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Mike Butler

Willie’s Tricky Maori Engagement

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A report with the lengthy title “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Key themes from Maori Targeted Engagement in in April 2022” looks like Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson’s tricky next step in implementing the He Puapua plan for two governments in New Zealand, one for Maori and the other for everyone else.

The engagement describes a series of focus groups brought together to form a basis for a draft declaration plan which will be open for comment from the Maori community alongside the wider community. Jackson continues to deny that the He Puapua plan is the plan.

This is in spite of a letter dated November 1, 2019, from Dr Claire Charters to Maori Development Minister, who referred to the He Puapua report that she was tasked with creating as “the Declaration plan which sets out (their) vision to 2040 in which the Declaration is realised, and a roadmap to achieve that.”

To be clear, that report sets out the steps to create in New Zealand two governments, one for Maori by Maori, and the other, a fully bicultural version of what we already have. Both governments would be subject to a tribal monitoring committee and ultimately subject to the United Nations.

A short version of the report had been posted on the Ministry of Maori Development website immediately before the 2020 election without a media release. The report had been kept from then Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters before Parliament adjourned for the election.

The Labour Party did not mention the He Puapua plan during the 2020 election campaign. He Puapua only became public after it was published it on this website and ACT Party leader David Seymour and former National Party Leader Judith Collins set off fireworks in Parliament. 

Jackson’s engagement report unsurprisingly recommends separate administration for Maori of land and resources, education, justice, and housing along the lines of the Maori Health Authority and directly reflecting proposals in He Puapua.

Justification for this appears in an assertion in clause 12 on page 7 of the report that says “strengthening the tino rangatiratanga of tangata whenua was the most consistent matter raised” by participants in the engagement meetings.

Helpfully, a glossary of Maori words was provided. “Tino rangatiratanga” means the “exercise of mana, absolute authority”, “tangata whenua” identifies Maori people as “the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa”, and “mana” is the ultimate and paramount power and authority derived from the gods”.

Discussion by 370 participants in 69 workshops over six months from September 2021 revolved around 12 themes:

  1. The exercise of the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. This is called “tino rangatiratanga” and is explained in the glossary of that report as the “exercise of mana, absolute authority”.
  2. Participation in government or kawanatanga.
  3. Land, resources and the environment
  4. The education system
  5. The provision of information about Maori rights and are Maori rights indigenous rights.
  6. Health
  7. Justice
  8. Cultural expressions and identity
  9. Housing
  10. Equity and fairness
  11. Economic development and business
  12. The holistic wellbeing of the family.

We’ve been down the separate government agencies plan for Maori before. Thirty years ago, it was called devolution of social services to Maori entities. Twelve years ago, it was a consultation on Whanau Ora that resulted in a parallel welfare set-up for Maori.

But this is a radical plan out of the He Puapua playbook that also looks like a dual governance plan created 1854, when a Maori leader named Wiremu Tamihana began working towards setting up a Maori king so that the worlds of coloniser and colonised could exist side-by-side under the mantle of the Queen.

The main difference between then and now is that the current dual world would be under the United Nations and not the Queen.

The report provided the names of 26 groups that consented to have their names recorded. Some names were recognisable.

These included two branches of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, Landcare research, the Waiheke local board, Willie Jackson’s Te Matawai programme, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, BDO Gisborne Accountants, the University of Otago Māori Academic Staff Collective, the Whanau Ora Interface Group (Disability System Transformation).

Others were not, such as the Matatua Alliance for Indigenous Analytics, which could not be found in a Google search.

Absent were the New Zealand Maori Council as well anyone recognisable from Ngai Tahu or Waikato-Tainui, or indeed anyone from most of the 70 or so organisations that have received treaty settlement pay-outs.

Jackson’s “engagement” with 370 participants barely scratched the surface of New Zealand’s estimated “Maori ethnic population” of 875,300.

The Iwi Chairs Secretariat was identified as a sponsor of the booklet, along with the Ministry of Maori Development and the Human Rights Commission. Perhaps iwi spokespersons felt that they could not be seen to be promoting this engagement.

The questions followed the themes detailed in the He Puapua plan — self-determination, equality, taonga, as well as Maori language and culture.

Facilitators first asked participants to think about participants’ experiences in these areas. Then they were asked to think about challenges and opportunities in these matters, according to the report. Finally, participants were asked what they would do about this if they could and what they expected the government to do.

The report unashamedly describes a process in which facilitators guided attendees with loaded questions.

Responses were grouped under the headings self-determination (tino rangatiratanga), participation in government (kawanatanga), land resources and the environment, education, information about Maori rights, health, justice, cultural expressions and identity, housing, equity and fairness, economic development and business, past trauma, and progress of the declaration plan.

The paraphrased and summarised comments in the engagement report echoed the He Puapua prescription. There is no way of verifying that what was reported was actually said.

Victimhood prevailed in the paraphrased section and in the occasional unsourced quote from a participant. Someone else was always to blame for poor outcomes, either colonisation or government policy, as in a comment on page 18 which said:

“Frustrated and sad because Maori are disproportionality reflected in bad outcomes in housing, health, poverty and this reflects really bad policy which puts Maori at the bottom”.

New Zealand went to war in 1860 over the Kingitanga’s two-government plan and the Maori king’s supporters were defeated. It is relevant to note that two Ministers in the current government who are leading the current push for two governments have cherished the separatist dream for years.

Jackson is one. The slogan on the landing page of Jackson’s Manukau Urban Maori Authority is “inspiring pathways to Mana Motuhake”. “Mana Motuhake” means self-determination” and is sometimes translated as “sovereignty”.

To be fair, Jackson publicly stepped down from his job as CEO of the Manukau Urban Maori Authority before taking on his current role in government.

The other is Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta. Her father was the adopted son of former Maori King Koroki and the elder brother of Maori Queen Te Atairangikaahu. She is related to the current Maori King, Kingi Tuheitia.

There are some obvious problems with race-based parallel governance and funding. Here are some issues:

  1. Would a person with some Maori ancestry be required to deal solely with the separate Maori education, health, housing, and justice departments or would there be a choice?
  2. If there is a choice, how is that choice exercised? Would it be like swapping between the Maori roll and the general roll, which is only possible after a census, or could it be done willy nilly?
  3. Would a separate justice system have different laws with one system more lenient than the other?
  4. Would the Maori departments have the same number of staff as existing departments or would staffing be proportional to population or number of users?
  5. The Budget 2021-2022 total cost for Land, Education, Health, Housing and Justice totalled $46.6-billion. Would the for-Maori-by-Maori versions of those departments also cost a total of $46.6-billion or some other cost?
  6. Where is the cost-benefit analysis of the proposed dual systems?
  7. Within each department currently, there are substantial separate “for Maori” appropriations. Would these remain or would these be moved to the new departments?

Since steps along the He Puapua roadmap are quite specific, and since the current government has already implemented a number of recommendations in the plan, we can expect Jackson to continue to follow the plan.

Those steps already completed over the past two years were:

  • dialing up Maori cultural propaganda on radio and television mainly by a greatly extended use of Maori words,
  • enabling Maori wards on councils by outlawing petitions and votes,
  • an attempt to change electoral law in favour of Maori roll voters in Rotorua,
  • setting up the separate Maori Health Authority,
  • imposing co-governance on water services through the Three Waters Plan.

For a while, during Covid-19 hysteria, iwi groups with the blessing of the government even set up regional borders, which mirrored another prescription in the He Puapua plan.

Jackson does not describe the 69 meetings with 370 people as a consultation, he calls it an “engagement”, when an “engagement” is usually understood as an agreement to do something.

Jackson’s report is clear that this series of focus group meetings with 370 people guided with loaded questions will form the basis for a draft declaration plan to be used for comment.

That is going to be interesting because the “engagement” period with the wider community. is getting close to election year and the Covid-19 distraction has faded.

Does Jackson plan to impose separate administration for Maori of land and resources, education, justice, and housing along the lines of the Maori Health Authority?

It looks like Jackson has just visited the next stop on the He Puapua roadmap to achieve, by 2040, two overlapping governments in New Zealand, one for Maori and the other for everyone else. While doing so, he is denying that the He Puapua plan is the plan.