"The big lie" is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Labour Leader David Cunliffe’s new right-hand man, head-kicker-in-chief Matt McCarten, is not above using the big lie technique when talking about treaty settlements. He wrote this commenting on the Ngapuhi suggestion that $600-million would settle their claims:
Senior members of the Iwi Group asked for $600 million to settle Ngapuhi claims - that was careless. Ngapuhi seemed to pluck this figure out of the air with the only justification that their iwi is much bigger than Ngai Tahu and Tainui, who got $170 million. This plays into prejudices these settlements are more about iwi bosses raking in money rather than legitimate compensation for historical theft. In reply, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson's "pigs might fly" smackdown revealed a cavalier contempt to the process and disrespect to Ngapuhi.
Any self-respecting leader would have put the little twerp in his place. But the Prime Minister's offer to flick the negotiators $4m was enough to get iwi leaders purring.
What gets forgotten is the so-called hold-ups aren't about money. Settlements average 3 per cent of an iwi's loss. Where else could someone steal someone's property, then repay a few cents on the dollar, and then call the victim greedy? Treaty settlements are about past wrong being acknowledged with victims having a forum to tell their story.(1)The word “steal” means “to take (another person's property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it”. McCarten implies that non-Maori took Maori land without permission or legal right without intending to return it. Is that correct?
Through the Treaty of Waitangi, the British Queen obtained sovereignty (first article), and Maori became her subjects, equal to Britons, and possessing all the rights and liberties of subjects (third article), including the continued possession of their lawful property (second article), and the Crown's sole right to buy land. Simply put, land sales were legal.
Moreover, these land sales were by agreement, as the thousands of deeds involving land sales throughout New Zealand show, and for prices that the vendors were happy to receive. For instance, 300 Maori signed the Ahuriri deed (Napier) on November 17, 1851, saying that they had “sighed over, wept over and bidden farewell to” 265,000 acres for £1500.
Therefore land was sold, not stolen, and the sales were legal, and proceeded with the full consent of the Maori vendors.
In fact, Maori sold a whopping total of 24.13-million hectares when New Zealand's total land area is 26.8-million hectares. The total confiscation area was 1.2-million hectares which occured as a consequence of the 1860s tribal rebellions. A total of 1.47 million hectares remains as Maori land.
When McCarten writes “Where else could someone steal someone's property, then repay a few cents on the dollar, and then call the victim greedy?” if the land was actually sold and the sale was described as a “steal” then the dispute is over the price paid at the time.
Grievance specialists like McCarten and Ngai Tahu chairman Sir Mark Solomon like to compare the price paid in the mid 19th century with the value of that land as it has been developed, today. Chairman Mark Solomon told Q&A television current affairs programme on June 6, 2010, that:
There was an exercise done by Treasury which took the lands that Ngai Tahu had been dispossessed of or hadn't been awarded in reserves like they should have, and they gave it a 1988 value. Treasury stood before the Waitangi Tribunal and stated that Ngai Tahu's loss was between 12 and 15 billion dollars. We used the same documentation with our external advisors Credit Suisse First Boston, who stood in front of the tribunal and said we absolutely disagree, the figure of loss to Ngai Tahu is between 18 and 20 billion.(2)But the murky corridors of the Waitangi Tribunal are the only place in the universe one could get away with such an argument. If that were allowed in the real world, courts would be crammed with people demanding a cut of the current value of a property that he or she had sold for a much lower price years earlier.
The 265,000 acres of Napier that government land purchase officer Donald McLean paid £1500 in 1851 was a scarcely inhabited area that comprised a hill of clay and limestone, long shingle spits and a large lagoon, with its value being as a potential port.
The myth that Maori land was stolen, or “lost” was created for a propaganda stunt in 1973, when Maori sovereignty group Nga Tamatoa protested at the Waitangi Day ceremony by wearing black armbands to mourn the loss the entire land area of New Zealand of “Maori land". Grievance specialists have repeated the myth ever since. The big lie lives on.
1. Matt McCarten: Iwi leaders risk losing touch, NZ Herald, February 9, 2014. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11198636
2. Q&A, TV One, June 6, 2010, http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/q-mark-solomon-interview-3580452