Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Karl du Fresne: Don't mention the war

The most obvious question was the one Susie Ferguson didn’t ask during an interview on Morning Report last week about the Crown’s settlement of Moriori compensation claims.

Speaking to Moriori spokesman Maui Solomon about the passing of the Moriori Claims Settlement Bill, Ferguson tastefully avoided any mention of the invasion of the Moriori homeland Rekohu (aka the Chatham Islands) in 1835 by the Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama tribes from Taranaki, who killed or displaced an estimated 95 per cent of the peaceable resident people and enslaved the survivors. You might call it a “don’t mention the war” moment.

Most listeners would have been wondering, like me, why the Crown (in other words, the taxpayer) is compensating Moriori for events that occurred five years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed – events the Crown wasn’t implicated in, had no control over and for which it therefore bore no responsibility.

But that question wasn’t asked. Instead, Ferguson asked Solomon whether the $18 million in the settlement package was enough.

“It’s never enough,” came the reply. “We asked for much more, but how do you compensate [for] genocide?”

I should make it clear here that I’m not getting at Solomon, still less minimising the enormity of what happened to the Moriori. No one could begrudge them the return of their waahi tapu (which is also part of the settlement package), nor quibble about the significance of Parliament’s acknowledgment of their existence after they were for so long effectively written out of our history.

But the genocide – which is exactly what it was – wasn’t the Crown’s doing, and it seems only fair to ask why the Crown should be taking the rap for it. I would have been genuinely interested in hearing Solomon’s explanation, but we weren’t given the chance.

Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of The Dominion newspaper. He blogs at


Joseph said...

Perhaps Minister Jackson should have been asked why this money was not deducted from the settlements to the perpetrators of that genocide.

gregd said...

In grant Robertsons world, a countries prosperity is rated on the ammount of money you can borrow and the quickest way you can disperse it, with no intention of himself ever being involved in a pay back schedule.

DeeM said...

The Crown was just cutting out the middle man. If Maori had been ordered to pay reparations they would have lodged a claim against the Crown to pay for their own atrocity. The Crown would have course paid it because that's how the Tribunal works.
Much simpler this way...and probably cheaper, certainly in legal costs.

Janine said...

The obvious question those, like myself, of tribe " Non Maori" would ask is why are Maori not paying these reparations? The answer appears to be that tribe " Non - Maori" seem to have become like a ship without a rudder to put it politely.

Another question: where is all this money coming from? Nobody seems concerned about this. National as well as Labour continue down this same well-worn treaty settlement path. I can't help but think that those that believe that National will reverse these separatist policies are sadly mistaken. They all see themselves as "do-gooders" without conceding that this money must come from other New Zealanders.

We need a complete change of direction.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

I recall a first-hand account in Eugene Grayland's 'Coasts of Treachery' that is well worth consulting for those who have access to this book.