THE CLAIM that the push for co-governance comes not from “ordinary” but “elite” Māori continues to gain ground. Yet another instance of the “divide and conquer” strategy – a favourite of colonisers throughout history – it is intended to cast those advocating co-governance as a privileged minority with little or nothing in common with the hundreds-of-thousands of Māori who do not have university degrees, do not receive six-figure salaries, are not fluent in te reo, and cannot recite their whakapapa beyond one or two generations.
The Māori who possess all these attributes, runs the argument, are the only people who will truly benefit from co-governance. They will be the ones sitting across the table from Pakeha politicians and bureaucrats, thrashing out the issues, arriving at a consensus, making the decisions. Such accountability as exists in this brave new administrative world will be, overwhelmingly, to people like themselves – well-educated, well-paid, well-connected. The Māori forester, or check-out operator, will be none the wiser – or the more empowered.
Where this argument falls down is in its overestimation of the size and influence of the Māori middle-class. In comparison to the Pakeha middle-class, the Māori middle-class is tiny. A great many of today’s credentialled Māori are the first members of their whanau ever to receive a tertiary education. Only a handful of Māori families can look back at generation upon generation of forebears who graduated from university. The great professional families that occupy the upper-echelons of Pakeha society are still a rarity in Māori society.
As a consequence of the Māori middle-class’s small size, Māori leadership is drawn from a much broader cross-section of Māori society than is now the case in the Pakeha world. What propels a Māori leader forward is a demonstrated capacity to inspire, organise and achieve. To a far greater degree than is the case among Pakeha (with the possible exception of matters relating to organised sport) this gives rise to circumstances in which resourceful and eloquent working-class men and women can aspire to, and be given, important community leadership roles.
Those who have investigated existing co-governance structures (like Newsroom’s Nikki Mandow) will attest to this phenomenon. Where Pakeha would reach for the services of lawyers and accountants, Māori will call upon the wisdom and experience of men and women who have demonstrated a commitment to, and mastery of, the issues which co-governance is being called upon to resolve. Practical, not theoretical, knowledge is what counts.
And it seems to work – not least because it harks back to the sort of New Zealander that is fast disappearing from Pakeha society. The practical, reliable and, at a pinch, inspirational New Zealander who somehow managed to build a nation without the input of consultants, and without the need for a small army of communication specialists. The sort of Kiwi who, like Ed Hillary, promised to do a job – and did it. Whose word, once given, was never broken. The sort of Kiwi who, these days, is more likely to be Māori than Pakeha.
To see this dynamic at work, take a look at the video recording made at Julian Batchelor’s Stop Co-Governance rally at Orewa. When those protesting against Batchelor’s ideas broke into a moving rendition of Wi Huata’s now famous Tutira Mai, the elderly Pakeha, non-plussed, could think of no better response than to sing God Defend New Zealand – badly and in English. Quick as a flash, the protesters came back with the national anthem – in Māori, and, even more tellingly, in harmony.
That ragged, half-hearted, and horribly out-of-tune rendition of God Defend New Zealand by Batchelor’s elderly audience spoke volumes about where Aotearoa-New Zealand is going – and who is going to take it there. Not least because the Pakeha among the protesters sang Wi Huata’s song of unity as confidently as their Māori comrades – and the Māori version of the national anthem too. If sceptics want to know why co-governance will work – and work inspiringly – they need only look at that video.
Thinking about it, what emerges most clearly from Batchelor’s rallies is the sheer strength of the psychological projection going on. Māori are accused of being misled and mistreated by tribal elites and “Treatyists”. But, is it Māori misdeeds and misdirections they are reacting to, or are the emotions they struggle so hard not to recognise actually born of their own mistreatment at the hands of their own – Pakeha – elites? Because, if you’re looking for evidence a secretive and elite group of ideologically-driven politicians, bureaucrats, academics, businesspeople and journalists who banded together in a grand conspiracy to completely transform the greatest little country on Earth into a broken and divided nation utterly subjugated to the doctrines of Neoliberalism, then look no further – you’re soaking in it!
Democracy in New Zealand will not be saved by pitting Pakeha against Māori, but by joining together with every other citizen who still understands the meaning of working together to build something good that will last. Call that co-governance if you like, or call it something else – Kotahitanga perhaps. And, if you’re looking for a credo to build that sort of movement around, then you could do a lot worse than to start with Wi Huata’s:
Line up together, people
All of us, all of us.
Stand in rows, people
All of us, all of us.
Seek after knowledge
and love of others - everybody!
Be really virtuous
And stay united.
All of us, all of us.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 24 March 2023.
I don't think the Maori middle class is tiny. At least not around here. I work with quite a few who have done a trade, own a house in suburbia with a boat in the drive. They support law and order, the All Blacks and Warriors, and go hunting/ fishing. Those are the Waitakere Man ideals defining the middle class, aren't they? My anecdotal experience would be matched by many others across provincial NZ.
With half the Maori population not on the Maori roll, but the general roll often having large numbers of names indicating Maori heritage, those "hidden" ones may well be the group that are not represented in the debates.
Great column Chris!
We are at an important point in our history. Do we illogically try to maintain a position of "power over" Maori, trying to "rule' through division? This approach tries to turn the clock back and reimpose a false narrative of 1950s / 1960s race relations. Holding on to all of Eurocentricism despite clear evidence that some parts should be critiqued.
Or - Do we engage with Maori in nation building? Looking at the legal, social and cultural positions that Maori are advocating, and looking internal to the changing demographics within Tauiwi. Discussing what are the changes in the institutions and service delivery which will progress all New Zealanders and give us a shared cultural basis based on the respect for the rights of each component, with recognition of the requirement to the expression of indigenous cultural, social and political aims.
I welcome what is an acknowledgement of the latter in this column. There should not be a fear of engagement and of listening. It has always been my experience that Maori kaupapa is that empowering Maori is only expressed in ways that will empower us all.
Nation building is positive and the right side of history. Repression and racial hostility just seems a nasty speed bump to inevitable progress.
Chris, but what are you advocating? One person one vote irrespective of race? Or a revision of our democracy? If the proposed co governance, in whatever form that is, is the answer, what is the question?
Righting past wrongs, compensation? That was/is the role of the government and treaty settlements.
Acknowledging Māori original settler status? Some mythological predisposition to look after the land and future better than the colonists, whilst forgetting they lived a subsistence life?
There is no path for any society that seeks different status for people based on race. Well a democratic one anyway. As a country did we not push back against South Africa, attempts in Fiji etc. Yet you seem to imagine some construct that you can’t describe.
The singing of the anthem in either language means little. It does not mean either party is more or less racist or even racist. You raise a straw man when the real debate is about democracy.
Pakeha middle classes have – at least a section of them – for a long time now decided that the Maori middle-class somehow exploit working class Maori. A concern for working class Maori that they don't actually show in any other circumstance. Most of them know nothing about Maori society, and the fact that Maori leaders have to front up to their people every so often to answer questions. Sometimes blunt and embarrassing questions. Which is more than most of our Pakeha politicians do. I would say that working class Maori get more practical use out of Maori politicians/leaders than us white people do out of ours. Except perhaps those of the wealthier sort who can afford lobbyists, or who donate so much to the National and Labour parties that they can demand pretty much instant access to a minister on the phone.
"overestimation of the size and influence of the Māori middle-class'
Revolutions are driven by a small, resentful minority of haters, while I'm not convinced that they are best described as the "Maori middle class", they certainly have an outsized influence. They are fully emboldened to spew their hate with apparent impunity: https://twitter.com/i/status/1639466368105066505
"joining together with every other citizen" - great idea Chris but it appears the conciliatory approach is very one sided.
The distasteful characterizing of events at the recent Orewa meeting as you have, is at odds with the virtue signaling in your article. ..no mention of the tactical bullying of an older cohort of NZers by local Maori intruding enmasse for no other purpose than to disrupt..it is just pettiness commenting on their singing. Look in the mirror Chris!
Working class Maori and Working class Pakeha have more in common with each other than with their respective elites. Not that anyone ever thinks in such terms these days.
Good lord man, you need to get out of Auckland a bit more.
Stop associating with self ordained elites of either race.
Real New Zealanders, white, brown yellow, pink or any other colour are far too busy living their lives trying to make a living and raising a family to waste valuable time pontificating about past problems, real or imagined.
Put this drivel to bed, stop feeding division and lets all get on with making our lives the best we can.
I mix with many maori and the bulk of the whiners about the treaty are white virtue signalling non entities. Let's stop listening to a loud mouthed minority and figure out how to survive the economic wasteland this government is leaving our grandchildren with.
I’d be interested to know what Maori institutions, developed over centuries of isolation by a tribal Mesolithic hunter-gatherer society, have to offer the extraordinarily complex needs of modern society. The effects of tribal culture are catastrophically regressive in decolonised Africa and much of Asia not blessed with oil revenues. Who benefits this form of creative destruction? Certainly not the nation.
Question: I’d love to hear more about how mana whenua would change border policies to eliminate colonial violence
Tina Ngata: Borders are a flashpoint of the colonial project, constructed around racist concepts of nationalism and racial categorisation. As political scientist Wendy Brown notes, border
regimes “do not simply respond to existing nationalism or racism. Rather, they activate and mobilize them”. In our own way we experienced this when we sought to establish "borders" around our rohe to protect ourselves from COVID-19 during lockdown. For us, it seemed common sense and was supporting the call from government for people to stay home (however the policing was not present here in our remote town to enforce that rule).
Nonetheless, it drew a very strong response from conservative lobbyists, right wing media and right-wing politicians. It became very clear over that time that the issue of borders triggered nationalist anxieties, and that colonial interests were offended at the very principle that their movement could be limited by Māori *even when* it was in support of a government policy (and even when they never actually intended to come here in the first place). It often left me thinking how they would fare if they were more like the hundreds of millions of people around the world that have their movement strictly regulated by a colonial system.
Borders are a colonial construct, rooted in concepts of who belongs and who doesn't, whose agenda is served by admittance or refusal, and more often than not how those seeking access will serve the economic interests of those in power. Colonial violence, at a global level, occurs when our government participates in forcing people from their homelands, and then regulates whether they can come here to be safe, and then if we allow them in, treats them like coming here was their fault in the first place. Throughout that process, as a nation we do nothing to account for our role in removing their right to stay first, and then limiting their right to move. Te Ao Māori is a world based upon relationships and connections, achieving kotahitanga by honouring distinctiveness not excluding it. That connectedness is not just genealogical but thematic, geographic and temporal. Border policies that start with a consideration of our role in creating refugees is one place to start. Border policies based upon concepts of manaaki and whanaungatanga are further considerations. Considering how immigration can be handled in a way that responds to tangata whenua interests will be a step towards being Tiriti responsive, all of which will reduce colonial violence by Aotearoa in the domestic and international space.
What ever you say
What do you think of Tina Ngata's speech Chris
It reminds me of that chap - what's his name... Oh I know it's Adolf Hitler. It's very stereotyping. White people are the evil ones.
in the same video [50:00] you see Rawiri Taunui (?) suggest Maori and migrants ae united as victims of racism and colonialism. That's his contribution to social cohesion.
Effeso Collins claimed people don't vote for brown people but according to evolutionary psychologists (a theory recently tested in Nature) reactions to difference are a result of perceptions re alliance forming. When people on the right heard Kemi Badenoch she became their hero.
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