Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mike Butler: The big land-loss lie

"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.
2. Q&A, TV One, June 6, 2010,


paul scott said...

What we have to remember is that New Zealand is inhabited by New Zealanders mainly. We are not pleased by the politic of racism, but where can we look to for equity.

Cpt747 said... we go again.... ' The Waitangi Tribunal ' is way passed its 'use-by-date'... Corruption and Treason of the highest level has been committed...many nations on this planet would have removed the perpetrators...without any thought of repercussion. In all of us.. "Freedom Rules..."

Anonymous said...

Who Owned NZ in 1840 I

Before the signing of the Treaty in 1840, there was no collective “Maori.” The functional social unit of pre-European Maori society was the hapu, or sub-tribe. Each hapu was in a Hobbesian state of nature (“War of every man against every man”) with every other hapu, rendering life “nasty, brutish and short.”

The absence of a settled form of civil government and a body of laws protecting property rights meant hapu used or occupied land only until another group took it off them. The “Customary Title” existing at that time was thus not ownership at all, but an ephemeral use or occupation for as long as you could keep it.

In Maori Land Tenure: Studies of a Changing Institution (1977), Sir Hugh Kawharu blatantly sets out to fabricate a ‘universally recognised’ body of Maori property rights pre-dating the Treaty of Waitangi. By implication, these were rudely subsumed by white-settler governments, who substituted their own Eurocentric notions of property ownership. This now widely accepted thesis is designed to fudge or remove the fact that “Customary Title” is in practical terms no title at all.

Kawharu correctly identifies that within the hapu-controlled estate, family groups sometimes enjoyed exclusive occupancy or use rights, but the only universally accepted “Customary Title” between hapu was “Te rau o te patu” or "The Law of the Club."

Nor was the Treaty ever intended to convey to Maori ownership of the entire land area of New Zealand. Article II purported to secure the various hapu in their legal (as opposed to “Customary Title”) ownership of land actually used or occupied as at February 1840.

In practice, this meant ownership of land identifiably occupied and cultivated. At a most generous assessment, this might have included a reasonable hunting and gathering range around a Maori settlement.

Anonymous said...

Who Owned NZ in 1840 II

At the time the Treaty was signed, even in the more populous North Island, home to an estimated 100, 000 Maori, such settlements were typically few and far between.

Edward Dieffenbach, a German-born naturalist who travelled throughout the North Island in 1844, reported that "even in the areas of greatest Maori habitation, there are huge tracts of land, even up to hundreds of miles, between the various tribes [hapu]."

The South Island lay practically deserted. Edward Shortland's 1846 census found some 2, 500 Ngai Tahu, resident at several coastal locations. To suggest that 2, 500 people [a] lived on; [b] cultivated; or [c] hunted and gathered over more than 13 million hectares of land is arrant nonsense.

Even in the North Island, aside from the immediate areas around a Maori settlement, the "waste lands" were uninhabited, unimproved, uncultivated, and untrod by human feet, save those of an occasional war party or traveller. Since the forcible exclusion of one group by another was in practical terms impossible, the “waste lands” had no “Customary Title” owners.

The mischievous notion that Maori “owned” land and associated resources they neither used nor occupied was a fiction propounded in the 1840s by the missionaries. They were well aware the Crown had little money for land purchasing. Their agenda was to keep secular, worldly settlers confined to already settled areas, ensuring missionaries remained the only European influence in the all-Maori hinterlands awaiting Christianisation.

The Crown was obliged to accept this misinformation because it lacked the troops to enforce its edicts against 100, 000 well-armed and potentially warlike Maori. Once Maori learned the Treaty supposedly gave them title to the entire land area of New Zealand and they could get money for it, each hapu became an instant "owner" of huge tracts of "waste land" adjoining its settlement(s). Naturally, this created multiple competing “ownership” claims.

To convey a clear title to subsequent purchasers and ensure incoming settlers went unmolested, the Crown found itself compelled to formally extinguish this Maori "ownership." In many early land purchases the Crown paid out anyone asserting a right to be paid.

The Native [now Maori] Land Courts were originally set up to deal with competing claims to the “waste lands.” "Ownership" typically went to whoever could spin the most convincing yarn about his remote ancestor travelling over the land centuries before naming natural features after parts of his body.

Had the missionaries not bogged it for the Crown, the "waste lands" and appurtenant rights would have simply been assumed by all to be vested in the Crown, to be held, managed, onsold, or otherwise used for the benefit of all New Zealanders, irrespective of race.

Clive McDonald said...

If you want the Treaty abolished vote in Winston Peters.

Anonymous said...

YES, if we want the treaty abolished, we MUST vote for Winston Peters and increase the number of seats held by NZ First.

Winston is the only MP in this country who recognises the serious state of our nation. LISTEN TO HIM EVERYONE and think about what he is saying!He loves our country and wants equality for everyone with no racial privileges for anyone.
No one can be fairer than this.