Who Speaks For The Earth And Its Creatures? Breaking free from the romantic spell in which they have ensnared themselves will not be easy for progressive New Zealanders. Treaty fetishism has blinded them to the reality that human survival can now only be guaranteed by abandoning the manufactured distinctions of ethnicity and embracing the universal obligations of planetary rescue.
EARLIER THIS WEEK the Greens said “bon voyage” to their colleague, Marama Davidson. An international Women’s Peace Flotilla is planning to relieve the beleaguered Palestinian enclave of Gaza in early October, and Ms Davidson is determined to be on board.
All previous attempts to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza have been intercepted and halted by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and it is highly probable that the Women’s Peace Flotilla will suffer the same fate.
Being forcibly detained by the IDF may, however, present itself as a less daunting prospect for Ms Davidson than defending her party’s position on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary back home.
Her anguish is understandable. Reconciling the Sanctuary’s creation with the 1992 Maori Fisheries Settlement is an exercise akin to squaring the circle. The National Party, strongly supported by the Greens, wishes to protect the unique environment of the Kermadecs. Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Commission) has proclaimed its right to fish these waters “non-negotiable”.
Not according to Ms Davidson’s colleague, the Green Party’s co-leader, Metiria Turei. In a media release dated 20 September, Ms Turei assures New Zealanders that: “It is entirely possible to achieve environmental protection and uphold Treaty rights, and there are plenty of good examples where this has been achieved.” Unfortunately, she failed to supply a list. Nor did she explain how an ocean sanctuary, in which it was still possible to catch fish, could possibly be accepted as genuine.
Perhaps Ms Turei is anticipating that Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) will surrender its property rights in return for some form of compensation. After all, that’s what usually happens in the Pakeha world whenever the state decides to appropriate private property for the public good.
Unfortunately, the willingness of TOKM to accept such compensation is doubtful. As a strategy for the tangata whenua’s long-term cultural and economic survival, exchanging Maori property rights for Pakeha money has not proved to be a conspicuous historical success. Redress, in the form of Treaty settlements, has been a long time coming for Maori. TOKM may not relish being the indigenous institution responsible for restarting the historically disastrous rights-for-cash exchange.
Alternatively, the Greens’ co-leader may be contemplating the imposition of a rahui (a form of sacred prohibition restricting access to, or use of, an area or resource by unauthorised persons) as the most acceptable resolution to the current impasse.
Once again, however, there are problems. In order to secure the protected status of an ocean sanctuary any rahui would have to be permanent. But, how would this option be distinguishable, in any practical sense, from the raupatu (confiscation) of which the National Government stands accused? Indeed, many Maori would argue that masking the extinguishing of Treaty rights with Maori words and concepts merely adds insult to injury!
Bringing about the reconciliation of Jew and Arab begins to sound quite straightforward compared to extricating Marama Davidson’s Green Party colleagues from their current predicament!
An Unacknowledged Consensus? World Wildlife Fund-commissioned poll data from Colmar-Brunton.
At the heart of the Greens dilemma lie two contradictory aspirations: defending the planet; and, upholding the Treaty of Waitangi. That the two objectives have been considered compatible for so long reflects the Greens’ deeply romantic and utterly ahistorical understanding of Maori culture.
Rather than regarding Maori as being no better or worse than any other human culture, the Greens insist that the tangata whenua enjoy a special relationship with the land. Left to themselves, say the Greens, Maori will never over-exploit a resource or despoil an environment. Unlike the soulless Pakeha, they understand the sacred character of mountain, river and ocean. To put it bluntly: Aotearoa’s indigenous browns are natural greens.
Except that they are nothing of the kind. The Maori fisheries settlement of 1992 did not see the participating tribal authorities institute an environmentally light-handed and culturally distinctive regime of harvesting the creatures of the sea. On the contrary, Maori fishing interests proved to be no less rapacious in their exploitation of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone than the very worst of their competitors – with whom they were soon in partnership.
Breaking free from the romantic spell in which they have ensnared themselves will not be easy for the Greens. Treaty fetishism has blinded them to the reality that human survival can only now be guaranteed by abandoning the manufactured distinctions of ethnicity and embracing the universal obligations of planetary rescue.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 23 September 2016.