Monday, February 13, 2012

Steve Baron: Waitangi Day and the Growing New Zealand Underclass

In 1875, a year before Col. George Custer fought the battle of Little Bighorn in the USA and after a passage of 114 days on the ship Edwin Fox, my Great, Great Grandfather George Wilcock arrived in the wild, wild west of Wellington, New Zealand. He was one of the growing number of immigrants that flooded into the country under Premier Julius Vogel's immigration scheme, which offered wholly or partially paid assistance to get to New Zealand. He was typical of New Zealand's early settlers, fleeing from Britain's industrialisation and wanting a better way of life for his family—and no doubt for his future generations to come.

Maori and Pakeha didn't get off to the best of starts.

Some 233 years before Wilcock arrived, Dutch sailor Abel Tasman had discovered what he called Staten Landt (renamed Nieuw Zeeland and later known as New Zealand) in 1642. This new discovery proved to be very inhospitable with four of his crew being killed by Maori in Golden Bay, or as he called it at the time – Murderers Bay. A century later New Zealand was circumnavigated by Captain James Cook. The first real settlement was established in the Bay of Islands around 1800 where traders, whalers and farmers had set about doing their business. Around 1840 Captain Hobson had been sent from New South Wales to establish a government in the Bay of Islands where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The intention of the Treaty was to safeguard British interests, protect Maori from the inevitable consequences of depopulation and extinction, encourage the rapid and peaceful amalgamation of the races and to ensure there was self-government.

Since these historical days New Zealand has come a long way and there has been much controversy—none more so than the controversy surrounding the Treaty of Waitangi. This day has now become a day of protest. I have grown up in a different world to George Wilcock and as a Pakeha I have listened to many of what I believe to be racist comments toward Maori and the Treaty of Waitangi. Many Pakeha have commented to me that they are tired and frustrated with the long drawn out Treaty settlement process and the special treatment Maori appear to receive with taxpayer money. Some even feel Maori have no rights to be making their claims after all this time has passed and feel no obligation to right the wrongs of past governments. There is a number of things these people need to understand—Maori do have a right to feel aggrieved and a right to have their claims settled to their satisfaction. Maori are also tired and frustrated with the slow progress. They want their Treaty settlements so they can get on with their lives and do something to benefit Maori. The trouble is, issues like these take time to work through. What happened so long ago cannot be settled quickly and if it is settled properly so that both sides are happy with the deal, then it only causes problems at a later date. Maori were badly treated—just consider for a moment how you would feel if the government confiscated your land without giving you compensation, killing your relatives in the process. Pakeha also need to understand that when Maori signed the Treaty, their perception of what they were signing was quite different to that of the Crown. Maori did not believe they were giving up the right to their land and the word 'sovereignty' had no counterpart in the Maori language. Neither did Governor Hobson wait for all Maori Chiefs to sign the Treaty.

If we are ever going to settle the differences between Maori and Pakeha then the 'haters' from both sides need to be more understanding and walk a mile in each others shoes. There is no alternative because neither group is going to leave this country. What has also been divisive is the growing underclass in New Zealand, with Maori and Pacific Islanders representing a disproportionate share of that—unfortunately. This underclass is stuck in a poverty trap and if they are lucky enough to even get employment, it is in minimum wage, low skilled jobs, that barely allow them to survive. The only way out for this underclass is education and that begins with learning to read and write at a very early age. With these skills a person can educate themselves at any later point in their lives and lift themselves out of this poverty trap. The trouble is so many of this underclass do not have these skills and their lives quickly become a downward spiral. When young children cannot read and write they get picked on, ridiculed, lose their self esteem, become aggressive and end up rebelling against society—I have seen this in my own family. This is where special funding is needed if we are to make a difference. It should not be race based and it must not be wasted on inappropriate and poorly conceived money wasting projects.

7 comments:

Kiwiwit said...

You say the "intention of the Treaty was to safeguard British interests, protect Maori from the inevitable consequences of depopulation and extinction, encourage the rapid and peaceful amalgamation of the races and to ensure there was self-government." Frankly, this is a little fanciful.

The intention of the Treaty (as interpreted from the preamble to the Māori version on the Ministry of Culture and Heritage's NZHistory.net.nz site) was simply to "to provide a government while securing tribal rangatiratanga (chiefly autonomy or authority over their own area) and Māori land ownership for as long as they wished to retain it."

You then go on to say "Pakeha also need to understand that when Māori signed the Treaty, their perception of what they were signing was quite different to that of the Crown. Maori did not believe they were giving up the right to their land."

Article 2 of the Treaty specifically provides for a process for Māori to give up their land (i.e. "Māori also agreed to give the Crown the right to buy their land if they wished to sell it" under the MCH's sympathetic interpretation of the Māori text).

You call for understanding but in the same breath call those who question the settlements process "racist" and "haters".

The Treaty was signed by the Crown and Maori chiefs in 1840. It was not entered into by the people of New Zealand as they exist now. Any settlement by the government of today with Māori tribes depends on the goodwill and largesse of of the citizens and taxpayers of New Zealand. Like most New Zealanders, I think some Māori claims are well-justified and I am pleased to see they are being settled. I also think some are not justified (the current Ngati Toa claim to land and maritime rights in and around Cook Strait comes to mind). We have the right to question those claims and settlements without being called racists and haters.

Anonymous said...

One would have thought after 170 years people would have moved on,at least grown up. Every person has the same right to an education, but then you can take a horse to water but you can`t make it drink. Attitude starts in the home. Teachers today are forced to take on the treaty and into teaching two languages Maori and English, English out weighing Maori by a country mile. an example of a waste of recourses. Besides Maori is a harsh if not brutal language, the Haka, a fine example.
The Chiefs got the money from the Govt purchases,not the peasants and to argue the price whether it be right or wrong is to squander time and money, which is best spent on education, besides the chiefs could have purchased some of it back.
The crown purchased the land as freehold in all good faith unencummbered and without any memorials etc. The land Maori retained received Native land title, yet for Maori to sell native land to New Maori land court. Yet a Maori can buy freehold without any hassel, so is it any wonder many Maori purchased freehold to get out of the iwi metality and get on with life. The so called hierarchy in the iwi system, who are the well paid have purchased freehold and invested off shore,as a number of those hypocritiacl and knighted Maori have. All the Treaty including Waitangi day does is hold the country back. Maori have no more affinity or ethereal to the land than all New Zealander. All reference to the treaty written into legislation is the most racist and anti New Zealander that only simpleton would allow to pass.

Anonymous said...

You've failed to address the multiple full and final settlements and the unjustified claims that have been written about on this very blog. Also, the invented treaty principals by a Labour government in the 80's, which is a tool used by racist Maori to gain privilege.

You also seem to think that people who are frustrated with this 'grievance industry' are racist against Maori and The Treaty (as if you can be racist against a piece of paper?).

Let's face it, the industry isn't just about "righting the wrongs of previous governments". I predict we will see older claims revisited again and again, just as history has shown.

Ray S said...

One must assume you wrote this piece with tongue in cheek hoping to provoke more racist comment. If that is the case, it worked. Methinks more research is needed to discover what is happening and what has happened to settlement monies. If ever there was a classical failure of the so called "trickle down" theory, it would be payments to maori.

Nothing gets to where its needed and so perpetuates the so called underclass mentality.
Maori have always had a class structure and are keen to see the status quo remain. No matter what New Zealanders do to appease maori, even to the extent of all non maori leaving the country, absolutely nothing would change for the so called "underclass". In fact, I suspect the situation for the "underclass" would get far, far worse.
The main problem is not with Pakeha (I hate the word) but within maoridom itself.

Jens Meder said...

While of course good basic education at least in the 3 "Rs" is essential, book education alone may not be enough to prevent the existence of a propertyless "have-not" underclass without a systematic life-long personal savings rate built into our taxation and welfare systems.
This would introduce not only effective education on wealth creation, but also actually create it, and practically eliminate a have-not "underclass" eventually.

The goal - defined under the "Ownership Society" concept as at least a minimally meaningful level of personal wealth ownership by all citizens eventually - can be expected to go a long way towards reducing not only social frictions based on wealth ownership inequalities, but also on cultural differences, when the overwhelming majority becomes aware of their common stake in preserving their welfare through keeping up their wealth ownership at an adequate level.

Anonymous said...

You say "Maori do have a right to feel aggrieved and a right to have their claims settled to their satisfaction." You have obviously not read Mike Butler's excellent reports where he documents how these claims have been settled many times.

The tribal elite are playing taxpayers for fools. They are out for all they can get, and many - if not most - Maori are very opposed to the greed that is coming through but they can't do anything because thanks to government intervention, these tribal authorities are too strong.

That's not to say there aren't problems that need to be resolved. You said "This is where special funding is needed if we are to make a difference. It should not be race based and it must not be wasted on inappropriate and poorly conceived money wasting projects." The key point here is that our laws should be colour blind. We must not give any group privileged status because of their race.

Anonymous said...

I will keep posting this until all the race-mongers get wise. The elephant in the room which renders all these ongoing claims bogus is that there is no such thing as a Maori, and THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE!!! For many decades, there has been no such thing as a discrete or separate "Maori" ethnic group. Prior to the passage of the Electoral Amendment Act 1975, the legal definition of “Maori” for electoral purposes was “a person of the Maori race of New Zealand or a half-caste descendent thereof.” After panicked complaints from its Maori MPs that soon nobody would be eligible for the Maori Roll, the then-Labour Government changed the second half of this definition to read “any descendent of such a person.” Under current electoral law, New Zealanders of Maori descent can determine once every electoral cycle whether they wish to be on the Maori Roll or the General Roll. We thus have a legal definition of “Maori” that defies definition in the Courts because it is based solely on an individual’s periodic decision to identify as “Maori.” All so-called “Maori” alive today are of mixed European-Maori descent. It would be impossible to find a “Maori” who doesn’t possess more of the blood of the colonisers than that of the colonised. This means there is no logical reason why public policy should support the notion that someone less than half-Maori should lawfully be regarded as “Maori.” "Maori" is thus today not a definable ethnic group, but an artificial creation of statute and a cultural identity sold to its part-Maori adherents by "entrepreneurs of ethnicity," and adopted for the psychic rewards of belonging to a supposedly "oppressed" people. Writing in 1972, historian Joan Metge offers a compelling explanation as to why a subset of New Zealanders today might continue see themselves as “Maori:” "New Zealanders, both Maori and Pakeha, tend to identify others as 'Maori' if they 'look Maori,' that is if they have brown skin and Polynesian features." Since the Maori phenotype tends to predominate in a person’s appearance, those who are considerably less than half-Maori are often identified by others as "Maori" whether they like it or not. Such individuals often compensate for this psychic wound by aggressively embracing a collective "Maori" identity and seeking utu from the majority culture they heve chosen to feel shut out of.