Like most kiwis wanting a peaceful path towards reconciliation and meaningful compensation for past mistreatment of Maori by agencies representing the Crown, l have been proud of the settlements that in most cases appeared to be fair, recognising as we must, that nothing will ever truly compensate for some of the significant losses that have occurred.
It is clear that none of the settlements that have been negotiated would have happened without the large amount of goodwill contributed by Maoridom itself.
As a nation, the progress we have made towards reconciliation (which is light years ahead of any other county on the planet) is almost entirely due to the genuine desire by both parties for a shared future. Hopefully those aspirational attitudes will continue until we reach a stage where we can all claim that justice has finally been served.
Only then will we be free to move on towards a society that allows equal opportunity for all who would benefit from the egalitarian model that is within our grasp.
Unfortunately, recent events suggest we are fools if we think any of that is possible.
Sadly, in my opinion, we are (like most of the free world) moving towards an alternative that is based on identity politics that is inspired by a minority wish for separate development.
Who would have thought this could happen in a country like ours that leads the world in its approach to race relations?
But we must face reality.
What else must we take from the current High Court actions of two of the nation’s largest Iwi (Ngai Tahu and Kahungunu) who are seeking a determination that will effectively hand over control of a large part of their respective fresh water reserves. These moves are motivated differently to the Government’s proposed legislation that would transfer oversight of only the “Three Waters“ (ie. waste, drinking and storm water), from the local councils to a new group of entities that will supposedly include equal representation from local/central government on the one hand and Iwi as the Crown’s treaty partner on the other.
However the expressed aim of these Court challenges is for local Iwi to gain CONTROL over much of the nation’s fresh water reserves that include major rivers and other storage capacity like aquifer reserves. We can be sure that the Government will be hoping they succeed as it will legitimise any expansion of the new law governing over-sight to include virtually all fresh water reserves.
I am sure that the average voter will not have recognised these latest moves as a power grab by stealth - one that we should all oppose before it gets out of hand and sets the two treaty partners on a collision course that will destroy all the good work that has gone into establishing these honourable settlements over decades.
This is the sort of thing that should be debated with Council at the current round of community meetings to discuss the local version of the long term plan. Early indications from the meetings held to date in this region are that ratepayers are concerned with, above all else, Council’s lack of a clear programme safeguarding our fresh water security and waste water disposal. Giving the responsibility for developing that plan to someone else with little affinity for Tairawhiti is a recipe for disaster especially if the new authority favours one section of the community when making decisions that affect us all.
We should be demanding to know where our Council sits on this issue.
Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.