No, if Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves, let them have it.” – Paul Holmes, Herald on Sunday 11 February 2012.[1]

That straight talking got Sir Paul into a lot of trouble – even though he was doing no more than articulate what many New Zealanders think about Waitangi Day.

The seven complaints to the New Zealand Press Council, which essentially accused him of engaging in offensive “hate speech” and of belittling the Treaty, were upheld. There have been no such sanctions in other more extreme cases, such as when Member of Parliament Hone Harawira denigrated all non-Maori by claiming they were “white motherf…kers raping our land” or when Auckland University Professor Margaret Mutu called for a restriction on white immigration to New Zealand because of their “white supremacist” attitudes.

Unfortunately Waitangi Day is not what it should be – a day celebrating national unity. “He iwi tahi tatou” – Now we are one people – were the words uttered by Captain Hobson at Waitangi after the signing of the Treaty on 6 February 1840. Those are the words and sentiments we should be celebrating. Instead, it has become a day of division, where fawning and kow-towing politicians seek the favour of Maori radicals.

The annual political circus starts at Ratana in late January, as party leaders openly court Church followers for their support. It then moves to Waitangi where radical Maori take centre stage to show their disrespect towards politicians and play to the media entourage.

In retrospect, former Prime Minister Helen Clark called it right when, after being subjected to Waitangi ridicule, she refused to attend, preferring instead to celebrate Waitangi Day in Wellington. When she did eventually return to Waitangi it was under her own terms – to walk around the grounds and attend the Governor General’s function. She no longer put herself in a position where she – or the Office of Prime Minister – could be toyed with by dissidents.

Opposition party leaders have often been attacked at Waitangi. Most notable was National Party leader, Don Brash, who was subjected to abuse and mud slinging (literally!) in 2004, the year he delivered his game-changing Nationhood speech at Orewa. That speech, which outlined the “dangerous drift towards racial separatism in New Zealand”, and the establishment of an “entrenched Treaty grievance industry”, was responsible for escalating support for the then ailing party to such a level that they almost won the 2005 General Election.

Dr Brash ended his speech with a comment that is arguably even more relevant today than it was a decade ago: “In this country, it should not matter what colour you are, or what your ethnic origin might be. It should not matter whether you have migrated to this country and only recently become a citizen, or whether your ancestors arrived two, five, 10 or 20 generations ago. [W]e must build a modern, prosperous, democratic nation based on one rule for all. We cannot allow the loose threads of 19th century law and custom to unravel our attempts at nation-building in the 21st century.”[2]

John Key has also encountered hostility and aggression at Waitangi – both as leader of the opposition and as Prime Minister. In 2009, brothers John and Wikitana Popata, nephews of MP Hone Harawira, were convicted of assaulting the newly elected Prime Minister and were sentenced to 100 hours of community service. In spite of that, Mr Key has made a commitment to attend Waitangi Day annually – as long as he is Prime Minister – saying that the way in which he is treated will reflect on the Ngapuhi hosts.

One of the “official” events that takes place in advance of the Waitangi Day ceremonies is the annual meeting the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet Ministers have with the Iwi Leaders Group. While the radicals are successfully gaining media attention through noisy protest and exhibitionism, iwi leaders are busy achieving significant power and influence through playing a careful and considered game. They walk a fine line between being respectful on the one hand, and mining that respect to extract as much benefit as possible from the public purse, on the other. They are so good at it, that most New Zealanders do not realise just how much manipulation is actually going on.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, Independent Constitutional Review Panel member Mike Butler explains:

“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.”

In his article No hearing for non-iwi constitutional group, Mike outlines how Iwi Leaders are pushing for ‘co-governance’, whereby, using a fictional claim of ‘partnership’, tribal corporations are able to manoeuvre themselves into positions of 50/50 power-sharing with the New Zealand government:

“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.”

It was American writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer who said, “Every great cause begins with a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

This is exactly how it has played out for the tribal elite. The Maori sovereignty movement’s cause was to “right the wrongs of the past” through another round of Treaty settlements. Even though most tribes had already received settlements from past governments, they were able to persuade gullible politicians to settle them afresh. But as the settlement business started to draw to a close, the elite began searching for new ways to build their wealth, and came up with the notion of co-governance, which is essentially a racket to extract money from the public purse and gain control over public resources.

That our government has decided to play along with co-governance is a scandal in itself. In effect, the government is selling out New Zealand’s fundamental democratic principle of equality before the law by giving Maori big business a controlling interest in the governance of the country. In doing so they are elevating the tribal elite to a status superior to all other citizens.

The reality is that co-governance is a cultural goldmine. That’s why the approach being taken by iwi leaders is so careful. They know that once co-governance becomes the norm, it will provide a never-ending income steam – and source of power. Unlike those engaging in the Waitangi theatrics, these players are shrewd enough to know that progress must be made incrementally, so as not to “scare the horses”. They know not to act in a manner that seems anything but entirely reasonable.

Convincing New Zealanders of the dangers that exist in co-governance is not easy. The whole concept seems so far-fetched, that most people do not believe or understand that it can be happening. However, it is time that New Zealanders became less naïve and began to recognise the agenda that is being played out – and then to realise that it suits our politicians to go along with it!

The co-governance racket is already well advanced. With the Maori Party (representing the iwi elite) in the driving seat as a coalition partner, John Key’s government is progressing it rapidly. And don’t be fooled, a Green-Labour government would almost certainly do the same – probably with bells and whistles on!

Putting an end to the tribal elite’s insatiable appetite for privileges and rewards will not be easy – it never has been. Take the case of the Maori seats. Established on a temporary basis in 1867, there have been numerous efforts over the years to abolish them. The last serious attempt arose from the recommendations of the 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System. They said that if MMP was introduced, the Maori seats should go. They argued that MMP would dramatically increase the representation of minority groups in Parliament, and that if Maori seats were retained, they would lead to an over-representation of Maori in Parliament.

Accordingly, when the 1993 Electoral Act introducing MMP was tabled in Parliament, there were no provisions for separate Maori representation. In accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, the four Maori seats were being abolished.

In response, however, Maori leaders gathered at Turangawaewae and planned a campaign to not only retain the Maori seats, but to increase their numbers. As a result of their success, there are now seven Maori seats, and – as predicted – an over-representation of Maori in Parliament.

Then there was the attempt by Helen Clark’s government to remove the Treaty of Waitangi as a guiding principle from the school curriculum. When a new draft curriculum was released in 2007, the Treaty had been dumped as a guiding principle. However, following intense political pressure from vested interest groups, it was reinstated. This means that New Zealand children from the youngest age continue to be indoctrinated with highly politicised versions of the Treaty and history, as well as Maori culture and spirituality – a situation many New Zealanders believe is totally inappropriate.

A current example is the attempt by the Speaker of the House to change Parliament’s Maori protocols. The present protocols prevent women from speaking and force them to sit in the back row during powhiri. David Carter believes that this needs to be changed so that all of Parliament’s protocols recognise the equal status of women in New Zealand.

Predictably, the Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has resorted to mobster tactics, threatening to boycott events if the Maori protocols are changed. But the Speaker should stand firm – in a country that was the first in the world to give women the vote, it is totally unacceptable that on official occasions, we promote a culture that treats women as second class citizens – especially when we do not accept other cultures with similar prejudices. Well done to the Speaker in leading this well overdue renaissance.

All of these issues lead to a fundamental question which all New Zealanders need to answer – are we one people as Hobson declared 174 years ago, or are we a nation divided on racial lines as radical Maori want us to be?

It is the answer to this question that will determine our future.


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1. Paul Holmes, Waitangi Day a complete waste

2. Don Brash, Nationhood