Friday, 15 April 2016

Let Sleeping Fish Lie.

Prominent Maori Fire A Shot Across The Crown's Bow: Objections to the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, though couched in terms of the sanctity of contract, are much more likely to be motivated by the political and constitutional implications of the Government’s unilateral action. If the Crown is permitted to arrogate unto itself the power to decide when it is obligated to negotiate with the Maori elites, and when it is not, then the growing economic and political influence of those elites will stand exposed as, at best, conditional; and, at worst, reversible.
 
WHAT HAS a Nineteenth Century Waikato village called Rangiaowhia got to do with the price of fish? As an example of Maori and Pakeha talking past one another – quite a lot. As the current impasse over the Government’s creation of a Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, and Maori fishery rights, attests, the scope for misunderstanding, even conflict, between Maori and Pakeha remains ominously latent in New Zealand’s constitution.
 
These latent difficulties are often made worse by the well-intentioned interventions of  Pakeha New Zealanders. Historians, in particular, seem especially keen to atone for the sins of their nation’s colonial past. All too often this manifests itself in professional historians affixing an academic seal of approval to what can only be described as outlandish and historically unjustifiable claims.
 
At Rangiaowhia, for example, Maori and Pakeha clashed in a confused military encounter that ended with the deaths of ten Maori civilians and three Pakeha soldiers. Even advantaged with the far more exacting standards of the Twenty-First Century, the lawyers of today would struggle to convince a court that what happened on the morning of Saturday, 20 February 1864 was a war-crime.
 
The New Zealand History website of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture cites the judgement of historian, David Green, who rejects the notion that what happened at Rangiaowhia was ‘a premeditated massacre’, arguing instead that it was the result of ‘a breakdown of discipline among troops who had psyched themselves up to face much stronger resistance.’”
 
The Military Engagement At Rangiaowhia, Saturday, 20 February 1864
 
If “premeditated massacre” can be ruled out, then using the word "genocide" to describe the tragic loss of life at Rangiaowhia – as a senior New Zealand historian, Jock Phillips, did on the 2 April broadcast of TV3’s The Nation – is simply insupportable.
 
The nationwide furore which engulfed the former Maori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia, when she used the word “genocide” to describe the fate of Taranaki Maori – especially those forcibly evicted from the settlement of Parihaka on 5 November 1881 – should have deterred any further use of such historical hyperbole. The only recorded case of genocide in New Zealand history occurred in the Chatham Islands in 1835. Pakeha were not responsible.
 
It is, however, entirely understandable that Maori continue to avail themselves of every opportunity to paint their dispossession in the most lurid of historical hues. To recover even a small fraction of the resources seized by New Zealand’s Settler State, the tactic of inducing the maximum possible degree of Pakeha guilt and remorse is indisputably necessary – and has proved astonishingly successful.
 
Such recovery as has been made, however, could not have been accomplished without the collusion of Pakeha elites. The price of their cooperation? That the transfer of Crown resources to Maori can only be from one collection of elites to another. The result, Neo-Tribal Capitalism, has shielded the Crown from the much more radical Pan-Maori Nationalism with which it was briefly threatened in the 1980s and 90s. The Iwi Leaders Group is a much more congenial partner for the Crown than a revolutionary Maori parliament – or army.
 
Even so, the increasingly close relationship between the Crown and the corporate entities arising out of Treaty of Waitangi-based settlements, is beginning to encroach upon the freedom-of-action of elected governments. The National-led Government’s announcement of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, which has elicited furious protests from Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Commission) is a case in point.
 
The Commission’s objections, though couched in terms of the sanctity of contract, are much more likely to be motivated by the political and constitutional implications of the Government’s unilateral action. If the Crown is permitted to arrogate unto itself the power to decide when it is obligated to negotiate with the Maori elites, and when it is not, then the growing economic and political influence of those elites will stand exposed as, at best, conditional; and, at worst, reversible.
 
At Rangiaowhia, the contingency of the Maori people’s freedom-of-action was demonstrated with deadly force. The Kingitanga’s (Maori King Movement’s) assertion of its people’s economic and political autonomy, under the formula of two flags and one treaty, was met with the unanswerable rejoinder of fire and steel. If contemporary Maori leaders do not wish to see their hard-won partnership of elites similarly dissolved, then it might be wiser for them to acquiesce in the matter of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary – and let sleeping fish lie.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 15 April 2016.

12 comments:

Luke Williamson said...

You're drawing strange conclusions from this I feel Chris. Perhaps it is terribly shallow of me, but I just see a PM who wanted something grand to say at an international conference on conservation, and couldn't be bothered running it past Maori first. A simple repeat of multiple cases in our recent past. Now they have bought a shit-fight in court that simply wasn't necessary. I can't quite see Maori land wars, genocide or Refelexive Left Syndrome in this. It's almost as if you have joined the bulk of MSM in choosing to blame anyone but our PM for this cock up. We can still have Maori rights upheld AND an ocean sanctuary – it will just take some negotiation. The sort of negotiation that should have occurred before an announcement of an ocean sanctuary, not after.

Anonymous said...

Chris, well researched and written, this article deserves and needs nationwide publishing.
Unfortunately I do not believe contemporary Maori leaders will let sleeping fish lie, the Maori caucus in the Labour party will make sure of that.
Is there a contemporary word for Luddites to cover their place in Labour?.
Sandra Lee is sorely missed in our politics.

greywarbler said...

I think you have discussed a really important matter here. I feel very edgy about what you rightly call hyperbole. I want Maori to receive a just response from the government, and not miserly and mealy mouthed. But there is amongst people wronged or victimised the tendency to inflate even exaggerate the grievance in the telling.

The ability of Pakeha who wish to treat Maori fairly and to stand strong against the anger and detractors against meeting Maori claims, is undermined when close examination of claims shows some of them to be far from factual. It opens the way to dismissing the majority as shonky in some way.

We know from reading comments to posts, that some people are devoted to finding some fault in every progressive move, with the intention of felling the great, noble and fair behaviour and bringing it down to the lowest and least costly achievable. Amongst Maori thinkers I feel the thought should flash 'Don't give your enemies ammunition for retro-colonial attacks'.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

This is certain justice if you will in Turia using the word genocide. If you read the Pakeha papers of the day, in their view that was exactly what should have been done and was intended. And as the Treaty has been honoured more in the breach than the observance, perhaps taking it to court is the one option left? I must say, it would have been better if someone had written a clearer treaty. But we are left with what we have. And doesn't international law state that if a treaty is abrogated then the situation reverts to the status quo ante? Haven't got time to check, but if it does – I don't want to have to go to Britain. :)

Anonymous said...

Chris, you have hit the nail in argument and propriety.
I would add that the only reason that these groups want to claim the Kermedecs is to on-sell these claimed rights to Korean or Japanese fishing concerns to plunder as they see fit.
All political parties should support our government on this matter, NZ First are the first to show the white flag probably to be followed by Labour and the Greens, though this is not clear at time of writing.
When our conservation offerings, fishing and standards are put into Maori leadership hands there is sniggering in most fishing Nations of our world.
These Nations know that Maori do not fish or want to man fishing boats, they only want money for fishing rights.

Lets hope our Courts support the New Zealand government.

Luke Williamson you cannot negotiate conservation with Maori groups who want to extort $Ms for their personal and only personal benefits. It is called the personal or leadership gravy train, nothing to do with Maori fishing rights in a ocean sanctuary, "ain't them the facts".

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I wonder why Maori leaders seem to be held to higher standards than European ones? Particularly by conservatives. I mean you never see the words 'gravy train' associated with Fonterra's, Theo Spierings, who last year got a huge pay increase. We never seemed to get it with Theresa Gattung, some of whose actions with regard to preserving its monopoly were quite unconscionable. Just askin'.

Jigsaw said...

Higher standards- always the cry. Mostly because Maori said that they wanted a share of the fishing quota so that they could go fishing. They needed, they said, quota so that young Maori could be trained and go fishing. But they didn't go fishing - just leased the quota out to foreign fishers who in many cases treated their workers as crap (not our fault said Maori). When asked about this Peter Sharples said that Maori were too attached to their whanua to be able to leave them for up to ten days at a time.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Higher standards- always the cry." And justifiably so. Even by your rules, these are property rights to be disposed of as they see fit correct? Property is sacred? Now I don't know why they lease these out to foreign commercial fishers, and I suspect neither do you, but the business case was that the returns didn't justify the outlay on huge fishing trawlers. Anyway, it's perfectly legal, which is another crap out that conservatives always use. Hypocrisy? Fine. But why don't you whine about pakeha malfeasance for a change? It's not as if there isn't enough of it around.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I think what pisses me off most about "always the cry" is that when pakeha commit some sort of economic malfeasance, it's never actually defined as 'pakeha malfeasance'. But whenever Maori do something remotely like it, it's always labelled as 'Maori malfeasance', and we get loads of the usual suspects and useful idiots crapping on about the flaws in the Maori character and society that make this possible. When they start doing the same to Europeans I might actually start listening to them.

Jigsaw said...

I am not talking about legality - talking about the reason the Maori elite said that they must have their own fishing quota - in order to have jobs for Maori youth. And the excuses that they used when they failed to follow when they got the quota.
I am intrigued that you ALWAYS say that even though it's -in this case hypocrisy-it isn't as bad/any different from the hypocrisy of others. Try that on the police next time you get nabbed for speeding- "oh but officer there was someone else just passed me going much faster". Time you realised that hypocrisy like any other human vice or virtue doesn't have a RACIAL basis. We don't want to hold anyone to higher or lower standards than other -especially with public money -just the same standards. If you want the standards to be the same make sure that comments such as 'Maori have a special bond with the land' and so on are removed from what you say.
We have lived through a generation where crap like that was commonplace-and still it goes on.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Er... I don't remember saying Maori have a special bond with the land. I do remember saying that they respect it as more than a something merely commercial and would quite possibly look after it better than Europeans do. Perhaps you could quote me? What I'm saying is that you might say that hypocrisy doesn't have a racial basis, but your reactions show that you people believe it does. As I said in my last comment, pakeha hypocrisy is never expressed as pakeha. Maori hypocrisy always is. Until you can overcome THAT hypocrisy, then you've got nothing substantial to say.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Now that the Association of Commercial Fisherman has come out against the Kermadec sanctuary, I presume all those blimps who were crapping on about Maori irresponsibility blah blah blah will now be giving us chapter and verse on pakeha culture and how it hasn't created jobs for young pakeha? And how selfish they are and unelected et cetera et cetera? Not holding my breath. Still, I'll pop over to whale oil. I can still go there even if I'm not allowed to comment.