THERE’S FROTH, AND THERE’S BEER. What we see happening on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds every 6 February, not to mention the political performance-art on the lower marae, is froth. The beer of Māori-Pakeha relations is to be found in the private meeting rooms of Waitangi’s Copthorne Hotel & Resort, where the National Iwi Chairs Forum (NICF) deliberates in secret upon Maoridom’s next moves. It is there, in the days leading up to Waitangi Day, that New Zealand’s new Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, will either face down the men and women driving the stake of co-governance into the heart of the Settler State – or see Labour spiral slowly to defeat.
The designation “Iwi Chairs” seems so innocuous. It conjures up the image of a roomful of corporate bureaucrats working their way through a very boring agenda, and breaking-off every now and then to listen to equally boring presentations from bankers, accountants and the occasional politician. In reality, the NICF represents the High Command of Maoridom: the strategic hub of the campaign to take back control of Aotearoa from its Pakeha conquerors. Those gathering at the Copthorne are not a bit like the rag-tag groups of Māori nationalist activists that came together in the 1970s and 80s. If tino rangatiratanga means “the power of the chiefs”, then these are the chiefs who wield it.
Thanks to thirty years of Treaty Settlements, the NICF is both well-positioned and well-resourced to flex its muscles. Between them, the iwi represented at the Forum command assets valued in the billions. That buys them all the big law firms and all the big lawyers they need. It buys them top-of-the-line lobbyists and public relations experts. It buys them influence in the news media and the universities. It means that, when the NICF whistles, serious politicians from all the major parties tend to come running – up to and including prime ministers.
In short, the NICF is what you get when you don’t want hundreds-of-thousands of working-class Māori demanding their fair share of the national cake. An uprising of marginalised urban Māori (the primary focus of Māori political agitation in the 1980s) could hardly avoid inspiring an even larger number of marginalised Pakeha. Such a potent socio-economic alliance would be extremely harmful to capitalism and other exploitative creatures. Hence the Crown’s inspired prophylactic against the further radicalisation of the Māori working-class – the Treaty Settlement Process. Make a handful of Māori aristocrats and other assorted high-flyers rich and powerful, and not only can they then be relied upon to keep the urban Māori poor quiet, but also to co-opt anyone of a mind to stir them up.
For a while.
The great risk of re-establishing a well-resourced and powerful indigenous elite is that, a generation or two later, those responsible will be faced with confident, highly educated young Māori who can think of no good reason why they – the privileged beneficiaries of the Treaty Settlement Process – should continue to provide a buffer between the heirs of their colonial conquerors and the tens-of-thousands of Māori families made poor, and kept poor, by colonisation.
What’s more, this generation will evince no interest in constructing a Māori-Pakeha working-class alliance against either Pakeha Capitalism or the Neo-Tribal Capitalist sub-system brought into being by the Treaty Settlement Process. The generation raised under this ethnically-charged neoliberal regime will not be socialists, they will be ethno-nationalists. If wealth is to be redistributed, it will not be from the rich to the poor, but from the descendants of the Pakeha colonisers to the descendants of the colonised Māori. It will be a revolution driven by race, not class.
There could be no better example of the policies generated by the iwi elites and their political representatives than the project known as Three Waters. Putting Private Members Bills to one side, it is rare to encounter a piece of legislation so closely associated with and shaped by a single member of Cabinet – in this case, the then Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta. Nor is it common to see a legislative project preceded by an advertising campaign subsequently condemned as both misleading and inaccurate. The Labour Government’s decision to reverse its earlier affirmation that local authorities would be free to opt-out of the scheme only compounded the ethical problems besetting Mahuta’s project.
At the forefront of these was the legislation’s commitment to “co-governance”. In the midst of structures specifically designed to protect the relevant “entities” from all forms of democratic accountability, the legislation located a body split 50/50 between members supposedly chosen to represent the interests of local consumers, and those indisputably chosen to represent the interests of local iwi.
NZ First’s Shane Jones’s description of Mahuta’s Three Waters Project was typically robust:
What was initially an attempt to fix some drinking water has turned into a highly divisive and pulverising social experiment that has got nothing to do with poo pipes and infrastructure. Now it’s got everything to do with whether or not tribes should have a superior right [over water].
Jones also argued that Jacinda Ardern’s government had “lost control” of Mahuta’s project:
She was unable to control Nanaia Mahuta, who has proven to be one of New Zealand’s most divisive politicians that God ever put breath into.
Nowhere was Ardern’s loss of control more evident that in the parliamentary debacle which followed the last-minute, constitutionally-dubious, attempt to entrench “anti-privatisation” clauses in the legislation setting up the Three Waters project as it neared the end of its passage, under urgency, through the House of Representatives.
If ever a project needed to be abandoned completely, and the rebuilding of New Zealand’s drinking, storm and wastewater infrastructure reconceptualised in ways that keep it both affordable and accountable, then that project is Three Waters.
Not that the Iwi Chairs gathered at the Copthorne Hotel are likely to see it that way. Mahuta’s project had brought them closer to Jones’s “superior right” over water than any of her predecessors. Their message to Chris Hipkins is likely to be blunt: repeal Mahuta’s legislation at your peril.
New Zealand’s new Prime Minister knows that the National Iwi Chairs Forum has the means to make life very difficult for his government. Notwithstanding their objections, however, Hipkins direction of travel – already clearly signalled by his very public demotion of Mahuta – must be confirmed by an emphatic and unequivocal pledge to repeal the Three Waters legislation and start again.
If Labour is to secure a third term, then Hipkins must make it clear to all New Zealanders – Māori and Pakeha – that his government is not about fulfilling the agendas of corporate/tribal elites. It is about making sure that every New Zealander in need of a job, a living wage, and a warm, dry house, gets one. That their family’s right to publicly-provided, quality health care and education is not denied. And that the promise of equality, enshrined in Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi, is kept. Because that’s the only beer that’s electorally fit for Labour to drink: the beer of class – not race.
Everything else is froth.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 2 February 2023.
There is not a single example of any governance system based on race ever generating anything positive. And what do people who settled in NZ long after the treaty was signed now think of 15% controlling 50%, at least for now?
Having read an article written by Kate MacNamara yesterday, aspects of the bureaucracy in the governance of the Water Services Entities are so loose and so open to vague interpretation by the 50% Maori governed side that achieving anything to improve actual water services is near on impossible. Efficient cost effective decisions that are able to deliver core water services are clearly not what the legislation was about. Therefore the other 50% of the equation are deadlocked in no mans land always at risk of achieving nothing. It's very easy to see that the best talents that are needed to run such a massive entity will ever be attracted much less retained. For something so critical this intertribal political hot mess is exactly what New Zealand does NOT need!
I listened to an interview with Hipkins yesterday on RNZ and I fear our new PM is tempted to think a fresh sales approach is all that is needed. Chippy, there's no selling this poison and that is probably why Mahuta didn't bother with it in the first place, it stinks. And there's even less chance than that of Labour surviving it!
What are we witnessing? What are the consequences once you go down the path of separatism and compromised the sacred principle of equality before the law; the principle of the separation of powers existing in national governance, that those making rules must answer to an independent judiciary according to a system of laws to which all are subject?
Having sold their souls to the worst there is now no real answer for Labour. There's little belief that any return is genuine and based on principles above politics and above the Treaty. They haven't even tried to pretend that. They need to be taught a lesson they'll never forget.
Brilliant piece Chris, that highlights the need to focus on socio-economic equity (or "class") rather than race or other identity politics.
The only words that jarred for me was your reference to Maori families kept poor by colonisation. They are kept poor not by colonisation but by poor education, lack of aspirations, low housing affordability, low economic productivity and by a grievance mindset that is encouraged by the tribal elites for their own self-serving reasons.
Keep up the great work Chris.
I agree with your analysis. And I hope you are right. But the view of Hipkins as a saviour for the Lbour Party and New Zealand takes little account non two things, Firstlynthatn the existing aLbourt caucus and the candidates selected candidates will be passionately focused on the current course of action.Mybe that with change a little as MPs rem;ise that they will iuneitbly lose their jobs by supporting dievisiveness, It has been drummed into them Beyond the appeasing mth Maori caucus S - and its role s. government within a government - is the reality is that the next Labour led government will depend on appeasing the demands of Te Parti Maori. Incidental to that is that the vast swathe of media - which have been boosted with taxpayer funding - is fundamental opposed to any rejection of -no hyperbole here - revolutionary ideas.
I truly despair. Labour has taken this country up a dead-end from which there seems little chance of escape.
For me Chris your comment "capitalism and other exploitative creatures." says it all.
You are still wedded to an ideology that has had it's day.
Evidence you say .....
Since ardern and her co-government with NZ first took charge, every metric of wellbeing has gone backwards/down yet under the Key/English management virtually every metric improved yet you still believe a socialist approach is the correct path to follow.
Tax the wealthy capitalist swine and redistribute their wealth to the poor who work so hard to make them rich.
Find me a single socialist nation that has maintained it's citizens in comfort at the expense of the "rich pricks" that has not graduated to emplying capitalist methodology to fuel it's economy.
There's more than can be said but I think you're so entrenched in your ideology that you struggle to see the real world in action.
As for whether the new broom in labour has either the ability or capability of bringing about the changes you so desire, I suggest you look at their efforts so far. They don't look hopeful.
Well - food for thought indeed. Thank you for this commentary, Chris. I will read and re-read. I have wondered a lot about the 'power behind the throne' which receives so little - none from my view - open and lucid description. But hey! What about 'thousands of working-class Maori made poor and kept poor by colonisation? That makes no sense at all to me. The very opposite it seems as I sit here thinking. Colonisation gave these people a chance at education and subsequent employment which they would not otherwise have had. I think it is their own people who regard them as 'proles' and are failing to encourage their participation - not in all cases certainly, but in general. How much of the millions in Waitangi settlements is getting to the people who do not have relatives in the rangitira class? I don't know, of course but its a good question.
I don't know about three waters, but we certainly need something. I can't water my garden in which I grow vegetables to feed my family, because Wellington water has been starved of funds for years and the pipes leak all over the place. Seems to me three waters has been mischaracterised anyway, but it's time we got rid of the empire building around water and actually treated it as a necessity, which means funding it properly. Which may well mean three waters.
"An uprising of marginalised urban Māori (the primary focus of Māori political agitation in the 1980s) could hardly avoid inspiring an even larger number of marginalised Pakeha."
The cynic in me says that many of these marginalised Pakeha would be up in arms about Maori getting something.
"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." Lyndon Baines Johnson – almost as true in NZ as it is in the US
I might also say that in the comments section on this blog Maori are often castigated as primitive – yet here they are using the system that we insist they use in a sophisticated way to get what they want. Gosh – how dare they! Seems to me there on a hiding to nothing here. And I'm still waiting for a coherent critique of three waters that doesn't depend on Maori getting something for nothing or similar arguments like that. Or for that matter taking water away from "local people" – that is councils run by the Pakeha elites.
"Local people" have mismanaged water for years now – maybe Maori deserve a chance?
"And I'm still waiting for a coherent critique of three waters that doesn't depend on Maori getting something for nothing or similar arguments like that."
Why would you expect an argument that doesn't have this proposition as its main premise? The idea that Maori should not get "something for nothing" is perfectly valid. Why should they? Primarily, it is up to advocates of co-governance to make a positive case, not to opponents to make the case against.
There is no basis whatsoever in our constitution for Maori co-governance. An off-hand remark by President Cooke in a legal decision 40 years ago about a relationship "akin" to a partnership (and by implication, NOT a partnership proper) doesn't provide sufficient grounds, no matter how much agenda-driven Maori wish to pick it up and run with it. The ToW says what it says, and nothing more.
Moreover, why would Maori be expected to not "mismanage" water services in comparison to your so-called "Pakeha elites", given their long record of mismanagement in so many other contexts (in national parks and Maori-focused government departments being prime examples)? If we are talking in terms of demonstrated competence, if we had to hand unwarranted control to any minority in New Zealand, I'd have much more confidence in, for instance, the Chinese community hypothetically managing water than handing it to Maori.
Perhaps Jacinda & Co were blinded by a foolish but fanatical attachment to "kindness" as their guiding political principle. Certainly the fawning media made much of that aspect of her reign, fortunately most people have more sense. Thus the noble idea of "helping the poor Maori" sets us on the ignoble path to Dystopia.
Here's a thought on the dangers hiding behind that virtue, hat tip Tom Hunter:
"There are deep problems with “kindness” as a political philosophy. If kindness is the answer to all problems, then the problems must be caused by unkindness. And people who disagree with you must be unkind people. Obviously you don’t have to listen when unkind people try to tell you anything. And you certainly don’t have to offer them the same concern or compassion as other people. Their unkindness is their own fault. You don’t have to do anything for it, or for them. And so “kindness” ends up being without empathy, the opposite of inclusion. Adern’s inability to deal with people who disagreed with or were disadvantaged by her government’s policies was striking. She seldom even attempted to speak to them and seemed incapable of winning over anyone who opposed her."
"They're on a hiding to nothing"
I have only seen pre european maori described as primitive or stone age. Maybe you should stop hanging around blogs that attract the "wrong thinkers"....
The vast bulk of councils in New Zealand have zero problems with water reticulation however it seems the worse offenders seem to be those that have been dominated by left wing green politicians ..... Just saying.
"Pakeha elites" seems an odd terminology to describe a democratically elected body that all residents are able to participate in but hey, from the bulk of your comments it is patently obvious that ideology rules accuracy in your life and if a bit of bullshit enhances the argument why hold back.
"The only words that jarred for me was your reference to Maori families kept poor by colonisation. They are kept poor not by colonisation but by poor education, lack of aspirations, low housing affordability, low economic productivity and by a grievance mindset that is encouraged by the tribal elites for their own self-serving reasons."
Given that those areas of Spain that were hit hardest by the Inquisition are still less economically prosperous than those that weren't, I think that we can reasonably assume that traumatic events – particularly something like the stealing of your entire economic base – can have long-term effects. Such as poor education, low aspirations, and perhaps even a grievance mindset who knows. Seems to me the biggest grievance mindset in New Zealand at the moment is possessed by white men.
"Tax the wealthy capitalist swine and redistribute their wealth to the poor who work so hard to make them rich"
An excellent notion.
Agree about class rather than identity and race. What do you think of the commenters who've turned up here, though?
Not addressing minority persecution for the wider way of class? We only have principles, they have money.
Attacking helping the minorities is 'Right'. Concentrate on 'the Cause' and leave aside the diversions like Bernie, if you think it's divisive. But don't go on about 'woke' like a friend of the rich.
Bravo, but like others here I would draw the line at colonisation being the cause of Maori disadvantage. It seems to me that the neo-liberal economics introduced by the fourth Labour Government had the greatest negative effect. Conjecture would allow for an analysis of cultural conflict, of following the rules of tribal deontological ethics contrasted with Western utilitarianism. Causes of poor lifestyle choices and economic decisions need to be examined and whether anomie had a hand in it. Blaming colonisation serves the decolonisation industry, and given its record of monumental failures – Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lebanon, Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso, etc., etc., etc., it should be given a wide berth.
Apparently, according to Hipkins, the problem is that people just don't understand co governance. Part of his plan to cure our ignorance is to start referring to it as "mahi tahi" - yeah right! Just more BS in other words. After the false advertising, the lies and deception, and suppression of democracy we're now being gas-lighted to believe we and our ignorance are the real problem. Sounds like the iwi leaders have sorted him out good and proper.
More gaslighting; they (iwi) "don't want to see ethnicity, race being used as a way of dividing New Zealanders". Apparently the institutionalisation of racist and divisive legislation, systems and policy is not the problem? Really?
News Hub: "ACT has also rallied against co-governance proposals and believes Kiwis aren't getting a "coherent and rational debate" about the treaty and democracy in New Zealand.
"They are not getting it, largely because people who question co-government are often accused of racism," leader David Seymour said last month.
His party is pushing for legislation that clarifies treaty principles and for that to then be put to the people through a binding referendum.
After Hipkins' press conference, Seymour tweeted that Hipkins should "stop playing politics and unite NZ under the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote"."
Guerilla Surgeon, some local bodies have mismanaged water for years but not the majority. Wellington must be the worst example. Using money on vanity projects such as subsidising Singapore Airlines to run unprofitable international flights into Wellington, spending vast sums on unpopular cycle ways, renovating 2 town halls, hiring consultants to investigate lengthening the airport runway, need I go on.
Many other local bodies have prioritised spending on infrastructure and as a result they do have water available to water gardens and sewer and stormwater systems that work.
A flaw in 3 Waters (one of several, but GS only asked for an example): Entity B stretches from the Bay of Plenty to Taranaki, encompassing two major mountain ranges, three substantial cities, three major river systems ad several minor types of both river and mountain. The people of Entity B have very little in common. No rationale for its composition has been published. There may well be a good reason for,grouping water providers; drains and sewers are a local matter. Add to that the race-based features and,you’ve got Nga unacceptable. Giving Maori an opportunity isn't really enough.
Fifty years or more of taxpayers largesse going to Maori Iwi only has achieved nothing whatsoever that’s if we’re measuring social inequality. Over 35% of Maori cannot identity with a recognised Iwi they’re excluded, the remainder are being robbed blind by their elites while conning the downtrodden Maori it’s still the fault of post colonial Holocaust syndrome. The five waters was an asset grab (read theft) that will be monetarised in a nanosecond by the new owners.
Name one single country where tribal rule actually benefits everyone, but that’s an impossible ask.
GS: "The cynic in me says that many of these marginalised Pakeha would be up in arms about Maori getting something. "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." Lyndon Baines Johnson – almost as true in NZ as it is in the US."
Says so much about your character & ethics, GS ... and so little about the people you so mindlessly defame.
"I have only seen pre european maori described as primitive or stone age."
You haven't hung around here very long then. Or if you have a long enough memory, you might remember John Banks and his non-apology.
"Why would you expect an argument that doesn't have this proposition as its main premise? The idea that Maori should not get "something for nothing" is perfectly valid. Why should they?"
I presume then that you disapprove of all the stuff that Europeans got for nothing from about 1865 onwards? – (That was sarcasm by the way I've had a little bit of trouble with people catching onto sarcasm lately.)
"...but not the majority... Many other local bodies have prioritised spending on infrastructure and as a result they do have water available to water gardens and sewer and stormwater systems that work."
And you know this how? I haven't read all the auditor general's report but it doesn't seem to say this.
"Says so much about your character & ethics, GS ... and so little about the people you so mindlessly defame."
And just what does it say about my character and ethics? Or do you think Chris might censor you a few suggested something? I don't think I mindlessly defame anyone – because
1. I listen to people in the pub.
2. I read the comments on a number of NZ blogs.
3. I didn't suggest an actual percentage, I just said many. I stand by that. If you think I'm wrong, perhaps you need to go to the MSN website and look at the comments there.
No amount of pain or data will ever dissuade the true leftist from their beliefs.
They always belive "we'll get it right next time"
What has happened to New Zealand under Labour is horrific.
"No amount of pain or data will ever dissuade the true leftist from their beliefs."
With conservatives, every accusation is an admission.
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