Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Peter Williams : He Puapua - let's give Willie Jackson some advice!

In this country today, the Minister of Maori Development Willie Jackson is going to tell us a bit more about what the government intends to do about the He Puapua report. And I just wondered this morning, if you’d like to give Willie some advice about which direction he should take the country based on the recommendations in He Puapua.

As we know, He Puapua means a break. It’s traditional meaning pertains to a break in the waves. But on this occasion, its meaning is that in New Zealand - sorry Aotearoa - there should be a breaking of the usual political and societal norms and approaches. It is a radical report, essentially suggesting there should be co-governance of the country with iwi holding positions of major influence, if not major control, such as proposed in the initial thinking around the Maori Health Authority.

The ideas and most of the concepts in the report are outrageous, divisive and worst of all, undemocratic because those who say they are Maori will have significant influence, if not a veto, on decisions affecting the entire country and everybody in it. But there is a sneaking suspicion that because of the influence of people like Jackson and Nanaia Mahuta inside the cabinet, many of these ideas will get government approval in some shape or form.

We will find out more of the official government thinking on this later today, but I think we saw a hint of it yesterday with those water reforms proposed by Mahuta, and the plans for Mana Whenua to have influence in the governance of water authorities. Why? Is water not a natural resource which falls from the sky for the benefit of all of us? Water is owned by no one. Yes, the land underneath waterways can be privately owned or iwi owned or publicly owned, the pipes to reticulate water and discharge the storm and the wastewater can be owned by various entities, but the water itself is a product of nature, is always changing, is always being produced, and is always there for all of us. And that’s the key, is it not? All of us. New Zealanders.

This is New Zealand, one of the oldest, continuous democracies in the world. A place where every adult citizen and resident has been able to take part in the democractic process since 1893, where one person’s votes carry equal weight with all others. My fear is that He Puapua might be wanting to challenge that concept.

Now let’s cut Willie a bit of slack and see what he comes up with later today but I have a few thoughts on He Puapua, its recommendations, and on a couple of concepts raised in a very good column by Auckland academic Elizabeth Rata, who has published a piece for the Democracy Project called Ethno-Nationalism or Democratic-Nationalism; Which way ahead for New Zealand? The thesis of her column is that New Zealand stands at the crossroads.

As Elizabeth Rata sees it, there are two directions we could go. One: Do we want our ethnicity, or more particularly part of our ethnicity, to be the defining aspect of our lives? Or two, do we want to fully embrace multiculturalism and live harmoniously in these lands as “New Zealanders” ? Personally, I’m in absolutely no doubt what kind of country I want, and I suspect the vast, vast majority of New Zealanders will want as well - option two. Elizabeth Rata is Maori, but she has been described as the WInston Peters of academia. And frankly, that is no bad thing. Essentially, as the New Zealand First leader has always espoused, that means we are all New Zealanders in this country. And she asks a very pertinent question.

As He Puapua makes the astonishingly confident claim that Aotearoa has reached a maturity where it is ready to undertake the transformation to restructure governance to realise rangatiratanga or self determination, just exactly WHY would we abandon democracy? Why indeed? Ms Rata goes on to write of He Puapua’s plans for a system of constitutional categorisation based on ancestral membership criteria rather than the universal human who is democracy’s foundational unit. Isn’t that beautifully put? The Universal Human. What a concept.

In my mind the ideas behind He Puapua are deeply, deeply flawed. For a start, there is no definition of who gets to qualify as Maori anymore. My understanding is that if you identify as Maori that’s enough to put yourself on the Maori electoral roll. Nobody asks any questions, you don’t have to provide any proof of ancestry. The option is open to everybody every five or six years, and the next option period is in 2024. If there are laws brought in to provide proof, what fraction of ancestry would be required? And what kind of proof would be required? The lead author of He PuaPua, Doctor Claire Charters from Auckland University, is at most 25 percent Maori. She has a Pakeha mother, and a paternal pakeha grandfather.

Her Maori line only comes from her paternal grandmother. And that’s just fine. But the lead author of this report recommending significant changes to the way New Zealand is governed is herself descended more from the colonisers than from the original settlers on this land. Why should a group of people in this country with a fraction of their genetic makeup which may have come from a Maori ancestor 200 years ago have privilege over someone who’s wholly Scottish family has been here just 170 years? Are these not really important questions that should be addressed before we go down the path of what Elizabeth Rata refers to as ethno-Nationalism, the concept which has produced awful conflict in among other places, Rwanda, South Africa and the former Yugoslavia.

And then as another academic David Round, a law lecturer at Canterbury University wrote back in 2008, there is the greater question. Are we to be a nation, or merely a collection of disparate tribes and cultures all fighting for our own self interest, heedless of the greater good? Isn’t that the fundamental question for this country’s constitutional future? Elizabeth Rata’s piece finishes with this strong stance, that I reckon cannot be disputed. I quote. “It becomes a danger to liberal societies regulated by democratic politics when ethnicity is politicised.

By basing a governance system of classification and categorisation on historical rather than contemporary group membership, we set ourselves on the path to ethno-nationalism.” Here’s the question then - ethno-nationalism or democratic nationalism? Yes they are academic terms, and you may not use them in everyday conversation but you know what they mean. I prefer the one with the word democratic in it.

Peter Williams is a journalist and commentator who hosts the morning show on Magic Talk. This article was first published HERE on 1 July 2021.


DeeM said...

As you say Peter, you would expect most Kiwis to go with the option with Democratic in it. And that probably includes many, if not most, Maori.
The other option goes with words like UNdemocratic, nepotism, cronyism, apartheid, separatism and let's not forget RACISM. Not a lot to like there!
That a "Democratic" NZ government could contemplate commissioning and then enacting a report like He Puapua shows how ideologically flawed and corrupted their thinking is.
The fact that it is based on a UN Declaration shows exactly the same of that organisation, which is a think tank for woke, left-wing policy and ideas.
And therein lies the connection. Our PM is a committed socialist or more likely Marxist, based on her political plans for NZ. She dotes on the UN and I'm sure there's a desk on the top floor waiting for her when she's finished dismantling democracy here.

Anonymous said...

This article assumes we have a choice where we go, which direction we take. Am I not correct in saying that it is a legal and constitutional impossibility to be both a democracy and an "equal partnership" between The Crown and an amorphous collection of individuals and Maori tribes the members of which cannot even be confidently identified??

And if it is a legal, physical impossibility, why should we then even continue the debate??
New Zealand cannot and will not ever have a partnership government - period.

Bruce Moon said...

It is surely an irony that most white New Zealanders came to this country to get away from a rigid class system - privilege - or lack of it - based on ancestry - the accident of birth.

Now we have these part-Maori radicals aiming to impose just such a system on us all over again. We betray thehopes of our colonial forebears if we let them get away with it.

Don said...

We need much more publicity for this kind of reasoned debate and much less for the unrestricted publicity of twisted history and emotional clap-trap that seems to be engrossing media. Here we have a rational summary of what I suspect most New Zealanders, including Maori, see the situation to be. There is plenty of room for Maori interests, language and world-view to be exercised without forcing it on the majority of the population.

Geoffrey said...

In my view, we need to go back a stage and reflect upon why there was a treaty in the first place. There were a number of reasons, but paramount among them was the plea from the chiefs of the several tribes for protection from the ghastly predations of each upon the other. The term "Maori" was a construct that was pan-tribal and usefully grouped all those primarily Polynesian contestants into a single race for ease of reference and administration.

What is it now that would lead one to think that, absent the controls of the present democratic arrangements, those same tribal entities would somehow behave themselves and leave their neighbours lands and people alone? Just look at the overlapping foreshore claims to gain a glimpse of how competitive and avaricious the several tribes continue to be.

Perhaps it is envisaged that the disempowered citizens of entirely European descent should somehow be granted sufficient authority to police the inevitable conflict. I don't think so: rather, I believe that as demonstrated by the maneuvering of Ngai Tahu concerning its bid for control of South Island waters, the battle lines are already being drawn. The powerful tribes are beginning to demonstrate a desire to dominate, while the lesser a more palpable willingness to form alliances to protect their interests.

As an aside... tribal power at the present time is as much a reflection of the worth of it's war chest (derived almost entirely from Treaty Settlements), as it is the number of it's people. That said, wealthy tribes with few members might quickly become attractive targets for the extraction of long smouldering desire for utu.

Were the tribes' professed desire to facilitate better government for their people genuine, the billions of dollars so far "gifted" in Treaty Settlements would have by now trickled down for the benefit of all. Sadly the social statistics (especially Health) give the lie to that. We are therefor obliged to conclude that their professed goal is a lie and is no more than a subterfuge by the tribal elite (the new Nobility) to gain more personal wealth and power.

Terry said...

We need to call out this Ardern government for what it is now showing itself to be: racist!

Rosemary said...

Just to say how much my husband and I enjoy your talk back show Peter. Keep up the good work of speaking out for democracy and un- PCness in our country. It is much appreciated by more and more NZers.

Doug Longmire said...

Excellent article, Peter.
You have described the appalling plan to destroy democracy in New Zealand which is under way right now.
Highly ironic that the Left is pushing a nakedly obvious apartheid policy, when the entire civilised world abhors racial discrimination.

Welcome to Zimbabwe !