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Wards proposal misguided

Letter

London has a population of 8 million, less than half of which is now indigenous British; it even has a Muslim mayor. If London copied the idea of Maori parliamentary seats and reserved seats on London's council for indigenous British, it would be condemned as racist. Yet the salient difference between the London and New Zealand scenarios is only the colour of the indigenous skin.

Now Gisborne District Council has voted unanimously in favour of establishing Maori wards, expanding the concept of the Maori parliamentary seats. In so doing, the council is participating in a popular ideological bias that is now producing insidious racism in local body politics too.

I assume that you will have a poll and I hope you vote against this misguided proposition.

Dr Barrie Davis, Wellington

  1. Lara says:

    Tena Koe Barrie,
    Your reasoning is flawed and here is why.
    1. Immigrants in London have not waged war on indigenous Brits (well not since the Roman, Viking and Norman invasions) in order to subjugate them steal their land and culture and impose their own laws upon indigenous Brits.
    2. The salient differences between the British in London and the Maori in NZ also include
    A) Maori had large tracts of their land confiscated by settlers leaving many unable to provide for themselves.
    B) Maori were discouraged from practicing their beliefs, speaking the language and living their culture. Much was lost that has needed to be reclaimed.
    C) NZ has a treaty and Maori are recognised as equal partners therefore they have every right to expect equitable representation in all areas of governance. Hence Maori wards I guess.

    1. Gordon Webb says:

      Your points A & B are undoubtedly correct. But you have not served up how that legally justifies Maori wards. I think you will find the Waitangi Tribunal has the authority to determine grievances, then it’s up to negotiation with the Government, the Crown’s agent and a Treaty partner. As to your C please tell us which clause of which Treaty version guaranteed co-governance. I also refer you to Justice Bisson in the NZ Maori Council case in the Court of Appeal in 1987 – “………it was necessary for the chiefs to cede the right to govern in favour of Her Majesty who would then be responsible to establish a settled form of civil government for the benefit of both Her Majesty’s subjects and the native population”.

      1. Tony Lee says:

        Hi Gordon. I acknowledge that you approach this issue from a legal standpoint where you require a legal justification for the establishment of Māori wards. I look at this from the opposite direction; there is no legal impediment for Māori wards being introduced (other than a vote following a 5% poll). My world view is one where secular principles and values provide a framework for action; Māori wards align with these values and I believe will in some small way enhance the prospect for social equity and a less racist New Zealand.

        This no doubt lacks legal justification; but here, in my view, it is not required. Yep, I am probably one of those pinko liberals that Peter Jones so often decries.

    2. Barrie Davis says:

      Lara, here is a partial response to your points.
      1. Immigrants in London have not waged war on indigenous Brits (well not since the Roman, Viking and Norman invasions) in order to subjugate them, steal their land and culture and impose their own laws upon indigenous Brits.
      Response: Sir Apirana Ngata quote:
      “Let me acknowledge first that, in the whole of the world I doubt whether any native race has been treated so well by a European people as the Maori.”
      2. The salient differences between the British in London and the Maori in NZ also include
      A) Maori had large tracts of their land confiscated by settlers leaving many unable to provide for themselves.
      Response: Sir Apirana Ngata quote:
      “The chiefs placed in the hands of the Queen of England the sovereignty and authority to make laws. Some sections of the Maori people violated that authority. War arose from this and blood was spilled. The law came into operation and land was taken as payment. This itself is a Maori custom – revenge, plunder to avenge a wrong. It was their own chiefs who ceded that right to the Queen. The confiscations can not therefore be objected to in the light of the treaty.”
      B) Maori were discouraged from practicing their beliefs, speaking the language and living their culture. Much was lost that has needed to be reclaimed.
      Response: Karaitiana Tokomoana M.P. told the House of Representatives (6 November 1871): “The whole of the Maoris in this Island request that the Government should give instructions that the Maoris should be taught in English only [in mission schools].”
      C) NZ has a treaty and Maori are recognized as equal partners therefore they have every right to expect equitable representation in all areas of governance. Hence Maori wards I guess.
      Response: The Treaty does not include provision for partnership; that is a construction put on it recently. At the time of the Treaty the Chiefs knew they were ceding sovereignty and that they would be subject to the Crown.

      Barrie Davis

      Footnote response from Ed to Barrie’s factually incorrect final sentence, taken from NZ History websites produced by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage:
      In the English version of the Treaty, Maori cede the sovereignty of New Zealand to Britain . . .
      There are important differences in the Maori version of the Treaty; most significantly, the word “sovereignty” was translated as “kawanatanga” (governance). Some Maori believed they were giving up government over their lands but retaining the right to manage their own affairs.
      The English version guaranteed “undisturbed possession” of all their “properties”; the Maori version guaranteed “tino rangatiratanga” (full authority) over “taonga” (treasures, which may be intangible).
      Maori understanding was at odds with the understanding of those negotiating the Treaty for the Crown, and as Maori society valued the spoken word, explanations given at the time were probably as important as the wording of the document.
      Maori were promised possession of their lands, forests and fisheries for as long as they wished, but governments broke the terms of the Treaty almost from the time it was signed which caused iwi to lose many of their resources.

      1. Barrie Davis says:

        Yes Ed, there are significant differences between the ‘official’ English version of the Treaty (568 words) and the Treaty in Maori (480 words), and there are issues with translation from the draft in English or a copy of it (the Littlewood document, 289 words) and the Treaty in Maori. But those are issues for today; what is more relevant is what the Chiefs understood the Treaty to say in 1840.

        For example, you say the English version refers to “properties” and the Maori version refers to “taonga (treasures, which may be intangible).” That may be the meaning given to taonga today, but that was not the meaning at the time of the Treaty. Referring to the Treaty, Professor Bruce Biggs wrote (Waitangi, ed. I.H. Kawharu, p. 308), “The basic meaning of the Maori word Taonga is ‘valuable material possession’.” Lee and Kendall’s dictionary published in 1820, for which Chiefs Hongi Hika and Waikato acted as consultants, gives taonga as “property procured by the spear” (tao means spear). The Treaty was then signed in 1840. The subsequent first edition of William Williams Dictionary of the Maori Language, published in 1844, also gives taonga as “property”. (Bruce Moon, Twisting Taonga) Property (procured by the spear) is that which has a physical presence and is able to be touched, which excludes intangibles. Examples may be found in the literature: Thomas Buddle, a Wesleyan missionary, explained in his 29 December 1840 diary entry, that the local Maoris had “a desire to get trade or as they term it ‘taonga’.” (Te Matapunenga, 397) Frederick Maning, circa 1840 (Old New Zealand, p. 6), “The chief also, having made some enquiries … such as … if I had plenty of taonga (goods) on board … gave me a most sincere welcome.”

        As you say, explanations of the Treaty given at the time were probably as important as the wording of the document. The day before the Treaty was first signed at Waitangi, 5 February, there was a large meeting of hundreds of Maoris and all the local Europeans at James Busby’s house and grounds. Governor Hobson read the Treaty aloud in English and then Henry Williams read the Maori translation he had made the day before. Several accounts of the meeting were written by participants, including William Colenso, and over a dozen Maori responses were recorded. The chiefs generally claimed that their land had been stolen and that if they signed the Treaty they would become slaves. For example, Kawiti the Ngatihine chief said, “We do not want to be tied up and trodden down.” But several chiefs mentioned European food and clothing and spoke in favour of the Governor remaining; several, such as Chief Hone Heke, referred to Hobson as “A father, a Governor for us.” But Tareha, chief of the Ngatirehia Tribe, said, “No Governor for me … We will not be ruled over What! thou, a foreigner, up, and I down!” Nga Puhi Chief Te Kamara spoke last and said “return to thine own land,” and complained “the Governor up! Te Kamara down, low, flat!” (Sources: William Colenso; Moon and Biggs, The Treaty and its Times, 2004)

        These comments from the Chiefs before they signed the Treaty show that they were aware of the proposed higher status of the Crown over the Chiefs, and those comments do not indicate a partnership. They knew they were ceding sovereignty and that they would be subject to the Crown. You say the Treaty guaranteed “tino rangatiratanga” (full authority) over “taonga”, but Apirana Ngata (Ngati Porou, lawyer, born in Te Araroa), said “It was this chiefly authority held by each chief who subscribed his mark to the Treaty of Waitangi that each chief ceded to the common weal and to Governor William Hobson, as an offering to Queen Victoria.” Nevertheless, the next day, 6 February, 43 Chiefs signed the Treaty at Waitangi and as they did so Hobson shook hands saying, “He iwi tahi tatou” (We are one tribe), which is contrary to making a partnership (“E hoa rua tatou”). When Te Kamara signed he said that he had been told “not to write on the paper, for if he did he would be made a slave.” Hobson took the Treaty around the country, repeating the process until 512 Chiefs had signed.

        A few final points: You say, “Maori were promised possession of their lands, forests and fisheries for as long as they wished,” but it is generally held that the Treaty is the Maori translation which does not include the phrase “Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties”, that is in the “official” English version. In any case, the Treaty “has no juridicial standing for enforcement in the national courts. It has socio-political, not legal, force.” (Philip A. Joseph, Constitutional and Administrative Law in New Zealand, Third ed.) Hence, any legal force must be sought in subsequent legislation which at best can only cite the Treaty for social and political support. I think I have shown above that partnership included in such legislation is a subsequent construction.

        1. Tony Lee says:

          Hi Barrie. Just a very brief comment related to your statement that, “I think I have shown above that partnership included in such legislation is a subsequent construction.”

          Assuming that your detailed argument is correct, it seems that we can focus on whether this subsequent construction is desirable (or not).

          As stated previously, my world view is one where secular principles and values provide a framework for action; Māori wards align with these values and I believe will in some small way enhance the prospect for social equity and a less racist New Zealand. Partnership will be a feature of achieving this. Yes, the construction is desirable.