Sunday, September 16, 2012

Steve Baron: United we stand, divided we fall.

As I sat in a cafĂ© watching two young families from two different races enjoying each other’s company, along with what looked like a 1 year old and a new-born, it made me contemplate. It seemed like only a year or two ago that I was in the same position; yet next week my 1year old turns 25. No doubt, sooner or later, it will be my grandchildren I will be looking at and this makes me consider my future and theirs.

The world has become very complicated. Nothing is simple any longer; each of us, and our many societies’, has baggage. And let’s face it; if there is no baggage then there is no life of any significance. What complicates matters even further is that races have many different cultural practices, cultural heritages, perspectives and traditions. This makes it harder for us all to get along and it is often hard to see eye to eye with each other. It was only today that an elderly person pontificated to me that she could see a civil war in New Zealand. Maybe not in her time she said, but to her, it seemed inevitable as she perceived a growing divide between Maori and European New Zealanders.

I would certainly hope that it would never come to this and it would certainly be a sad day in the history of New Zealand if we were ever to find ourselves in the situation as did the USA, Uganda or Angola during their civil wars. Growing income inequality, especially among Maori, certainly adds to the problem. Income inequality is an insidious problem and akin to the inflation of the 80s in some ways. It is a very real threat to all of society, not just Maori.

Then there is the growing frustration from both sides of the divide over the Treaty of Waitangi settlements. Certainly, Maori have a right to have their claims settled but now other issues such as water rights have gained significance in the public sphere. How are we ever to get along and settle our differences? If we are to live in a nation without conflict, certain matters such as these need to be settled and settled amicably. That way all parties can move on with their lives. It also means understanding another races’ point of view and having respect for their cultural heritage, perspectives and traditions. Respecting each other is important because if anything irritates a person the most, it is disrespect.

On this point I would remind some readers that Maori do not have the monopoly in cultural heritage and tradition, Pakeha have it as well. Take for example a dispute my family (along with a number of other families) are having with the Rakautaua No. 9 Maori Trust over Baches at the mouth of the Whangaehu River. This Trust gained governance over the land as recently as 1990. No consideration was given at that time to Bach owners on the land who the Trust acquired in the hand over process. The new Executive of the Trust now intends to remove the Bach owners, whom they consider to be squatters, from the land (even though financial consideration is being paid and agreements for life occupancy had been agreed to in good faith by the original Trust Executive and Bach owners). Many of these Bach owners have been there for fifty or sixty years and in the case of my family, this land has been a part of our family, and we a part of it, for over 100 years. Some of the Bach owners are in their 70s and 80s and this action is extremely upsetting for them, it has been their way of life and part of their culture. In fact these Baches have a cultural significance to all New Zealanders and have featured in a number of publications. They are a part of Kiwi heritage and should remain that way. 

While Maori believe they have proprietary rights over such things as water, Whangaehu Bach owners also see a proprietary right in this instance, as the land has great meaning and cultural significance for their families. The concept of proprietary rights attaches itself to the land and follows the land despite any changes in ownership that might occur. These Baches represent a pinprick footprint on the 345 acres for which the Trust acts as guardians. There is ample room for Trust beneficiaries to have their own buildings and also allow current Bach owners to remain. This would show respect for the cultural heritage of Bach owners and their ancestors, some whom have wished to have their ashes spread in the area, surely a sign of how significant the location is to these Pakeh a whanau.

Thus, if Maori want to have their cultural heritage, perspectives and traditions respected, it is also important for Maori to return the favour of Pakeha. While disagreements over written agreements may eventually be sorted out in the Courts, having appreciation and working together to find a compromise and equitable agreement will ultimately ensure a better future for all New Zealanders. That is a far better option than Courts and wars because Pakeha will not be jumping in their steel canoes and leaving. Of that, Maori radicals can be assured.

Feedback to: Steve Baron is a political commentator. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science & Economics. He is a published author; a regular columnist in various publications throughout NZ; the Founder of Better Democracy NZ; a former businessman and Waipa Mayoral candidate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very interesting article, Steve. I wouldn't hold my breath while awaiting recognition for your claim over your family bach.

"Dealing" with Maori is a one way street down which they receive while the rest of New Zealand give. Every concession made encourages a further demand.

The treat of Waitangi has been turned into a farce where its interpretation has become a pantomime and the meaning changes day by day, always extending the Maori demands.

This treaty cannot ever form the basis of agreement or law because there is more than one version. The Maori version, written in the gibberish of a hitherto unwritten language, its words undefined and therefore variable in meaning currently translated by Maori according to their whims and fancies of the moment.