Readers will be well familiar with the blame mentality on which some Maori people thrive and the depressing slide into racial separatism associated with it which has been gaining momentum over the past few years; connived at by the Wellington bureaucracy and encouraged by The Waitangi Tribunal and a series of pronouncements from our highest Court many of which are unnecessary to the issue before them and seem to be made on the basis of what some of the Judges would have decided if the facts had been other than those before the court.
Maori lobby interests such as the Iwi Leaders Group, a self-appointed collection of individuals handsomely funded out of the public purse by way of past treaty settlements and purporting to speak on behalf of all people of Maori descent (but do not) have become increasingly bold in their demands.
These include among others: a sharing of sovereignty with non-Maori people on the basis that the signatories to the Treaty did not surrender sovereignty to the Crown, the right to preferential treatment in resource management matters, ownership of fifty percent of all unallocated fresh water (in the meantime) with the right to have an equal say in future allocation when any existing consent comes up for renewal, and the right to a say in whether the Government exercises its sovereign mandate to establish a marine sanctuary around the Kermadec islands. The New Zealand Centre for Political Research has stood against this tide mostly it has seemed as a lone voice for the eighty five percent of New Zealanders who will pay the price if these demands are met.
It is therefore with cautious optimism and considerable pessimism to read three recent newspaper articles at opposite ends of the country; one an editorial in the Otago Daily Times (our only wholly New Zealand owned and independent newspaper), the second an opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald by Lizzie Marvelli apparently a singer of songs and the third by the respected political commentator Patrick Smellie for his Business desk.
The editor of the ODT voices an unmistakable warning about the drift to separatism and the blame mentality associated with it. He says:
“There needs to come a time and soon when Pakeha New Zealanders are not forever blamed for the fate of Maori. The country was colonised by the British but for how many years can generations be expected to pay for those past years of enforced removal from tribal lands?”
M/s Marvelli’s contribution to this important debate is a disappointing confection of bumper stickers which pass for serious thought. Thus those who espouse the rule of law and want people of Maori blood to be governed by the same law that applies to the rest of us in the matter of the allocation of fresh water, are described as “far right former politicians” whose views are “racist” and who are accused of playing the “race card” as if any of this personal denigration has any meaning. The labels “right” and “left “have long since had any useful application to New Zealand politics (if they ever did –recalling for example that the Nazi Party in Germany was the “National Socialist Workers Party”.) To label as “racist” those who advocate for one law for all and equality before the law is a wilful perversion of language. It is those who advocate for race based preferences who can be fairly called racist (whatever it is that much abused word currently means.) Then there is that tired journalist’s cliché “the race card” trotted out as if it has any originality or relevance to the debate. It has none. The other canard which M/s Marvelli peddles (to be fair encouraged by the Waitangi Tribunal) is that people of Maori blood, by virtue of that fact alone have interests in fresh water and some spiritual connection with it which derive from their antecedents but which are denied to rest of us. The sad fact is that even if this were true, and there is no historic evidence which would suggest so, there is nothing to stop any New Zealander - Maori or otherwise - from contributing to the debate on fresh water policy, and no doubt the contribution will be welcome. That however is a far cry from the stated objects of the Iwi Leaders group who seek to own an equal share of all our fresh water resources.
Mr Smellie takes a different tack under the heading “dangerous times look for Maori development” among other things he says:
“on freshwater reform the government has lost appetite for deciding on new allocation methods before the 2017 election precisely because the claims of the Iwi Leaders Group for freshwater rights are so fraught with political risk”
The author exposes an antipathy towards Winston Peters accusing him of playing a game which leaves him as the “habitual political outsider” with no real intention of following through on the matters of principle to which the push for Maori separatism gives rise.
Apart from Mr Smellie’s distrust of Mr Peters’ motives the article appears to be written by somebody with inside knowledge of government intentions and it will be interesting to see if that is how the current debate plays out. What is disappointing is that the collection of issues which he identifies in his article in his view signify “dangerous times looming for Maori economic development”. There appears to be no awareness that It is not Maori economically development which is threatened by what these self-appointed groups are seeking, but that it is contrary to the crucial principle that there can only be one law governing all of the matters referred to by the author and it must be colour blind with application to all without fear or favour. It goes without saying that socially desirable economic development is a prize to be sought by all New Zealanders and that includes those claiming some Maori blood.
As to the author’s criticism of Mr Peters’ role in the select committee hearings concerning the Resource Management Amendment Bill, it needs to be kept in mind that he is one of the few members of Parliament who has consistently spoken out against separatism over these past many years and if that brings his party increasing popular support (and it will) then that is because he is speaking for the majority of New Zealanders who want none of this unearned privilege whatever uniform it wears. He appears to understand that governments can only govern with the consent of the governed, and on this issue of separatism that consent will be withheld from any political party which allows a fracturing of the previously understood political consensus of one country one law. Overwhelmingly most people want to share with their neighbours whatever their ethnicity in the task of maintaining and improving under the aegis of the rule of law, the way of life which this beautiful and blessedly endowed country affords us all.
Anthony Willy is a Barrister and Solicitor, who served as a Judge on four Courts: District, Environment, Tax and Valuation. He is a former Lecturer in Law at Canterbury University. He presently acts as an Arbitrator, a Commercial mediator, a Resource Management Act Commissioner, and is a Director of several companies.