Foreign Investment: The Native Land Court transferred more land from Maori to Pakeha than Queen Victoria's regiments ever managed. Without land, no people may be counted free. Restricting the access of foreigners to New Zealand real estate isn't about racism - it's about the preservation of our national sovereignty.
IT IS THE EARLY 1860s in the Waikato. A Maori newspaper editor, and fervent supporter of the Kingitanga movement, has a great idea for a story. He summons his best journalist and explains what he has in mind.
“I want you to travel to all the major cities,” he says, “visit the Land Registry offices, and discover the identity of everyone who’s been purchasing land that formerly belonged to Maori.”
“That’s a pretty expensive exercise, Boss”, the young journalist replies, “especially when we both know what the answer will be.”
“You’re right,” says the editor, “but I need more than mere conjecture, more than just anecdotal evidence. What I’m looking for are cold, hard facts! Under the Treaty of Waitangi, we Maori can only sell land to the Crown. But who is the Crown selling it to? Is it being sold to New Zealanders? Or is it being purchased by foreigners with huge sums of money to invest? That’s what I want you to find out.”
“Hmmmm?” The journalist responds, doubtfully. “I’m not sure the Pakeha keep that sort of information.”
“Yes, yes, I’ve thought of that. What I want you to do is look at the surnames of the purchasers. That’ll give you are reasonably good steer. After all, somebody called McKenzie is unlikely to be of Tainui descent, is he?”
“No. But, there are quite a few McKenzies already here in New Zealand. How are we supposed to sort out the local sheep from the foreign goats?”
“I’ve thought about that, too”, says the Editor, warming to his theme. “What percentage of the total population do you think the Pakeha currently comprise – especially here in Te Ika A Maui?”
The young journalist scratches his head. “Surely not much short of 4 in 10? With more arriving all the time. It would be higher in Te Wai Pounamu.”
“Exactly so!”, says the Editor. “So, if your research shows that 8 out of 10 purchasers of former Maori lands has a surname like McKenzie, or O’Reilly, or Twyford, then doesn’t it stand to reason that overseas British investors are disproportionately involved in buying up this country from under the feet of its original inhabitants? That we Maori are fast becoming tenants in our own land?”
“Actually, Boss, I’m not sure it does. Couldn’t it mean that the British settlers already here are just buying up as much land as they can – as quickly as they can get their hands on it?”
“Oh come on!”, the Editor snorts derisively. “Most of the Pakeha disembarking at the ports don’t have a pot to piss in! Where are they going to get the money to buy land?”
“I’m not talking about the ones who come in steerage, Boss. I’m talking about the ones who make the voyage in private cabins. The youngest sons of good English and Scottish families who arrive here with a very healthy bank balance – courtesy of Papa back in London or Edinburgh. They’ve got plenty to spend.”
“Alright. But even if that’s true, the result is exactly the same – isn’t it? They apply to the Crown, and the Crown obliges them – at our expense.”
“But only so long as we go on selling our lands to the Crown, Boss. I mean, who else are they going to buy land from in these islands – if not from Maori? Isn’t that the whole point of the Kingitanga? To stop the sale of any more Maori land to the Crown?”
“Yes, of course it is! Which is why I want you to write this story for me. To give the Kingitanga the facts about what’s happening to their whenua – to their future!”
“The Settler Government in Auckland isn’t going to like a story that singles them out on the basis of their surnames”, the young journalist observes, ruefully. “They’re going to point to it as yet more evidence of Maori mischief-making. Yet another reason why the Governor should send troops south to destroy the Kingitanga.”
“No! No! Governor Grey will never make war upon the Maori people. He is a good man. He believes this country can only be improved by British capital and Maori enterprise. He also recognises the importance of Maori autonomy – he made provision for it in the Constitution Act!”
“He did, Boss. Yes. But the settlers seem ill-disposed to granting us that autonomy. And, I think I know why.”
“Because they want everything, Boss. Not just what Maori consent to sell them – but everything. Just think of how much we depend on them for already – and it’s only going to get worse. There’s millions of them, Boss – numbers our language has no words for. And we’re in their way.”
The Editor turned and gazed out over the lush Waikato countryside. There were tears in his eyes.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 21 July 2015.