Tuesday, 8 May 2012

"Ka whawhai tonu mātou, Ake! Ake! Ake!"

Now here is a “Maori” issue with substance.

I had just got home on Sunday after spending the afternoon at The Point in Ngaruawahia with my family and I was already thinking about race relations in New Zealand when I picked up the story.
It had been a beautiful day at the place where the Waipa River meets the Waikato, but I had been left with a feeling of unease after reading the plaque that commemorates the gift of that piece of land from the Ngaruawahia Regatta Association to its community.
Sitting there in the heart of Tainui on the site that had once been a pa of the second Maori King, Tawhiao, I listened as two Muslim women chattered a way in their mother tongue and wondered how the Ngaruawahia Regatta Association had come to own the land in the first place.
Brewing on these thoughts I read the news that Amnesty International had told the United Nations that New Zealand is continuing to discriminate against Maori through the Marine and Coastal Area act.
Reported first by Radio New Zealand the story outlined the submission made by Amnesty to the UN committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights meeting in Geneva.
In the submission Amnesty had said the Marine and Coastal Areas Act had been intended to replace discrimination against Maori in the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act. However it said the international group believed the new act was also discriminatory because the customary interests it promotes exclude the right to exclusive occupation, preventing Maori from excluding the public as freehold owners can.
Attorney General Hon Simon Power agreed with the view in the article, but justified the act as a balance between the rights of Maori and the general public.
And this is it, the issue that probably will be debated forever; what are the rights of tangata whenua versus the right of the general public?
Obviously it is not the first time that issues concerning race relations in New Zealand have been discussed by an international organisation and yet so often you still hear people say that New Zealand is not a racist country.
Or even that Maori are racist for wanting separate rights to every other New Zealand citizens.
But what would these people know? Have they ever really asked why Maori can’t simply let things go and move on? Have they ever wondered what the Maori word and understanding is for ownership?
It is these people who do not understand this country’s history. They simply want to move forward and say things like “we are one nation, why can’t we be one people”.  Is it because they do not want to look back and acknowledge what happened?
It got me thinking back to those days of the Seabed and Foreshore hikoi in 2004. Many of those who were critical of the hikoi and its purpose were so because they do not understand the debate.
I clearly remember the prevailing thought I had then because I still wonder about it now – why doesn’t anybody ever explain that most Maori would never think about charging New Zealand families to use the beach because this debate is not about that. It is not even about ownership; it is about kaitiakitanga, mana and rangatiratanga.
It has been two days since Radio New Zealand ran the snap about the submission made by Amnesty and I have not seen any other report about it. Why has it not been discussed by more of our media? After all, doesn’t the issue strike at New Zealand’s very foundations – surely that must be important?

While I think Te Reo Maori should be taught in our schools, and good on Tim Groser for suggesting it, I also have an overwhelming belief that our country’s history should also be understood by all. Our history should also be a compulsory part of our schools and community. What better place to start than in the media?

Instead of wasting time and resources on debates like the Close Up one that featured Ansell vs Harawira or producing a show that is more concerned about ratings than informing people, we could actually be discussing race relations in this country – I mean, if you ask me, we desperately need to.
Because for me the old saying of: if you don’t know where you’ve been, you will never know where you are going, rings true.
The Point at Ngaruawahia is a beautiful place to reflect, it is also a very important part of our history that has a lot of questions which need answering. What do you reckon?


  1. I reckon many people, probably most, take what they want from history and leave the rest. What they take depends on who, meant in the fullest meaning of the term, they are. From those readings you get Harawira, you get Ansell, you get Akuhata. I think there's a lot to be said for stepping out of your own mind and history and into the other's. It's an easy thing to say, but sometimes hard to do.

    1. How are hard is it when you are surronded by it. How many people drive through Rangiriri not even realising what happened there? Do you know where Orakau is and what happened there? What about what caused the incidents that happened at these places? No Matt I don't think you can take what you want from history and leave the rest. That's just putting on the blinkers. I don't profess to be a expert historian but what I do know is that until we address and acknowledge the past the mamae that exists will continue. You can't wipe out 200 years regardless of whose perspective you're looking through.

    2. I think you might have missed my point a bit there Karla. Perhaps I should try to make my meaning clearer. I didn't say you can or can't "put on the blinkers" or whether people should or shouldn't. What I said was that I think people DO put on the blinkers. It doesn't matter what you or I think people can or can't do, because we have no control over them. You say yourself, "I don't profess to be an expert historian". How many people do? You know about Rangiriri and Orakau because of WHO you are. Others don't, because of WHO they are.

    3. Yes perhaps I did. I am a believer that New Zealand's history should be taught in schools and perhaps this leaves me a little blinded. Sorry. However if people are going to comment on an issue then I think they should make the time to find out as much as they can about the debate.

  2. I don't pretend to know enough of the history of this land to even satisfy my own curiosity, but I do wonder whether the concept of dwelling on the past and trying to right the wrongs is the best way to go.

    I think most people would agree that the world does not hold today's German government responsible for the Nazi government's treatment of many races. No, it was a relatively small band of zealots who took things to extremes that most Germans, even of that era, would not have considered if not either caught up in the hysteria or under threat of the same treatment for themselves.

    Likewise, Japan. Does today's Japanese government continue to atone for the extreme treatment meted out to the Chinese for so many years prior to the second world war? Or indeed for those many nations they overran during that conflict?

    Coming back to Aotearoa, what little I have read has shown me that Maori were a great warrior race and many pitched battles were fought over these lovely lands. Do the treaty-related acts of parliament allow for one tribe to make a claim on another for lands lost in such battles? In my local area of Wellington, the one name I heard consistently during my education in regard to local Maori was Te Rauparaha. I've since learned he was from the Waikato and took most of this area by force. I'm sure this is not an isolated case.

    It seems to me that all of New Zealand are suffering these years of "settlement" because a relatively small number of con-men used words instead of weapons. Why suffering? Well, how much is being spent from the government coffers to manage this enormous process when it could be going to help the disadvantaged and needy of this nation.

    A final footnote. My views are just that - views. I don't contend to be right, nor anyone else to be wrong. I'm happy to hear different views. These are just the key points in my mind and the questions that arise.

  3. Thanks Allister, I am glad that you can share your view. Likewise I do not believe that I am always right.
    HOwever you mention Te Rauparaha. Yes he was from Waikato initially and he ended up in the southern part of the North Island, most notably taking control of Kapiti Island. He was chased from Waikato through battles with other chiefs (as aside this is where the all blacks haka comes from). He re-established his people and then conquered others, something people have done for centuries.
    However Maori treaty claims do not deal with land lost through cases of war. They are as a result of the confiscation and theft that happened after the New Zealand Wars (for want of a better term). There are some pretty sad cases.
    My tribe had 95 per cent of their tribal lands confiscated for being "tangata hara" and fighting against colonial forces. That was more than 1,000 km² of prime land. Up until then my ancestors had been pretty good growers and traders, their skill had kept their people in a pretty good positioin. And they were only fighting to ensure they kept the fundamental right of rangatiratanga over their lands. However after the confiscation through theft and some pretty dicey moves my iwi's asset holding was relegated to small parcels of land. In 2003 we signed a settlement worth $42 million, this is just a small fraction of what the land was and is worth. So yes everyone in New Zealand may be suffering because the government has to compensate Maori but lets get this one thing straight that is not because it was won in war, it was stolen.

    1. Which goes to my key point. Had the English simply invaded, we'd not be where we are today.

      * Attack with weapons and keep whatever you gain in perpetuity.
      * Promise something and then break the promise and you'll pay for centuries.

      This doesn't make sense to me.

    2. The English did invade and when the couldn't conquer by force they took by stealth. I am by no means an advocate for war but it is a tad more honest than creating laws, ignoring treaties and only dealing with certain people because they will give you what you want.
      It may not make sense to you that the government has to pay for these pretty horrid acts but then again it doesn't make sense to me that 200 years ago Maori were the largest landowners in the country and now...

    3. Again, it's not whether either act (of war or theft) should be remediated - it's the difference between the two.

      I think it only fair that if Ngati Toa, for instance, are to be granted land or equivalent under treaty settlement that they in turn can be sued for compensation by those iwi they took it from by force. Heck, Te Rauparaha even sold some of the conquered land to the English - are the people of NZ to be convicted of receiving stolen property?

      I'm sorry, but this belief in the treaty as the sole point of focus denies much of the rest of the history of this land and is, I believe, the root of the continued divide in this country.

      I thought, when I read your post, that you had a more open mind than most on this subject, but it would appear I misjudged. If you think war is more honest than stealing, I urge you to emigrate to the United States of America. There are a bunch of folk over there who think the same way. Just watch out for the terrorists.

    4. Fair enough Allister, I may not be that flexible in mind when it comes to this subject but the injustice of it all really gets to me. And the more I read about our country's history the worse it gets.
      There were thousands and thousands of acres taken from Maori by treachery and that is a pretty hard thing to get over.
      The focus on the Treaty of Waitangi is because, for lack of anything better, it is our founding document. Without it we would not be part of the commonwealth and it would be a vastly different country - perhaps where French was the main language.
      In terms of war being more honest than stealing. It is not that, both are pretty hideous, it is just that I would rather be stabbed in the chest where I can see it coming than stabbed in the back.