Tuesday 6 February 2018

Can Sovereignty Be Shared?

Warm Words: Jacinda’s intentions and those of her Maori caucus colleagues are unquestionably benign. But in political circumstances as fraught as those presently confronting her government, good intentions are seldom enough. If, as the revisionist historians insist, Maori sovereignty was never ceded to the Crown, then the descendants of the Waitangi signatories’ determination to reclaim it; to exercise it; is entirely reasonable.

SPEAKING FROM THE PORCH of the whare runanga, overlooking the Waitangi Treaty Ground, Jacinda Ardern challenged Maori to challenge her. “[W]hen we return in one year, in three years, I ask you to ask of us ‘what have we done?’ Ask us what we have done to improve poverty ... ask us, hold us to account.”

Jacinda asked Maoridom to score her government on how well – or how badly – it has addressed the big issues confronting Maori. She spoke encouragingly about New Zealanders coming to terms with their country’s history and the Waitangi Treaty’s pivotal role in shaping that history.

What she was careful not to do, however, was openly concede – as the Green Party leader, James Shaw did – that Maori had never ceded sovereignty to the British Crown. As Prime Minister, such a concession would immediately pitch New Zealand into a protracted and extremely bitter constitutional crisis.

The authority of the Crown in the Realm of New Zealand is absolute and indivisible. To preserve that authority, the settler government of Sir George Grey invaded the Waikato in 1863. Through the bitterest strife, the kingitanga movement came to understand that Her Majesty’s Government would never accept the idea of a sovereignty shared between Pakeha colonists and tangata whenua. The only sort of Maori king acceptable to the British Crown was the sort that wielded no power.

The notion that sovereignty was never ceded to the Crown by Maori arises out of the radical and highly tendentious historiography of the Waitangi Tribunal. For this particular historical interpretation of what transpired at Waitangi on 6 February 1840 to stand, however, it is necessary to ignore all the subsequent actions of the Crown between that date and the early 1980s.

The construction and elaboration of the New Zealand State; the creation and interpretation of its laws; the legal status and inviolability of its citizens’ private property: all would be called into question if the idea that Maori sovereignty was never actually ceded to the Crown in 1840 was ever to be formally accepted by a New Zealand prime minister and her government.

Warm and inclusive though Jacinda’s speech from the whare runanga may have been, it was nevertheless the speech of a political leader in control of an absolute and indivisible state apparatus.

Was she promising to turn that apparatus to the urgent task of uplifting Maori New Zealanders out of poverty, homelessness and the bitter legacy of 178 years of colonial oppression? Yes, she was.

Was she proposing to unleash a constitutional revolution inspired by revisionist historians’ interpretation of the Waitangi Treaty? No, she was not.

Jacinda’s speech to the Iwi Leaders Forum at the beginning of her five-day sojourn in the Far North made clear her government’s intentions. In short, these were all about dealing with Maori material deprivation. Iwi leaders intent on pushing forward “cultural” issues – by which they mean constitutional issues – will very soon find they are pushing in vain.

Do the 13 Maori members in Labour’s caucus get this? Are they okay with this?

In all probability they are working very hard not to apprehend the dangerously contradictory currents into which Labour’s waka is drifting. All of them are eager to begin the process of uplifting their people. How many of them have thought through the medium-term consequences of this policy of empowerment is another matter altogether. What they will do when material uplift morphs into uncompromising cultural assertion is anybody’s guess.

The whole of Labour’s team is desperate to draw a line under the malign political effects of Helen Clark’s and Margaret Wilson’s Foreshore & Seabed Act. The demise of the Maori Party as a parliamentary force has raised hopes that this has, indeed, occurred. But it will take more than Jacinda’s warm words to cause the structures of sovereignty and executive power by which all New Zealand prime ministers are constrained to disappear in a puff of stardust.

Clark and Wilson did not overturn the Court of Appeal’s judgement out of racially-motivated spite. They overturned it because to do otherwise would have been to catch the judgement’s loosened legal thread in their fingertips, pull on it, and watch the entire constitutional garment of New Zealand unravel before their eyes.

Jacinda’s intentions and those of her Maori caucus colleagues are unquestionably benign. But in political circumstances as fraught as these, good intentions are seldom enough. If, as the revisionist historians insist, Maori sovereignty was never ceded to the Crown, then the descendants of the Waitangi signatories’ determination to reclaim it; to exercise it; is entirely reasonable.

The question which such a response immediately poses, however, is as difficult as it is portentous: Can two peoples exercise equal sovereignty in an undivided state?

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 6 February 2018.


Anonymous said...

Not being picky, but how come the Prime Minister is not accorded the respect of her full name, whereas everyone else referred to in the article is accorded either their surname or both names?

Kat said...

Well Chris, now the we have taken a port tack that loose cannonball "sovereignty" has rolled to the starboard side, and hasn't exploded. Are you sure you want to rock the boat.

sumsuch said...

Heart-y Jacinda. Savage was 65 when he was elected PM, the heart, and the iron needed were perfectly melded. He took his dead brother's name Joseph at 20.

Perfect legal perfection aside, as I said to a Maori, we may not be one people but we certainly aren't two. Imagine the Clyde River pouring through history the last 150 years. Maori are very close to my heart--that they should be included in our marvelous demo-cratic sentiment. They are central to us. The underdog is central to a society, Tony Blair's puerile uber-compliment to Amerika that everyone wanted to go there aside.

Unknown said...

this is off coarse is the same argument that is put up for resisting the power of the state passing into the hands of the people "it would be the end of civilization as we know it"
of coarse the ruling classes would have to give back all they have stolen and relinquish their power,something the upper classes find utterly terrifying. but to us workers ,i cant see what the problem is any more than i have a problem with tino rangatiratanga. you only have to look at the very rear incidences in history where the power has passed into the hands of the people to see that its not the great catastrophe its supposed to be and that people just get on with the just and fair running of their lives like they did for most of the history of humanity, before they developed the means to store produce, wealth and power and indulge in oppression and war

Guerilla Surgeon said...

There was no such thing as "Maori" at the time sovereignty was or wasn't ceded, just different groups of Maori. (Some signed the treaty, some didn't.) To a great extent there still isn't.

greywarbler said...

Doug Robertson
'of coarse' - the word seems to fit the rest of your comment. Great ideas but need fining, they are wishful thinking; nothing as organic as you envisage can happen. And when power pases into the hands of the people, if they haven't disciplined themselves to think, discuss fully, and plan for unconsidered eventualities, and also the human tendencies for excess which we tend to gloss over, then the outcome can be disastrous to the dream. And when the dream is shattered, what then can people look forward to?

And Chris, sovereignty of a kind seems to be what Tuhoe has hammered out with the government. They were put to 'The Test' by government forces in a 2007 devastating raid which I feel was a practice for future note on the possible handling of pockets of dissenters in line with the scenario suggested in defence forces practices of Southern Katipo etc.) It seems that they contained their anger, disappointment and outrage, instead honing their resolve as a weapon to reinforce the repetition of their claims to the government to get concessions for their tribe.


Background from the Maori Law Review.
More from Maori Law Review.

Discussion from Maori Law Review.
In her article Professor Rawinia Higgins points out that exercising self-determination need not be rendered as separatism....

The settlement also provides for innovative mechanisms for the governance of Te Urewera, which Dr Jacinta Ruru describes as “legally
revolutionary here in Aotearoa New Zealand and on a world scale”

And this from Dr Muriel Newman, a political researcher from the Right.

Geoff Fischer said...

"Can two peoples exercise equal sovereignty in an undivided state?". Certainly they can in a confederation, which is what Aotearoa was in 1835 and may be again in 2035. There should be no need for a "protracted and extremely bitter constitutional crisis" to regain that happy state of affairs. All that is required is for the British to concede that their claim to absolute and indivisible sovereignty over Aotearoa was never justified in law, by treaty or in natural justice. "Rangatiratanga" means what it means in "Te Rongopai ki te ritenga a Ruka", which effectively defined the meaning of the word in discourse between Maori and European. That is, sovereignty pure and simple. This is not historical revisionism. It is etymological correctness. The main point however is that if Maori, Pakeha, European, Asian and other peoples are to live together in this land in peace and harmony, it cannot be under a system which forcibly imposes upon all our peoples a British head of state, British culture and British geo-political alliances. The "undivided state" is a mere illusion of history which will be dispelled by the reality of our popular renaissance.

Andrew Nichols said...

Lost in all this is one crucial matter...that greywarbler hints at. Does Te Tino Rangatiratanga translate into sovereignty as we legally define it?

I argue that it does not and that we need a national hui of constitutional experts and Maori to define what TTR means so we can have a decent debate on it.

Victor said...


Nicely put. No doubt Governor Hobson would have appreciated the naval analogy. And I would agree that, in the short term, we should all be able to live with our current constitutional fudge and would gain little from forcing the issue one way or other.

But I think we would need harder definitions of sovereignty, legitimacy, the status of Te Tiriti etc, were we to seek to transition to a republic, which, for good or ill, may well happen when QE2 passes away.

greywarbler said...

We have been able to have a Key under present constitutional arrangements.
If we want to go the whole hog to the same as the USA and trump their Trump, their republic being the one with the most get-up-and-go, then we would probably get the go-ahead from the richies who worship money and find that old-fashioned British stuff has too many limitations.

The monarchy certainly is not perfect, but being a bit distant seems to work out okay, and their peccadilloes are distant too. Under a republic Mike Hosking might have got the NZ richies behind him and we could have had him foisted on us.

David Stone said...

To Greywarbler, Geoff Fischer and Andrew Nichols...

Sovereignty as relevant to Queen Victoria's sovereignty in 1840 which must be the comparison , could only apply to one person at a time for any "sovereign" state. She was the sovereign. "Our sovereign queen" One only! So the Chiefs would have to form a federation and choose a head to be a clear comparative option. Rangatiratanga could only equate to "sovereignty " over the land and people within a chief's jurisdiction. However I can't reconcile them parting with that local sovereignty knowingly and voluntarily with the proud warriors they undoubtably were.

One Law for All said...

If and thats a big IF the treaty was a partnership, it wasnt/couldnt be with maori as a race, because they didnt exist as a race at the signing, it would have to be with each individual chief that signed. Imagine that, 500 odd different partnerships. Now that makes a lot of sense?

Victor said...

Geoff Fischer

I don't see how or why New Zealand could again become a confederation.

Are you suggesting that Southland or Auckland should become de jure independent states, linked by voluntary and rescindable treaties, rather like the member states of the EU? If so, how and on what grounds would you seek to persuade Southlanders or Aucklanders of the advantages of this arrangement as compared to what they have at present?

Or do you just see the confederation as consisting of a large unified splodge of non-Maori land dotted with the equivalent of Bantustans? If so, would those Maori not living in their tribal homelands be considered citizens of these homelands or of the splodge?

If neither of the above, what are you suggesting?

Meanwhile, you write:

"The main point however is that if Maori, Pakeha, European, Asian and other peoples are to live together in this land in peace and harmony, it cannot be under a system which forcibly imposes upon all our peoples a British head of state, British culture and British geo-political alliances"

Now, I agree that these things were once imposed on New Zealand. But can you seriously argue that this is still the case? We could give up drinking English Breakfast Tea, reciting Shakespeare, breakfasting on bacon and eggs, playing cricket, watching Coro Street and regarding the Queen of the UK as also the Queen of New Zealand any time we chose.

And, even in the age of Bojo and Liam Fox, it's not British geo-political connections that potentially hold us in thrawl but those with the US and/or China, albeit that the Brits have chosen to be similarly in thrawl to both these behemoths.

Unknown said...

the great academic/intellectual/ historian, greywarbler finds it necessary to point out my inability at spelling to establish his superiority. and thus discredit my comment. But trotting out the bourgeois line that we have all been brainwashed into believing that ordinary people are not capable of organizing society unless they have had an education like him only shows his sense of superiority which is rampant in the minds of the ruling classes and is not to far removed from the white supremacist view of cultural and genealogical superiority.
i suggest he reads Chris Harmens "a peoples history of the world" and he would see that for most of humanities existence we have done exactly that.all this bullshit about how we would all suddenly want to start killing each other, he should look at the world we live in at present and see how the ruling classes have and are managing it this far with all the war poverty, starvation, murder, torture, human trafficking, genocide, and ask himself how it could get much worse. ps i apologize for the grammar but as i left school at 15 and never got an "education"....but as a working class i still have the audacity to comment.

Geoff Fischer said...

Since rangatiratanga was the word used by the British missionaries to translate "kingdom" (as in the "kingdom of God", therefore indicating absolute sovereign authority) there can be no disputing that when Maori signed the treaty they would have believed that it guaranteed their continuing sovereignty. A chief had authority within a hapu, and, by extension, over a tribal rohe, and Maori were clearly under the impression that authority would be retained under a wider British protectorate established through the treaty of Waitangi. So if the British were to "honour the treaty" they would accept exactly what Chris is saying they should not accept: iwi and hapu autonomy. Going on 178 years of history we would not realistically expect them to do that, and if iwi and hapu want autonomy they will have set about it without regard to the British Crown. That is actually our best, perhaps our only, hope for a harmonious society in the twenty-first century.

Geoff Fischer said...

In reply to Victor
There can be no disputing that a British Head of State is imposed on our peoples. Every Member of Parliament, military or judicial officer and new citizen is required to swear allegiance to the British sovereign. None are given a choice in the matter, and that is they way that it has been since 1860.
British culture (in the widest sense of the phrase) has also been imposed through the compulsory education system, and further promoted through the press, broadcasting and other media.
New Zealand's geo-political alliance with Britain obviously derives from the Treaty, the unlawful establishment of British sovereignty, and the mass British immigration which followed, and those who opposed or stood aside from that alliance, both Maori and Pakeha, have been severely punished for their troubles.
By all means choose Elizabeth Windsor, Charles or William as your Head of State, follow British culture, and even go to war on behalf of a morally bankrupt Anglo-American hegemonic world order if that is your wish.
But you should also respect our people's right to choose their own leaders, to follow their own culture and to live peacefully in their own land.
The Westminster model, even when modified by mixed member proportional representation system, will struggle to deliver good political outcomes in such an ethnically and socially diverse society as New Zealand. A confederation offers better prospects for stability and harmony, and it would not involve separating Southland from Auckland. In fact the dividing lines would not necessarily be geographical (most iwi membership, for example, being widely dispersed across the country), though of course those who wish to remain in their current geographic constituencies should be free to do so.
We need to be aware of the failings and deficiencies within the present political system, which have become more rather than less pronounced with the passage of time, and we should be aware of that fresh thinking, employing modern technology, could deliver a dramatically better system which would address all the shortcomings of the present system of government.

Victor said...

Doug Robertson

I thought greywarbler was expressing the widely held view that democracy succeeds best when the ground has been laid by undemocratic yet parliamentary "Law and Liberty" regimes, which provide an institutional and cultural template for future progress.

Historically, there is some justification for this view. But, as ever, with such propositions, you can make an alternative case. So you may draw comfort from this recent article, which has certainly provoked me to further cogitation:


David Stone said...

Re your ref and discourse on democracy with Doug R and GreyW.
Firstly I reckon that a totally honest benevolent dictator with absolute power is probably the best form of government. She could access advice from anyone, and delegate responsibilities to whoever was most able to discharge them. No faction or individual can wield undue influence because the incumbent has absolute power.There have probably been examples that came close in history, but they have been few and far between. And they only ever can last a lifetime; the likelihood of a suitable successor is one in a million.
So the default to the next best is to involve everyone to have equal influence, but with millions of participants the best that can be done is for representatives to be elected to govern as the population wishes them to govern. Basically what we have.
I reject the idea that any elite can be identified as having any innate qualities to justify greater influence than any-one else. Granted people need a decent broad education, and essentially an honest unbiased news source that covers the things that matter, and as GW says to think about it ,but the basics of a fair society don't require genius.
The problem with democracy as we know it is that truthfulness has completely abandoned politics and our politicians. How can the wisest and most thoughtful electorate select a "representative " government when what their elected representatives do in government bares no relationship to what they said they wanted to do? And it's no use waiting 3 years and voting for the other crowd because they are just as false.
So why can't they do what they say they will do? Is it because they crave the kudos of the the office? Or is it because they discover that they are not really in control at all, and do what they are told?. Some of each probably , but some kind of sanction for reversing significant electoral platform undertakings seems essential if none of them can be trusted to go forward with what they were elected to do. Maybe they should see out their 3 yr term and then be disqualified from standing for election ever again.
For all it's shortcomings democracy is the one system that has within it's basic structure the inherent mechanism for change. So though cumbersome it has the potential for gradual improvement.

Victor said...

Geoff Fischer

“There can be no disputing that a British Head of State is imposed on our peoples.”

No, a British Head of State was once imposed but her great great grand-daughter's authority depends on our free volition, although that volition may not be extended to her successors.

“Every Member of Parliament, military or judicial officer and new citizen is required to swear allegiance to the British sovereign.”

No, they swear allegiance to the Queen of New Zealand. This is not just a formal distinction as, in matters relating to New Zealand , the Queen acts on the advice of her New Zealand prime minister.

“None are given a choice in the matter, and that is they way that it has been since 1860.”

You're right. There’s no choice in the matter. Similarly, no French official has the right to swear allegiance to something other than the French Republic. The same will be true here, if and when we opt for republican status.

“British culture (in the widest sense of the phrase) has also been imposed through the compulsory education system, and further promoted through the press, broadcasting and other media.”

That’s because, for over a century and up till very recently, most people in New Zealand were largely descended from British (and Irish) settlers. Perhaps their ancestors shouldn’t have come here and they certainly shouldn’t have dispossessed the Tangata Whenua. But what other cultural frame of reference should they have chosen?

I would agree, though, for what it’s worth, that our news media are far too influenced by “Atlanticist” views of what’s significant in our world.

“New Zealand's geo-political alliance with Britain obviously derives from the Treaty, the unlawful establishment of British sovereignty,”

Well, for all Bojo’s absurd neo-imperial posturing, we don’t have much of a geo-political alliance with Britain these days. And to the extent that it’s still there and not wholly voluntary on our part, you can, these days, largely blame the Yanks.

Just like us, the Brits can be excessively anxious to please the big boys in Washington. And, also like us, they’re increasingly anxious to please the other big boys, in Beijing. But that’s a topic for another day.

More to come.....

Victor said...

Continuing comments from previous post......

“But you should also respect our people's right to choose their own leaders, to follow their own culture and to live peacefully in their own land.”

And why do you believe that I don’t respect everybody’s right to follow what they deem to be their culture and to live peacefully. A more sensitive soul than myself might be rather upset by your unwarranted assumption.

“The Westminster model, even when modified by mixed member proportional representation system, will struggle to deliver good political outcomes in such an ethnically and socially diverse society as New Zealand.”

I agree. There’s an inherent tension between the rights of majorities, minorities and, for that matter, individuals. The challenge is to make this into a creative

But I also think we owe it to ourselves and all our ancestors to strengthen what is good within the generally beneficent system of proportional parliamentary democracy. We should always be wary of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

“A confederation offers better prospects for stability and harmony, and it would not involve separating Southland from Auckland. In fact the dividing lines would not necessarily be geographical (most iwi membership, for example, being widely dispersed across the country), though of course those who wish to remain in their current geographic constituencies should be free to do so.”

OK. I now understand that you’re using the term ‘confederation’ as a sort of analogy. Rather than advocating a territorial carve-up, you seem to want people within the same territory to have the right to be under a sovereignty of their own choice.

Perhaps your analogy was misleading. Even so, I do think there’s room for discussion over how this broad concept might work. The tightly-defined exclusive sovereignty of the “Westphalian” state hasn’t been a constant in human history and there might just be alternative models that are practical in our weirdly interconnected modern world.

It would be a “hard sell” though and I can’t help but wonder whether the effort might be better expended sorting out pressing issues connected with social provision, infrastructure, health, education etc.

BTW on the education front, I would certainly favour Te Reo becoming compulsory for all children in New Zealand, not least because the evidence shows that people who speak two languages find it progressively easier to learn a third, fourth or fifth language. And the best place to start is a language that resonates in more than half our place names.

Victor said...


I suspect that greywarbler should be allowed to speak for himself without excessive interpretation from others. But I took him to be referring to the time-honoured theory that democracy succeeds best in countries where its establishment was preceded by inegalitarian and undemocratic parliamentary regimes, which nevertheless created a culture and tradition of open, free politics.

Exhibit A for this theory has tended to be 18th century England, a country totally dominated by aristocratic landed interests but acting through a free if extremely corrupt and unrepresentative parliament, with a legal system that, at least at a theoretical level, was posited on equality before the law and placed a very conscious and self-celebratory emphasis on the liberty of the subject. This has been referred to as a “Law and Liberty” regime.

The theory goes that this type of arrangement created stable, authoritative and historically grounded institutions which the democratic masses were able to take over and use for their benefit, as the franchise was gradually extended during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also suggests that the masses were schooled in discursive politics by this process, which, of course, would have included peaceful agitation for the extension of voting.

A contrast is often made between this tradition and those of much of continental Europe, which was dominated by autocracies of one sort or another that did not valorise liberty to the same extent and tended to view people’s legal rights as determined by their formal status as aristocrats, bourgeois, peasant etc.

The argument goes that all the ills of Europe, from the Reign of Terror to the rise of Hitler were broadly ascribable to the absence of the free traditions enjoyed by the English, the Dutch and a few other happy breeds. It’s not an argument for government by elites but for a particular form of elite government providing a more accommodating soil in which successor non-elite politics could grow. BTW a number of left-wing historians, at least one of them a Marxist, have (if my memory serves me right) ascribed to this view.

Despite its whiff of Whiggish determinism, I think there’s some truth to the theory but I also liked the article from ‘Dissent’, a link to which I posted and which makes a very different case, based around the usual exemplars of the “Law and Liberty” theory.

As to the ideal form of government, it would, of course, consist of dictatorial rule by myself. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t agree and thinks she should be a sort of universal supreme autocrat. As she’s normally right, I have to conclude that she’s probably correct on this matter as well

David Stone said...

I'm in wide agreement with all that , perhaps even the last. I think most humans if thrust into that position would do their honest best for everyone. Unfortunately most would avoid the responsibility and those who seek it do so for other reasons than the best for everyone.
I have argued here that US imposed regime-change activities, forcibly removing autocratic governments in other countries will never bring about a caring democratic government to replace the despot. Out of the chaos will emerge another ,probably worse dictatorship, or waring factions. And the only path to social democracy is a stable state and gradual relaxation of the autonomy from an enlightened leadership. As British democracy evolved, and as Gorbachov tried and partially achieved in Russia. So I agree with G W totally if that was his (her?) argument.
But what we seem to be facing now is a regression from a social democratic system that has worked well for decades as vested interests working within it and subverting the machinery of it's democratic processes , to erode power from elected government. With the co-operation of elected government, by wheedling control of resources and financial creation (Debt creation), and defeating the social democratic ideal. It is the intelligent educated elite that are doing this, not the ignorant masses, and the ignorant masses would not wish to bring about such imbalance as is happening even were they on the winning side. They are too closely involved with inequality not to have empathy. Fair mindedness doesn't necessarily accompany education and privilege , or even intelligence.
Perhaps you can contribute Greywarbler seeing Victor and I seem to be debating your argument.
Cheers all D J S

One Law for All said...

Victor, Your wife is absolutely right, you talk a lot of shite, and she would know!

Victor said...


Try saying something and we'll compare your shite to mine.

Victor said...


"They are too closely involved with inequality not to have empathy."

I'm not sure about that. Those with little are often the most censorious of those with nothing

"Fair mindedness doesn't necessarily accompany education and privilege , or even intelligence."


Victor said...


It's not so much enlightened leadership that (according to the "Law and Liberty" argument) makes an undemocratic parliamentary regime a good seed bed for democracy.

Autocrats such as Frederick the Great or Joseph II of Austria had a rather stronger claim to enlightenment than the venal peers and brutish squires who tended to dominate the eighteenth century Westminster Parliament.

Rather, it was the long-standing existence of representative organs (albeit on a restricted franchise), more or less free debate, legal equality, limits on executive power etc. that, according to this argument, made the difference.

But, as I say, there's also merit in the counter-argument I've culled from "Dissent", which can be read as commending a French-style revolutionary road to Democracy.

Geoff Fischer said...

I was careless in using the definite article "the British sovereign" after earlier referring to her as "a British sovereign" and Victor was right to correct me on that point. But does anyone dispute that the Queen of New Zealand is British, and that therefore New Zealand has a British Head of State? I don't believe that she is even nominally a New Zealand citizen, and few would go so far as to assert that she is a New Zealander in any shape or form.
The way out of this situation, where a foreigner occupies the office of New Zealand Head of State, is not at all straight-forward given that to sit in Parliament one must swear allegiance to the person of the monarch, and Parliament is the only institution which can lawfully remove her as Head of State.
So is it not reasonable to suggest that she is still imposed on our people, and that if the people of New Zealand had a free choice in the matter it is most improbable that she would be elected Head of State?
That, however, is secondary to the question of what kind of democracy we would choose to install if we could cut ourselves free from the constraints of 178 years of colonial rule, and the political model adopted from 19th century England (whatever virtues it may have).
Some of the questions we might ask ourselves are "Do we need to limit ourselves to geographical constituencies? Could people be free to choose their own constituency? Do all constituencies really need to be of approximately equal size? Do the benefits of the secret ballot still outweigh its disadvantages? Do we need to have triennial elections? Why not continuous election?". Maori might answer these questions differently to Europeans because iwi systems are designed to accommodate such variables. Clearly we now have the tools to create a political system which is much more flexible, responsive and transparent than the inherited Westminster model, a system in which ordinary people could truly exercise their own voice, and in which the notion of "choosing one's own leaders" becomes more than a figure of speech. If we fail to address the possibility of radical change we may end up with a society in which the rates of democratic participation (both within political parties and in parliamentary elections) continue to decline inexorably, politics becomes the preserve of a small middle class elite and the political outcomes are increasingly unsatisfactory for all.

David Stone said...

Geoff Fischer
Hi I'm pretty sure there have been several polls over the years that have clearly shown that most New Zealanders do want to keep the tie to the Queen. As a figurehead I think. I'm sure if a Br monarch started interfering much that would change quickly.

With that thought it is probable that the US presidency is much more comparable with the Brtsh seramonial head of state than
generally realised. Something Mr Trump has been learning over the past year.

I like the idea of continuous election. Boot them out as soon as they start to welch on their promises! Brilliant!

Victor said...

Geoff Fischer

"The way out of this situation, where a foreigner occupies the office of New Zealand Head of State, is not at all straight-forward given that to sit in Parliament one must swear allegiance to the person of the monarch, and Parliament is the only institution which can lawfully remove her as Head of State."

The oath of allegiance is to the current monarch who is now in her nineties.

It is up to Parliament to decide who her "heirs and successors" might be. There was a revolution in Britain in 1688-89 which more or less established that point.

In any event, the willingness of the current reigning dynasty to cede its status if requested to has been continuously acknowledged by the current monarch, her eldest son and eldest grandson.

It was also acknowledged by the monarch's father, when Eire and India became republics.

The monarch has herself experienced innumerable examples of her erstwhile "realms" choosing republican status. Most of these nations have subsequently chosen to remain within the Commonwealth but others have not.

Why should New Zealand be any different if it chose a republican path?

Have you not created a "man of straw"?

Geoff Fischer said...

And if they were smart, under a system of continuous election the politicians would not welch, and there would be no need to boot them out.

Victor said...

Correcting my previous post:

"her eldest son and eldest grandson" should read "her eldest son and his eldest son".

Victor said...

Geoff Fischer

The advantages of a secret ballot are obvious and I can't think what advantages there would be to abandoning it. What advantages would you suggest might come from doing so?

Geoff Fischer said...

"It" (the right to self-determination) "was also acknowledged by the monarch's father, when Eire and India became republics."
That is true, and the stance of the British monarchy has always been "we are only here so long as you want us".
But in Eire the people had to demonstrate their disaffection for the monarchy through a long brutal civil war, and in India through a mass campaign of civil disobedience. Which makes my point that if you put obstacles in the way of change, then change, when it comes, may assume a destructive form.
Even the simple step of allowing republicans and nationalists to sit in the New Zealand parliament would do something to open the way for future peaceful, as opposed to violent, change.

Unknown said...

"Can two peoples exercise equal sovereignty in an undivided state?" What are peoples?

Peter Hemmingson said...


NZ's "true and only" Treaty is the Te Reo version. This was what was presented orally to the chiefs, and this is what they agreed to. There is no English version. Te Tiriti o Waitangi 1840 does not contain the Maori words for "partnership" and "principles."

First open challenge to Treatyists: point to the words “partnership” and “principles" in Te Tiriti.

This nonsense is of recent invention, and originated in what we might call "The Treaty of Wellington (aka Section 9 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act) 1986.” Activist judges on the Court of Appeal hearing a 1987 case involving the NZ Maori Council then took Section 9’s unclarified in the statute reference to “the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi” to concoct “partnership” and "principles" out of thin air.

Everything the chiefs said on the lawn at Waitangi and elsewhere, as well as the words of those who refused to sign it, make it abundantly clear they were well-aware that by signing the Treaty this would place Captain Hobson in authority over them, and that behind Hobson was Queen Victoria. Reiterated at the Kohimarama Conference of 1860.

Second open challenge to Treatyists: produce a single primary source account recording the words of a chief who thought he was going into "partnership" or some kind of sovereignty-sharing arrangement with the Crown.

Eyewitness accounts of the pre-Treaty debates make it clear that none of the chiefs who signed it thought they were going into “partnership” with the Crown. Those who spoke up for Hobson also leave no doubt that they expected British sovereignty to bring lasting peace to the land, as well as protecting them from less benevolently inclined foreign powers, such as the French.

Third open challenge to Treatyists: explain why, for 147 years between 1840 and 1987 and the Court of Appeal decision in the New Zealand Maori Council Case, nobody knew that the Treaty of Waitangi was a “partnership" or some kind of sovereignty-sharing arrangement.

It was only after the Court of Appeal invented “partnership” and “principles” in 1987 that demands along these lines first surfaced. If nobody knew that the Treaty of Waitangi was a racial partnership for 147 years, that's probably because it isn’t.

Geoff Fischer said...

To Victor
I did type a lengthy reply (in two parts) to your question on the advantages of moving to an open ballot system. It may still be waiting moderation, or it may have been lost in transit. If it does not appear within the next few hours I will re-post.
To Peter Hemmingson
While not a "Treatyist" myself, any document may be subject to interpretation. The words "principles" and even "partnership" would not have to be present in the Treaty for them to never-the-less be applicable to the Treaty.
However the point that I keep coming back to is that the rangatiratanga promised to the chiefs is the same word the missionaries used in 1835 (and probably earlier) to translate the word "kingdom" in the Gospel according to Luke. So "rangatiratanga" indicated sovereignty to both Maori and European at the time the Treaty was signed. Therefore how can it now be claimed that the Treaty was a cession or surrender of sovereignty by Maori to the British?

Victor said...

Geoff Fischer

Your obstinacy over this point is becoming rather silly.

Approximately 30 countries that were once either "Realms" or Crown Colonies have become republics during the reign of Elizabeth II. At least 25 of these are still Commonwealth members, most of them having chosen republican status some time after independence.

Why should this norm not apply in New Zealand if we wanted it to apply?

Victor said...

Geoff Fischer

Of course there have been republicans in New Zealand's Parliament.

Jim Bolger, Steve Maharey and Peter Dunne for three. No doubt there have been many more.

I'm not sure what you mean by "nationalist", but NZ First has been described as a nationalist party by its deputy leader.

Personally, I'd argue that Labour also has a nationalistic streak but that's open to contention.

New Zealand has many faults but your attempts to paint it as the supine tool of a long defunct empire are totally without foundation.

That's not to say that there aren't two other (rival) empires that exert a very real degree of influence over us.

But if you want to pose as a specifically anti-British freedom fighter, you've left it approximately 80 years too late. Sorry about that.

Geoff Fischer said...

I believe that Jim Bolger (as a Catholic of Irish descent) had some republican sympathies which, as an honorable man, he put to one side when he swore allegiance to the monarch on becoming a member of parliament.
I can only believe that the other two politicians named were genuine and sincere in their oaths of allegiance to the monarchy.
Most political parties in New Zealand hold themselves to be "nationalist" (ACT may be an exception) but Labour and National could more correctly be described as "globalist" parties in terms of economics and geo-politics, while the Greens are environmental globalists, with a nationalist tendency on economic issues. New Zealand First is a party of economic nationalism, but that economic nationalism does not carry through into constitutional or geo-political nationalism.
It is theoretically possible that a parliament consisting entirely of representatives who had pledged allegiance to the monarchy could turn around and depose the queen as head of state, but whatever kind of republic they created through such an act of betrayal would not be one in which the ordinary New Zealander could take pride or in which they could have trust and confidence.
To cut a long story short, if you are a republican and a nationalist who will not pledge allegiance to a British monarch, then you cannot sit in the New Zealand Parliament.
Critics would do better to take note of what I actually believe, and have written over many years, rather than put their own construction ("supine tool of a long defunct empire", "specifically anti-British freedom fighter" etc) on what they imagine might be my position.
"Ko tau rourou, ko taku rourou, ka makona matou"
"From your truth and my truth the full truth will emerge".
So let's stick to the truth, avoid misrepresentation, and refrain from sarcasm or other forms of verbal belligerence.
It seems that my posts on the open ballot have not passed moderation, though I can see no reason Chris Trotter would invoke his prerogative to censor in this case, so I have posted my response to your comment on the open ballot at www.republican.co.nz

Anonymous said...

Geoff Fisher

What you post about the assumed meaning of 'rangatiratanga' is sheer casuistry and revisionist wishful thinking.

Have a free history lesson.

The National Party’s Treaty of Waitangi spokesman, Joseph Mooney, is 110% correct in stating that Article II of Te Tiriti grants “tino rangatiratanga” not just to brown supremacist part-Maori, but to ALL New Zealanders.

James Busby’s final English language draft dated 4 February 1840 (aka ‘the Littlewood Treaty’) was translated into Maori by the missionary Henry Williams and his son (fluent Maori speakers, resident in NZ since 1823) for presentation to the Chiefs on 5 February 1840.

Article I reads:

"The chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes and the other chiefs who have not joined the confederation, cede to the Queen of England forever the entire Sovreignty [sic] of their country."

That wipes out the ridiculous Declaration of Independence of the Confederation of the United Tribes [He Whakaputanga] fudged up by British Resident, James Busby, to wave at annexation-minded foreign competitors and the false assertion that Maori had a sovereign nation state prior to 6 February 1840.

Article II reads:

“The Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the chiefs and the tribes [the natives] and to all the people of New Zealand [the pre-Treaty white settlers], the possession of their lands, dwellings, and all their property ...”

In Te Tiriti, the word “property” was translated as “taonga.” Today, based on the erroneous Sir Hugh Kawharu [a Waitangi Tribunal member AND claimant] back-translation that word has come to mean treasures, both tangible and intangible, including language and culture.

This blatant try-on would have astonished Sir Apirana Ngata. In his 1922 explanation of the Treaty, Ngata described “taonga” as applying to “this canoe, that taiaha, that kumara pit, that cultivation.” Not once did he hint that taonga included intangibles as claimed today and accepted by the Waitangi Tribunal.

Ngata was well-fluent in the Maori language, His explanation was consistent with Kendall and Lee's 1820 vocabulary, the Williams 1844 dictionary, and Frederick Maning's personal account of pre-Treaty New Zealand. Check these texts. You will learn that in the context of Te Tiriti, “taonga” meant goods, property, things, chattels, or in legal terms “personalty” [personal property].

F.E.(Frederick) Maning settled in Northland in 1833. He fathered four children to the sister of a Maori chief and as a fluent Maori speaker well-versed in Tikanga, later became a Judge of the Native Land Court. In his book Old New Zealand, Maning translates “taonga” as “Goods; property.”

When it came to both land and personal property, everyone in New Zealand as at 6 February 1840 needed the same assurance from the incoming sovereign: that existing private property rights would be upheld and protected.

This was obviously important to the natives.

It was also important to the pre-Treaty white settlers who held land and personal property according to Tikanga (meaning in practical terms only for as long as 'their' tribe could defend the locality against outsiders).

Anonymous said...

Geoff Fisher

If ‘Tino Rangatiratanga’ means in its broadest sense “the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship’ as claimed by Kawharu, it was certainly not being used that way in Te Tiriti in 1840.

In the context of Te Tiriti, the words narrow in their meaning to be a guarantee of property rights in land and personal property to both the natives and pre-Treaty settlers alike.

It is thus impossible to construe Te Tiriti as having been drafted to provide for the Crown to govern the settlers according to Article I and the chiefs to continue to govern their tribes according to Article II.

The reference to the white settlers in Article II stonewalls any possible interpretation of Te Tiriti as a Constitutional document providing for spheres of co-governance as asserted today, and torpedoes any suggestion that Article II is a reservation of chiefly authority.

Even if Article II didn’t contain that inconvenient reference to “all the people of New Zealand,” an open-ended co-governance arrangement would surely have been worded “the Queen of England HER HEIRS AND SUCCESSORS [emphasis added to additional wording] confirms and guarantees to the chiefs and the tribes THEIR HEIRS AND SUCCESSORS [emphasis added to additional wording] the possession [tino rangatiratanga] of their lands, dwellings and all their property ..."

The recorded words of the chiefs on the lawn at Waitangi and elsewhere when Te Tiriti was debated make it clear the majority who chose to sign it (and the minority who didn’t) were well-aware their acceptance of Hobson would place him in authority over them, and that behind Hobson stood Queen Victoria.

Article III reads:

"In return for the cession of their Sovreignty [sic] to the Queen, the people of New Zealand shall be protected by the Queen of England and the rights and privileges of British subjects will be granted to them.

In signing Te Tiriti, all Maori – including the chiefs – became not ‘partners’ but EQUAL SUBJECTS of the Crown in a nation state the white settlers would henceforth create where none had existed before.

EQUAL SUBJECTS means INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS OF CITIZENSHIP – nothing more and nothing less.

Te Tiriti cannot possibly be construed as a guarantee of perpetual group rights to brown supremacist part-Maori (with an ever-declining Maori blood quantum).

It is ludicrous and intellectually incoherent to propose that the cession of sovereignty in Article I--restated in Article III--would be countermanded by a reservation of chiefly authority in Article II.

“Sovereignty” means “the supreme power or authority.”

It is thus Constitutionally impossible for a sovereign to be in ‘partnership’ with a subject or group of subjects.

It is also clearly impossible for ordinary Maori to enjoy “the rights and privileges of British subjects” if still subject to tribal-style rule by chiefs.

On 6 February 1840, one party (the Crown) absorbed and digested the parties of the other side (the chiefs and those whom they represented) rendering Te Tiriti from the moment it was signed analogous to a used table napkin after a meal, and other than as a historical artefact, about as relevant.

Te Tiriti is best-described not as “New Zealand’s Founding Document,” but as “New Zealand’s Founding Moment.”