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Professor Martin Devlin

Why “celebrate” Waitangi Day?

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The Waitangi “season” is here – that time of year when our political leaders embark upon their political pilgrimages of atonement and appeasement, firstly to Ratana pa, then on to Waitangi in Northland.  This  annual charade will culminate in the “official” Waitangi Day “celebrations”, when the northern clans traditionally indulge in their offensive, often violent and always insulting behaviour, only this time, it happens where the treaty was signed. New Zealanders will be urged to commemorate and celebrate this day on which we are supposed to believe we are a united society.

But, the treaty today is a fraud and a farce. What occurred 173 years ago as a genuine, well-intentioned, attempt by the British Crown to engage with the first migrants to New Zealand, has now become a dangerous and sinister threat to our democratic traditions.

The treaty, signed 173 years ago is not the treaty we are required to accept today. It is the new religion-a sacred covenant, always speaking. Since 1975, with the passing of the Treaty of Waitangi Act, the treaty of 1840 has been re-interpreted by a veritable army of revisionist historians, led by the modern treaty “messiah” Claudia Orange, whose biased treatment has become the modern treaty bible. It now means what the treaty evangelists say it means- not what it actually says. The original three terms or provisions of the Treaty (the right of government to govern; iwi property rights; and equal rights for all new Zealanders as British subjects) have now been superseded or eclipsed, we are told, by the “spirit” of the treaty, to continue the religious analogy, and by an ever-growing list of “principles” which various bodies declare from time to time, with no consultation or discussion. There are, at last count, at least thirteen separate lists of Treaty “principles”, no two the same. These” principles” are nowhere defined. There has never been any public debate or discussion on these “principles” because the public conversation has never taken place. Indeed, the third(silent) voice in the treaty conversation, that of the European majority, is never sought nor its rights acknowledged . Parliament shamefully declined to define any treaty principles during the passing of the SOE Act (1987), leaving it for the courts to decide. Instead, Parliament engages in a never-ending journey of appeasement and retrospective compensation for historical wrongs which in some cases never happened. Non-elected judges are no more qualified than anyone else to determine which, if any, “principles” may apply to any given situation.

So, not only does the Treaty not mean what it says, but also, in its name, we now have an alarming erosion of basic democratic rights in New Zealand. Here are just a few examples:

The Waitangi Tribunal which only allows claims brought by a Maori. The other 85% of New Zealanders are legally excluded.

City Councils now invite local iwi to “co-govern” vast areas of what used to be public lands and waters. Unelected “statutory boards” have full voting rights. Private property owners are summarily declared to have “wahi tapu” claims over their land, which they must challenge at their own expense.

Majoritarian democracy is not acceptable to Maori as it confines them to a permanent minority. New Zealand is officially “bi-cultural’, not multicultural as we all thought it was.

Some 85% of the New Zealand population is now officially and regularly referred to as “non-Maori”, a term many find grossly offensive.

But the most anti-democratic move of all is the current review of the New Zealand Constitution by a politically-appointed joint Maori Party –National Party group, none of whom are constitutional experts. Four million dollars of taxpayer funds are shared equally between the Maori  members and the rest. Deputy Prime Minister English has declared that their findings may well be implemented by an agreement between the political parties, thereby avoiding any possible rejection by a referendum. The objective of this review is to ensure the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are enshrined forever in a new Constitution.

So, what is there for New Zealanders to celebrate on Waitangi Day 2013?

A significant erosion of our democratic structures in favour of bicultural separatism, the very antithesis of the one nation which the treaty was intended to deliver. Add to that a treaty which no longer means what it says, but what the treaty evangelists tell us it means. And finally a requirement that New Zealanders accept without protest, an endless list of undefined, unagreed-to, opportunistic “principles”,  the new Ten Commandments,  which they have never had the chance to discuss, but which in a new constitution, will dictate their legal rights for generations to come. How democratic is that?

I, for one, will not be “celebrating” Waitangi Day and I urge other New Zealanders not to do so, either.