Tuesday 14 April 2015

Have Iwi Leaders Crossed A Line On Water Rights?

Free Flowing No Longer? How has God’s rain become the “Iwi Leadership Group’s” private property? And how do the latter propose to finesse the Prime Minister's, John Key's, repeated and emphatic assertion that "nobody can own the water"?
WHAT IF THE TREATY SETTLEMENT PROCESS had begun in the 1960s, instead of the 1990s? What would New Zealand look like? Historical questions beginning with “What if?” are always fun, even when the factors working against history unfolding in any other way are insurmountable.
Supposing, for example, that the highly influential Hunn Report of 1961 had recommended the establishment of a Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal and the negotiation of multi-million pound “Treaty settlements” in recognition of the injustices suffered by Maori since 1840 – rather than the policy of “racial integration” that it did recommend. Would the National Party government of the day have taken it seriously? Absolutely not.
The government of National’s Keith Holyoake, like the government of Labour’s Walter Nash which preceded it, was deeply apprehensive of the social consequences of the rapid pace of Maori urbanisation. In 1931, thirty years before the Hunn Report was published, barely 15 percent of Maori lived in urban areas, by 1961, however, that percentage had soared to well over 50 percent. Just a quarter-of-a-century later, in 1986, close to 80 percent of Maori lived in New Zealand’s towns and cities. New Zealand’s politicians and bureaucrats (who were overwhelmingly Pakeha) were concerned that such breakneck social and cultural change might spark serious racial unrest.
The Hunn Report rejected both wholesale assimilation and forced segregation as solutions to the “problem” of rapid Maori urbanisation. His great hope was that through intermarriage, the strategic use of public housing and, most importantly, through the homogenising influence of public education, Maori would peacefully integrate with the dominant, Pakeha, society.
It’s important to remember that, in 1961, there were clear alternatives to the policy of racial integration already operating in the English-speaking world. In South Africa and the southern states of the USA segregation was mandatory and the very notion of “racial mixing” considered dangerously provocative. With the violent excesses of Jim Crow and Apartheid before them, liberal Pakeha hailed Jack Hunn’s recommendations as being both courageous and progressive.

Jack Hunn: Neither wholesale assimilation nor forced segregation, but peaceful racial integration, was Hunn's vision for the future of Maori-Pakeha relations.
Conservative Pakeha were by no means convinced. In 1961 there were still many New Zealand communities in which informal racial segregation remained the norm. Pukekohe infamously separated the races at the town’s barber shop, cinema and pub. Such citizens condemned the Hunn Report as a dangerously radical document. Their deeply entrenched racism would smoulder on in both provincial and metropolitan New Zealand, flaring into angry firestorms whenever racial issues achieved political salience – most particularly in 1981 and 2004.
So, even if the sort of radicalism that was later to produce the Waitangi Tribunal and the Treaty Settlement Process had been present in the minds of any interested party – Maori or Pakeha – back in 1961 (which is highly doubtful) it would have been rejected out-of-hand by just about everybody.
But what if New Zealand had been ready for such solutions in 1961? How would they have played out?
The short answer is: they would have played out social-democratically. The institutional expression of the politics of reconciliation and redress would have rebuffed the politics of hierarchy and commercialism in favour of participation and collectivism. It would have done so not only because that was the shape of the increasingly urbanised Maori society that was emerging, but also because, thirty years after the ravages of the Great Depression, and just 15 years since the end of World War II, that was the shape of New Zealand society as a whole.
The formation of such institutions would, therefore, have reinforced and strengthened the social-democratic temper of the times – with incalculable (but likely quite profound) effects on the development of the Labour Party, the trade union movement, local government and the broader New Zealand economy.
That the Tribunal (empowered to hear claims from 1840 onwards) and the Treaty Settlements Process were created between 1985-1995 meant that the institutions which emerged to implement these changes reflected a very different set of priorities. The 1980s and 90s were the period in which New Zealand’s social-democratic society was systematically taken apart. In its place arose the neoliberal society of today: a market-driven economic system in which the rich rule and the poor go under.
Successive neoliberal governments took care to ensure that the energy of the Maori Renaissance was channelled into elite-brokered, ostensibly Iwi-based, “neo-tribal capitalist” corporations: institutions functionally indistinguishable from the foreign- and Pakeha-owned corporations in whose interests New Zealand politics is now transacted. These neo-tribal capitalists have grown exceptionally skilled at masking the commercial imperatives that are their true raison d’être behind the rhetoric of reparation and redress.
How else could God’s rain have become the “Iwi Leadership Group’s” private property?
But, what if Jack Hunn’s philosophy of integration is as far as Pakeha New Zealanders are willing to go? What if there’s a line they will not see crossed? What if this is it?
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 14 April 2015.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

I haven't thought about the Hunn report for about 20 years :-), but I must say there was implicit racism in the Hunn report in the first place. A whole culture was expected to pretty much disappear, through education, intermarriage and "assimilation". I guess it was considered liberal at the time.
I probably don't know enough about those Maori owned corporations you speak of, but I still think that Maori have a completely different concept of property to most Europeans. Still I'll do a little bit of reading maybe :-).
One thing I do know about Maori leaders though, unlike ours, they have to regularly front up to their people and answer awkward questions. Personally. Not just on the radio or TV. Ours do it only every three years, and often avoid the general public like the plague until then.

Chris Trotter said...

Seek out the writings of Dr Elizabeth Rata.

She is the author of the phrase "neo-tribal capitalism".

Guerilla Surgeon said...

OK ta.

Nick J said...

I Googled Dr Elizabeth Rata. Man did she get some invective from purported Maori bloggers. Against the flow she calls a spade a spade regardless of what shape others wish. All power to her.

markus said...

Yeah, I'd say the most succinct and accessible overview of Rata's work can be found at: http://recherche.univ-montp3.fr/cerce/r6/e.r.htm

Or just google: ethnologies neo tribal rata.

It's a French Journal (Ethnologies Comparees) and French Abstract but English Text.

I really think the Left needs to re-engage its critical faculties on this whole issue. Too many of my fellow liberal-lefties transform into naïve 14-year-old romantic idealists when discussing the demands of Maori elites. A lot of light-weight feel-good liberalism (heroic poses being struck all over the place) but not too much in the way of serious analysis of the potentially profound consequences.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
How come farmers foresters and sun bathers aren't paying for sunshine? Someone's slipping up there.
Cheers David J S

J Bloggs said...

Thanks for the reading recommendation - very interesting reading indeed

jh said...

I probably don't know enough about those Maori owned corporations you speak of, but I still think that Maori have a completely different concept of property to most Europeans. Still I'll do a little bit of reading maybe :-).

jh said...

Non Moari may percieve a genetic interest in water (google ethologist Frank Salter - On Genetic Interest)?

Guerilla Surgeon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick J said...

Marcus I read the suggested text on Ratas wor. Legalese I manage tolerably, academic sociologese...man oh man. It was all so knee deep in insider concepts and language. It was akin to the lurid texts that are associated with fine art critics.
It contained substance but because it labels in insider jargon I soon got lost. Can anybody paraphrase her central thesis is plain English?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Racist? Jesus I get sick of this bullshit. That's the first thing right winger says when they think they're being clever about race. I'm just pointing out cultural difference is and all the sarcasm in the world, or heaven forbid you actually think it's true – won't make any difference.
I think the whole thing about water needs to be rethought anyway. Farmers don't pay anything for water, yet they use it to make money. That's got to stop for a start.
If anyone is going to get this money, I'd probably rather it was Maori than not, because I know they'll look after the rivers better than most.
And you can hardly blame them for, commodifying its anyway. They're only learning from the neoliberals in government.
See what pisses me off to a great extent, is they're adopting neoliberal principles, yet neoliberals complain about it. Most of the right wingnuts would be happy to see it in the hands of water companies – well as far as I'm concerned I don't want a bunch of sharks selling us our water :-). (Thanks to Jasper Carrot for that one.)

Richard Christie said...

How else could nature’s rain have become the “Iwi Leadership Group’s” private property?

Fixed that for you. Normally I wouldn't hesitate to let such a turn of speech go without comment, but that you put so much of your personal and obvious religious belief into your political writing. I really wish you wouldn't.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nick J
You went to the French website? It seemed reasonably clear to me. I only skimmed through it, but she did explain some of her terms. What particularly are you distressed about? I'm allegedly doing a degree in sociology in my dotage I'll try to translate.

Nick J said...

Mr Surgeon, its good that it made sense to somebody as from what I understood I had little argument. Being a mere Joe Average I really was not sure. I read Marx years back and he introduced his own concepts and labels but he was of a low grade compared to today's sociologist in terms of written non-communication standards. I remain a humble outsider.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I swear that sometimes my perfessers haven't got a clue what some of these people are talking about. Many is the time I've asked a question and someone has replied something like well, I understand it to mean. Rather than it means..........

Jigsaw said...

Incredible how comments seek to make everyone of a certain race have the exactly the same attitude to property - or anything else for that matter. What could be more racist than to ascribe various beliefs or attitudes solely to membership of a race!
Glad that you have steered people into reading Elizabeth Rata- a person the establishment try avoid at all costs.

Jigsaw said...

'Maori will look after rivers better than most'- 'Maori have a completely different concept pf property to most Europeans' the casual racism in these statements is just breathtaking! Why? Do they have a special gene? Their history shows this? All negro got rhythm? Scots are all mean?
At best this attitude is prehistoric and at worst - simply fascist.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Casual racism my arse. It's simply referring to cultural differences. Different cultures have different attitudes and values. I can't believe you're ignorant of that fact. The casual ignorance here I find disturbing.
And no one claims that all people behave exactly the same way, least of all me. In any large enough group of people there will be differences. But it doesn't mean to say they don't have a common core of belief. Jesus I have to say again, I can't believe you don't know this. You assume that Maori are just brown skinned Europeans? That's what they try to turn them into and failed. – Well mostly.
You CAN make generalisations. There ARE societies, contrary to what Thatcher said. It's not just individuals. I stand by my statements. Yours show that you don't understand what racism is. It's just a trope, you right wing people are always keen to accuse somebody else of racism, because you are often racist yourselves. None of you know a great deal about it though – now that's another generalisation. Christ, it just occurred to me – you don't think I'm being racist against white people? That's even more ridiculous.

Charles E said...

Claims on water are about property rights, not race or culture. Except these iwi lot attribute membership to minority racial connection which brings in and brings out the racist element.
They have no future with this line and their claims. As every day their racial base is diluted, showing it to be the nonsense it is. Race does not exist really so there is only culture and on that score the winning culture is not Maori, as it's adoption of another's legal system and property rights etc clearly shows. Then their's democracy. Another minor problem for iwi self advancement.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Really funny how the right was the one that upheld the racial theories in the past, yet as soon as brown or black people start getting something it's "race doesn't exist" – you gotta laugh.

Jigsaw said...

Mr Sturgeon-your attitude reminds me so much of that found in apartheid South Africa. It's truly amazing that you can hold such ideas that are more than just 'casual racism'. I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt why bother-you are just plain racist!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Don't bother giving me the benefit of anything jigsaw, only in your twisted mind am I racist :-). The right always needed this weird idea of racism ever since – in particular – the American civil rights campaign. That way they could blather on about civil rights leaders being racist, or talk about 'reverse racism' or something. Which – like reverse psychology – doesn't exist :-). Oh, and I demonstrated against the apartheid regime, can you claim to have done the same?

Harry said...

Note that isn't Jack Hunn in the picture. See this picture on Te Ara where Hunn is top left: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/29693/maori-education-foundation

Chris Trotter said...

Many thanks, Harry, for pointing out the error. Duly Corrected.