Saturday 27 August 2022

A Bridge Of Insufficient Strength.

Not Strong Enough: There is no short-cut from our colonial past to a bi-cultural future. Surely, following this flood-ravaged fortnight, the Prime Minister realises that, when the waters rise in fury, bridges get swept away.

A GREAT DEAL can be learned from the metaphors politicians choose to illustrate the challenges they are required to overcome. At the recent gathering of Māori and Pakeha leaders at the Māori King’s Turangawaewae marae, the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, gave us the metaphor of te Tiriti o Waitangi as a bridge. Somehow, she suggested, New Zealanders must be brought safely across this fragile structure. Her job is to lead them.

Listening to the Prime Minister, I was reminded of the compelling final scene of the movie The Man Who Would Be King, in which Sean Connery strides bravely towards safety across a swaying rope bridge. Behind him, enraged tribesmen hack away furiously at the anchoring cables. Beneath him, a yawning chasm waits to swallow-up the foolhardy Scottish soldier.

Certainly, it is difficult to escape the notion that the Prime Minister perceives this present moment to be one of considerable historical danger.

Behind us lies the old society of colonial New Zealand. A society based upon assumptions of racial superiority. A society founded upon the dispossession of the Māori. A society riven by multiple inequities and injustices. Ahead of us lies Aotearoa – the new bi-cultural nation in which a “partnership of the races” will expunge the inequities and injustices of our racist past.

Across this perilous gap between yesterday and tomorrow, the Prime Minister has suspended the Treaty. She offers us her hand – and bids us cross.

The problem with Prime Minister Ardern’s metaphor is that far too few New Zealanders believe the Treaty is strong enough to carry them across the chasm. They fear the chaos into which their country will be plunged if the bridge proves unequal to the burden imposed upon it. They simply do not share the Māori people’s unwavering confidence in a document once referred to by a Chief Justice of New Zealand as “a simple nullity”.

Even those enthusiastic about a bi-cultural future for Aotearoa-New Zealand are beginning to express their doubts about the “official” interpretation of the Treaty as a “partnership between races”. Dame Anne Salmond, for example, writing for the Newsroom website, reminds us that race is “a colonial idea with an ugly history, associated with slavery, genocide and the dehumanisation of others, and utterly inimical to respecting [New Zealanders’] ‘tapu and mana’.”

Pakeha conservatives, on the other hand, listen to what they judge to be the exaggerated and essentially self-serving claims of Māori historians and lawyers who would have us believe that te Tiriti o Waitangi is Magna Carta and the United States Constitution all rolled into one unchallengeable fragment of Holy Writ. Their reading of New Zealand history and New Zealand law simply cannot be squared with what is fast becoming the “official” explanation of the Treaty.

For far too many New Zealanders the Prime Minister’s invitation to step onto her bridge to the future is an invitation to catastrophe.

Perhaps there would be a higher level of confidence in the Treaty’s strength if the Prime Minister was better able to explain its corollary – “co-governance”. So eloquent on other subjects, Jacinda Ardern becomes uncharacteristically tongue-tied when invited to “sell” the concept behind what her critics characterise as Labour’s racially-charged and electorally unmandated policies – most particularly Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s “Three Waters” project.

This inability to explain co-governance is not restricted to the Prime Minister. The attempt by her Māori Development Minister, Willie Jackson, to reassure New Zealanders that they have nothing to fear from this “new” variant of democracy has succeeded only in frightening the bejesus out of them. If this is what lies on the other side of the chasm bridged by the Treaty, then the Sixth Labour Government should not be surprised at the number of Kiwis declining to make the journey.

In the wise words of Dame Anne: “Rather than seeing the Treaty as a ‘bridge’ across a chasm of misunderstanding, in the spirit of ‘pernicious polarisation’, perhaps Te Tiriti can be visualised as a meeting place where different groups of New Zealanders come together in a spirit of tika/justice, pono/truth, and aroha to share ideas, resolve injustices and seek peace with one another.”

There is no short-cut from our colonial past to a bi-cultural future. Surely, following this flood-ravaged fortnight, the Prime Minister realises that, when the waters rise in fury, bridges get swept away.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 26 August 2022.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The problem with Prime Minister Ardern’s metaphor is that far too few New Zealanders believe the Treaty is strong enough to carry them across the chasm. They fear the chaos into which their country will be plunged if the bridge proves unequal to the burden imposed upon it. They simply do not share the Māori people’s unwavering confidence in a document once referred to by a Chief Justice of New Zealand as “a simple nullity”."

No, the essential problem is that far too many New Zealanders are still racist and believe in Maori inferiority. They also see any Maori gains as some sort of zero-sum calculation where they must lose. And hell hath no fury like a middle-class white person who thinks they might suffer some discomfort.

After all, what Maori are asking for is a hell of a lot less then the Treaty actually said they should get. Let's not forget that all those guarantees that were given by the colonialist Treaty partners were essentially cast aside by various colonial governments pretty much right up until the 1980s.

I once had a prominent New Zealand scientist ask me why we can't just "get rid of it". And then what, because the convention is that once you "get rid of it" you revert to the status quo ante – now that would be really interesting wouldn't it?

Gary Peters said...

Chris, I have no issue with your essay here at all and agree with the bulk but we are not and never will be a "bi-cultural" society. Nor should we aspire to be one.

Most maori that I know see themselves as Kiwis. They are well aware that the word "aotearoa" is a colonial fabrication for a fairytale. Often, when they use it they chuckle and grin at me.

Anyway, bi-cultural. I have travelled extensively and been to a couple of countries where there are separate cultures preserved by the inhabitants. Canada is an example that many have been to and I can assure you a person from Quebec sees themselves as completely different than someone from New Foundland but they both are adamant that they are Canadian.

New Zealand is now a multi-cultural society and we are the richer for it but I fail to see a single instance where any reversion to historical maori culture would improve our lives or our country. We have tried to create a fantasy culture and import it into our defense force and maybe even our rugby culture but they are just condescending actions that do little to enhance anything.

Even our much vaunted haka has become an embarrassment for many as we understand that it was originally a precursor to killing and eating an enemy.

I went overseas in 1979 and when I returned New Zealand has changed remarkably and for the better. We had new cultures, new restaurants even new industries that immigrants had brought to our country and it then became their country. Anything that threatens that should be crushed, never to rise again..... In my opinion 😎

Phil Saxby said...

If public unease about standard quarantine principles was sufficient to force a government backdown (as it was), there is no chance that a quite revolutionary change to co-governance will succeed. Attempts by Labour and Greens to promote co governance could ultimately destroy both these parties.

I'm more than half convinced that Three Waters would be good for NZ but now it's entangled with the co-governance issue, it's a hopeless cause. Time to rethink the whole concept.

Odysseus said...

Ardern has in the recent past displayed her basic ignorance of the Treaty, so I don't think your metaphor holds water. She is instead a prisoner of the large Maori caucus in Labour who, under Mahuta, Jackson and Allan, are promoting a radical and ahistorical reinvention of the document. Of course neither Ardern nor Jackson is willing to explain co-governance, because it basically means the Crown and Maori rule as equals while non-Maori are relegated to an inferior and subordinate status. Equal suffrage is ignored and the Treaty outweighs the Bill of Rights Act's protections against racial discrimination. You can find the evidence for this in recent legal opinions written in the Ministry of Justice on the Water Services Entities Bill and the Maori Health Authority (the Pae Ora Bill). The true meaning of co-governance is there in black and white, spelled out for all to see: Maori are "Treaty partners"; the interests of the "other populations are not comparable". This is an appalling state of affairs in what was once a liberal democracy. Public awareness of the pernicious lie behind the "co-governance" agenda is steadily growing, despite Ardern's inane assurances that New Zealanders have "nothing to fear". No New Zealander is going to accept willingly being made a second class citizen in their own country.

Odysseus said...

My previous post refers. For ease of reference I include a paragraph from the Ministry of Justice's report on the compliance of the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill with the Bill of Rights Act, in particular S 19 which deals with Discrimination, as follows:

"The Bill could therefore be seen to draw distinctions on the basis of race or ethnic origins.
However, to the extent the distinctions reflect the status of Māori as the Crown's Treaty
partner, and the Crown's duties under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we do not consider any other
group is in a comparable position. The result of this assessment is that s 19 of the Bill of
Rights Act is not engaged."

Welcome to "Co-Governance".

David George said...

Chris: "There is no short-cut from our colonial past to a bi-cultural future."

Perhaps the whole idea of a bi-cultural future is the problem, certainly one prescribed by government edict looks and smells authoritarian and is bound to be repugnant in a multi cultural and pluralistic society.

What is culture? A successful adaption to the challenges of life, of time and place, passed down through the generations or a superficial identity to be altered by will, to be directed and changed by mere politicians? Perhaps that is possible, Jacinda & Co, in their breathtaking arrogance and foolishness seem to believe it. God knows how far they're prepared to go; they are obviously crazy enough to try.

David George said...

Thanks for that Odysseus, the institutionalisation and legitimisation of what is, at best, a contrivance is almost complete. Perhaps apart-nership would be a more appropriate word.

Winston Peters relates discussing his concerns with Ardern regarding the Ihumatoa settlement. According to him she said she didn't know about it and it was Mahuta that agreed to it. Peters responded "well why haven't you sacked her then". An indication of where the power lies? Of the half arsed processes behind the agenda being thrust upon us?
Winston Peters On Ihumatao: "No one One Gets To Lie To Me Like That Twice" 1 minute 14:

Richard Prebble described the whole thing as a soft coup, it's increasingly hard to disagree. The morally and mentally weak Ardern incapable of either making a compelling case for, or reigning in the clearly contentious aspects promoted by her revolutionary caucus. Given what's happened, will she even have the guts to front for the next election?

John Hurley said...

Guerilla Surgeon

No, the essential problem is that far too many New Zealanders are still racist and believe in Maori inferiority.

It's more a state of development isn't it. You would have drunken the cool-aid of some version of post-modernism to not believe that we do actually learn and progress and that European culture was more appropriate for modern NZ than Neolithic British culture?

greywarbler said...

To make it clear to those that make the mistake of mixing the words 'rein' and 'reign'. I
Rein - to pull in, control as in riding horse, or spending etc
Reign - often a royal, someone who has high power and standing, whether they rein it in or rein people in, or not.

It's not hard to get it right, make it a rite please or we may feel that you are a bit 'loose' with your thoughts and you might 'lose' our attention. (Other frequent faults - not just typos.)

greywarbler said...

As Phil
s says
I'm more than half convinced that Three Waters would be good for NZ but now it's entangled with the co-governance issue, it's a hopeless cause. Time to rethink the whole concept.

It is hard to examine the points and feel that one has total understanding about 3Warts! Because there are shadows all around the billboard announcing it.
Labour have once again with a great fanfare meant to honour themselves, introduced a major new policy as sweeping and swingeing as Brexit in Britain. We are being dragged down by minds that resile to the default of 'common sense'. Albert Einstein is supposed to have said about that -
"Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind before you reach eighteen.

We are trapped in a sticky spiders web which gets stickier the more we insects struggle. I have great respect for the Maori I know. But they would have thought out better methods than this seize-the-moment Frankenstein model we've got.
Promises, promises. 'Our Day Will Come' as sung by Amy Whitehouse now RIP.

greywarbler said...

Gary Peters
The country of NZ doesn't exist just to provide you with a country seat with pleasant international flavours. Very sorry but we may have to revert back to that old NZ that you found so dull; just to survive, physically and culturally. There are more 'c' words around than the old Me-first mentality can cope with or ignore.

And just because we invite the rest of the world to our home country, does not mean that they should flood here and take it over, or start stripping it of everything looking good to them. Locusts in full flight is an aweful sight but people can have similar effect over a longer period.

The Barron said...

David, multiculturalism is incorporated into the Treaty on both sides if you start from a Treaty centered analysis.

One side is the Tangata Whenua. The Rangitira signed on behalf of diverse hapu cultural groupings. This gave rights to those pre-existing or descended from those pre-existing, in NZ before external contact. This was later extended by the Government and Courts to include groups that had not signed (e.g. Ngai Tuhoe), and later by Judge Durie to include Maoriori in Rēkohu. All Hapu were guaranteed tikanga and ritenga, this meant the cultural practice and traditions of each cultural grouping was protected. In short, on the Maori side of the Treaty, multiculturalism within Te Ao Maori, and diversity in ontology for each Maori entity was accepted. Of course, the Rangitira passed authority to the various hapu and Iwi bodies that exist today.

The other side of the Treaty was rights for those that came later, this is seen as the Tauiwi. Maori were aware of various identities amongst the settlers, British (then including Irish), French, American, Danish, Lascars and more. If they were to stay in NZ after the Treaty they were under British law and able to claim citizenship of Britain. This regulated those that were to follow from all parts of the world. All came in under the auspice of the British Crown, whose authority was passed to the colonial Government. Multiculturalism should exist within this body, but whether it does or does not - it does not impact the bi-cultural rights of the relationship between Tangata Whenua and Tauiwi as extracted from the Treaty. In short, the responsibility for multiculturalism within the settler society rests upon Crown signatory.

Many make the mistake of analyzing bi-culturalism and multiculturalism from the starting point of the dominant culture, which in NZ remains Anglo-Celtic. However, if the Treaty is used as a starting point - it does not matter whether the NZ population has this as a dominant cultural group or not. That is within the Tauiwi part of the partnership. Maoritanga, and the diversity within, stands in the other part of the partnership.

It is my experience that Maori have been enthusiastic supporters of multi-culturalism within Tauiwi. This challenges and helps breakdown a monocultural dominance, and Pasifika cultural and ontological contribution complements that of Maori. However, it would be a mistake to suggest that for NZ to have multiculturalism, Maori must give up their Treaty rights, or that the concept of biculturalism impedes that of multiculturalism.

David George said...

Thanks Barron, Chris used the term bi-culturalism, which I've continued, to describe the intended direction of the Governments agenda but it's inadequate for what amounts to a change to legal and political rights based on ethnicity. There's a better word for that.

Dame Anne Salmond has a more nuanced understanding and vision and her stated concerns about the polarisation (that is two, essentially, opposing forces or factions) are a warning about the dangers of inserting race/ethnicity into the system at the legal and political level. I don't believe the treaty gives the government that authority; given their failure to disclose their intentions there's no mandate from the people either.

Elizabeth Rata:

Is it too late to save New Zealand’s democracy? Have we already passed the crossroads? A pessimist, realist perhaps, might say ‘yes’. As a reluctant optimist I would say there is still time if we do the following:

1/ Remove the treaty and its principles from all legislation. People (not a sacred deity) put these into legislation. People can remove them.

2/ Remove retribalism’s ideology from all public institutions, including the universities.
Encourage those in civil society who value and desire Maori culture to participate in – for example – Maori media, Maori language, kaupapa Maori schools[11], Maori literature, arts, music, fashion, film, festivities . . . all the activities of a vibrant culture.
Teach a complete and unvarnished NZ history developed according to sound scientific methods.
3/ Allow New Zealand English to evolve organically through incorporating Maori words, not by government decree[12].
4/Re-build the education system to teach academic subjects – the source of the partially loyal individual – not ideological dogma [13].
5/ And finally, hold a national discussion – possibly over several decades – about a symbol for New Zealand’s foundation. I have four suggestions:

The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi – for its historical value only – not as a legal and constitutional document. Recent attempts to trace democracy to the treaty are nonsensical and will further embed treatyism.
The 1852 Constitution Act. This Act, with all its limitations, did establish New Zealand democracy. It set up Parliament and the beginnings of the workable state that continues today. It recognised the citizen to whom Parliament is accountable – even though only certain Maori and settler men were able to vote – it is that crucial principle of accountability to the people that was put in place.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Teach a complete and unvarnished NZ history developed according to sound scientific methods."

And yet David as soon as they do, people like you are screaming 'Critical Race Theory!'

The Barron said...

I am sure it is of no surprise to you, David, that I disagree with Elizabeth Rata on most issues. I find her a disingenuous Pakeha academic that specializes in education research. Neither the Ministry or the Teacher's Associations accept many of her conclusions. Regardless of little traction in her curriculum areas, she feels empowered to stray outside her lane and comment extensively on issues of law (inc. constitutional law), history and other cultural or social policy. In these areas, she becomes an academic that feeds into some peoples pre-conceived prejudices without any substantive expertise.

Her views are representative of the starting point that I indicated in my letter above as coming from a cultural dominance. I hate to break it to you David, but all law comes from people, none from sacred deities. That said, even regardless of the Treaty, Rata also seems to reject customary rights. This is incorporated into all law devolved from English Law. It also comes up against international law, much of which we are signatories to. To expunge the Treaty from NZ Law would mean that NZ colonisation and national Parliament is not set by agreement or contract. We then have to have a new rationalisation of conquest as the right of Government.

Terms such as 'retribalism's ideology' sound clever, but are completely hollow. You need to unpack all part. "retribalism', the starting point is that tribalism is the term for Maori political and social organisation based on shared genealogy. The Tribe comes from the Latin, in which “tribus”, generally seen as the smallest and least organised of the social groupings the Romans encountered. Iwi and hapu organisations were the political governing bodies and are now highly developed, democratic institutions involved in major investment and social programmes. "RE-tribalism gives a view that there are not on-going entities that have evolved, but rather a new concept based on outdated and extinguished groupings. This is blatantly untrue. Then the final word 'ideology'. This gives a view that the Iwi or hapu institution is not based on rationality, but ideology.

It is this continual semantic manipulation which hides a lack of substance and coherence in these areas she struggles for expertise. She comes across as an intellectual for the uneducated with set views.

The Barron said...

Just to respond briefly to Rata's final paragraph you quote. The Treaty was part of the NZ judicial landscape until Wi Parata in which Prendergast and Richmond extinguished Treaty rights and customary rights. This was contrary to previous decisions, notably Symonds. Even so, neither the NZ courts or Privy Council had completely abandoned either of these as legal grounds. Tom Te Weehi v Regional Fisheries Officer had Williamson re-established customary rights, and gave credence enough on the Treaty for the Government to take legal notice when challenged on the State-Owned Enterprises Act, leading to the 'Principles of the Treaty' being incorporated into Governmental requirements.

The 1852 Constitution Act was a transfer of some responsibility from the British Parliament to a settler Parliament, all under the Crown. It gave some propertied male settlers voting rights and limited Maori voting rights (communal property ownership used to exclude, and the Maori seats limited). we should remember, Maori authorities were also evolving but the traditional principle within rangitiratanga that no-one could have authority without the consent of the governed remained.

I really encourage you to ignore Elizabeth Rata on anything but her education research, and even then look to the research and ignore the conclusions she draws.

Chris Trotter said...

To: The Barron @ 19:09

I did not quote Elizabeth rata, TB, but Dame Anne Salmond.

I would be most surprised if you were unwilling to admit that she knows a great deal about te Tiriti, and is, therefore, a person whose opinion carries considerable weight.

The Barron said...

My comments on Elizabeth Rata were in response to David George's quotations. Anne Salmond is a preeminent historical anthropologist whose opinion should be given weight.

David George said...

Thank you Barron,
despite what you or others feel about Elizabeth Rata's qualifications, abilities, observations and opinions I think her central belief (that tribal or ethnic identity in the political and legal realm is incompatible with democracy) is sound. The idea that democracy needs to be "tweaked" or requires a "new version" in order to accommodate it indicates an implicate acceptance, from the protagonists, of that belief as well.

We will see, but it's good that these issues will likely be front and centre in the next election, that we will finally get to have a say.

Mobfiz said...

The suggestion of co-governance in NZ is an acknowledgement to all voters that Maori are unable to participate in and benefit from a capitalist society. The reason for that non-participation is given as historical oppression. Many voters though refuse to to see that and many successful Maori refute the idea of oppression and see co-governance as demeaning.