The Ardern government is currently working on a plan, in conjunction with The Ministry of Maori Development (Te Puni Kokiri), the Iwi Chairs Forum, and the (discredited, politicised, and biased) Human Rights Commission, to give effect to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – UNDRIP- in New Zealand.
The general New Zealand public will not be allowed to know about the content of this Declaration Plan until it has been finalised by, and only for, Maori, who claim to be indigenous to New Zealand, having migrated here, periodically, and variously, from Eastern Polynesia, around 1300 AD.
In a pre-Anzac weekend document release, Maori Development Minister Jackson provided a very brief statement on how the Declaration Plan is to be worked through - but only with Maori and the discredited Human Rights Commission - with absolutely no general public input whatsoever.
Ardern has promised “consultation” sometime after the Plan is released in June.
The rights of “Indigenous” peoples, in fact any culturally self-identified peoples, to relate to and embrace their own particular cultural beliefs and practices are of course human rights to which we can all relate and accept. This essay is not designed to negate or diminish those rights but to try to situate them within a multicultural modern-day framework, where “indigenous” peoples, depending upon how such communities are defined, interact with, and respond to societies where such communities are inevitably, and will always be, minorities.
The challenge will be, how can the rights of “Indigenous” peoples, as well as the rights of every other politically identifiable minority, be integrated or accommodated within societies where innumerable minorities already exist? Societies everywhere comprise a collection of minorities -age, gender, disability, LBGITQ+ identity, economic status, tertiary-educated - the list goes on. But everyone, regardless of their political identity, also has rights, hopefully the SAME rights as everyone else. Is that not so?
Jackson briefly referred to substantial feedback from a “Maori targeted engagement” programme, assuring us that this was” just another talk fest” with Maori. But this is not true. The feedback report is no “talk-fest”, another lie from this dishonest government and its’ ministers.
Far from being just a series of “discussions”, this feedback report, if it comes to fruition via a Maori-determined Declaration Plan, will effectively scrap our current constitution and political system and create a society fragmented by race. Is this what New Zealanders want?
So, what did Jackson disclose (or, more importantly, omit) in his media briefings pre-Anzac weekend, duly under-reported and deliberately downplayed by our politicised, mainstream media, as is the now common-place approach to public information espoused by Jackson and his government?
Are you ready?
The Declaration “feedback” report covers the following topics or areas for change:
Maori maintain that tino Rangatiratanga (variously and collectively defined as self-determination, chiefly authority, sovereignty, autonomy, self-government, domination, rule, power, control) is a fundament right of Maori as an indigenous people.
The feedback report includes numerous ideas or claims to improve and enhance tino Rangitiratanga in New Zealand: Maori demand self-government; the Crown exercises Rangatiratanga over Maori; Treaty settlements which divide iwi question the legitimacy of the Crown; Maori must make their own laws; tikanga Maori (customs and protocols) must have equal status to state laws; indigenous rights must be embedded in state laws; and that “Maori” must mean the “normalisation” of our systems.
2.Participation in Government
Key themes for the Declaration Plan under this heading include: greater and more authentic involvement in government; equality of life expectancy; power and control rests with government, therefore Maori seek partnership in government; greater Maori participation in decision-making in health, education, justice, housing and the environment; participation must be more than advisory; Maori are innovators, therefore need to be involved in all government decisions; colonisation aimed to make Maori just like the colonisers; Maori to participate in key Crown appointments within the Public Service, and in all policy formulation; public servants to be trained in mana motuhake and decolonisation; and substitute Maori contracts for service with innovative partnerships.
3.Land, resources, and environment
Issues for the Declaration Plan under this heading cover: urban Maori to be able to access their cultural identity; Maori landowners want to transfer over to general land as it is simpler; Maori want their traditional lands returned and governance over their land, waters, sea, and culture; people have lost their land and have no other place to go; Maori are guardians of land, not owners of it; colonisation denies access to traditional spaces and the sea; kaitiakitanga is not rangatiratanga; colonisation and development projects trample on Maori wahi tapu; Maori need guaranteed decision-making representation structures at local government level; Maori discriminated from water rights.
Education must receive considerable emphasis in the declaration Plan, by: dealing with Maori oppression within the school system; maramataka-bodies of Maori knowledge, should exist inside the system; a separate Maori Education Authority is needed; climate change should incorporate Maori knowledge; Maori knowledge incorporated in the school curriculum to address colonisation and inequities in education; create bilingual and bicultural citizens; educate government employees to apply Maori values and knowledge in their work and decision-making; senior government officials (CEOs) to be conversant in and capable of consistently applying Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Declaration.
5.Provision of information about indigenous/Maori rights
Themes in this section include:- giving effect to indigenous rights did/does not affect the other rights of citizens; changing mindsets and helping non-Maori understand and value Te Tiriti o Waitangi was seen as a critical challenge in the ongoing provision of information and normalising “being Maori” and particularly addressing racism.
Of particular note in this section of the feedback report is that participants recognised and commented upon the interconnectedness between poor Maori health outcomes and correlated factors such as poverty, housing, education, and justice - which are clearly socio-economic issues as opposed to shortcomings in the national health system. Other themes include: an holistic approach to health as opposed to the current siloed health focus; colonisation, intergenerational trauma and lost connection to whakapapa and whenua are key issues affecting health, especially mental health and well-being; “we guarantee that the colour of our skin, being Maori [means we’re] less likely to be diagnosed correctly, receive treatment or see a specialist”; with the arrival of Covid, the system didn’t respond to the needs of Maori; the Maori Health Authority to have the power to control Maori health - replicate the same model to education and justice; greater support for rongoa Maori; Western rehabilitation services have not fully healed our people; large conflict between the western world (health services) and tikanga Maori; using tikanga as a healing system and method.
Again, participants appeared to at last recognise the interconnectedness between justice and education, housing, and health. “The disproportionate number of whanau in prison is the result of a range of issues including racism, a lack of self-determination and general inequality”; “there are glaring inequalities (in the justice system) and you need to cede power”; “lots of resources are given, but the Crown holds the chain. This is about what rangatiratanga truly looks like”; abolition of prisons, to be replaced by a model more focused on restitution and healing; “we normalise prisons.....Maori lived without them”; introduce a true Maori justice system by Maori for Maori based on tikanga that would run in parallel to the western model; “we must be able to make our own laws on our whenua...we decide where the boundary is of where Crown laws apply to Pakeha and where ours apply to us”.
8.Cultural expressions and identity
Many participants blamed colonisation for “disconnecting” Maori from their land and culture, proposing a re-vitalisation of their culture and “re-indigenising” their way of life. Major differences are claimed between those re-connected with Maori cultural practices (positive outcomes) and those who are disconnected (negative outcomes). Other themes cover: grounding in te Ao Maori required; Maori festivals should be resourced as for NZ Ballet and NZSO; colonisation again blamed for inter-generational disconnectedness; Maori parents identified as those being responsible for beating their children for speaking te Reo at school and for fostering the adoption of Pakeha values and systems; “we put a Westminster spin on everything we do, due to the schooling system, etc. But this system is not us and doesn’t work”; imposed Western knowledge and value systems have become the default, making it harder to live with tikanga; non-Maori seeking to learn Te Reo are crowding out Maori from learning; foster wider spread of tikanga and matauranga including making te Reo compulsory; Maori success measured by success in Pakeha world; widespread tikanga and te Reo threatens Maori control over these aspects; colonisation has tainted Maori culture to the point of annihilation; cultural rights only realised through constitutional change; “colonisation was a systematic process of annihilation designed to assimilate us and create a ‘little England’”; “ need a completely different system and world view”; make te Reo compulsory and make te Reo core, like math and English.
Many participants spoke of housing difficulties and homelessness amongst Maori. Suggestions include: removing barriers to build papakainga on your own whenua; housing difficulties impacted by inter-generational trauma and disconnection from whenua; urban Maori have lost connection with their turangawaewae.
10.Equity and fairness
In this section, the principal issues include: overwhelmingly bad statistics for Maori on health, education, justice, housing, whenua and economic outcomes; disproportionate numbers of Maori in prison due to the Western model of justice; inequities caused by colonisation; Crown funding to be increased and transferred to Maori; power must be ceded from the Crown to Maori; Covid vaccine rollout a good example of creating inequities for Maori; current inequities sourced in colonisation and institutional and structural racism; Maori with disabilities not catered for at all.. Of particular note is the demand for the Treaty “partnership” to be reflected in equal power sharing and the allocation of resources.
11.Economic development and business
The major complaint under this heading was that Maori have to operate their businesses in the Pakeha business system and that the economic system was “not designed for Maori”. Some views cautioned about “cultural appropriation” where others are making money off Maori culture. Many Maori believe there is a clash between tinorangitiratanga and capitalism, but also see significant benefits in economic development. Some comment centred around Maori receiving fewer public resources to foster business development.
(Note: but no mention is made of Maori tourism ventures receiving millions of dollars before the STAPP fund was opened).
Other issues were to do with Maori claiming to be entrepreneurs and for businesses (banking and insurance) to incorporate indigenous aspects. A Maori budget was also raised. Value in Maori business is holistic, not just the dollar value.
The issue of disconnectedness from tikanga and whenua caused by colonisation resulting in intergenerational trauma, is touched upon in many of the preceding sections, but is emphasised in this penultimate section. Greater resources allowing Maori to return to a traditional communal way of living is regarded as the solution to most if not all the issues previously raised.
(Note: no mention whatsoever is made of the disconnection of many iwi from their whenua resulting from the genocide of the Musket Wars which preceded colonisation).
13.Declaration Plan-process and structure
This final section of the feedback document relates to how a Declaration Plan would be structured, implemented, and monitored, again using the “equal “partnership” claimed to exist between Maori and the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi as its’ basis. One particular item (135) mentions that in the drafting of the Declaration Plan, there needs to be comprehensive iwi engagement.
This last item in fact raises important questions about the validity and reliability of the whole feedback report and the weighting it might receive by the drafters of the Declaration Plan. Was “comprehensive iwi engagement” NOT actually underpinning this whole process? Indeed, the whole methodology underpinning this report, from a basic research perspective, is of huge concern. Whilst Jackson plays down the content as a vague wish list, his government is busily implementing many of these elements anyway.
The report is based upon 69 workshops, involving 370 participants and 32 facilitators. No information is provided regarding where, or in what cultural setting, these workshops were conducted. The “representation” diagram of attendees provided does not identify the status or qualifications of the various participants nor any information on how they were invited or elected to attend the workshops. Obviously, there could have been over - or under - representation of the participant groups at any particular workshop. The few available statistics indicate on average, 5 participants per workshop. No detailed information is provided regarding the identity of the participants, as to whether they were representing a particular iwi or hapu, urban or marae-based communities. No information is provided either, on the qualifications or identity of the 32 facilitators, nor on the questioning schedule, workshop procedure, or topic agenda used. Reference is made continually in the report regarding the numbers of comments made, as “some”, “a few”, “many”, “a large number”, when one might reasonably expect, for example, percentage answers indicating the degree of support for any particular item at any particular workshop by any particular group. And were these “representatives” speaking on behalf of all Maori in general, or just on behalf of their particular interest group?
Whilst the report may well have been based upon a more rigorous methodology than has apparently been indicated, the omission of such basic data calls into question the veracity of not only the summarised statements but also seriously calls into question their utility in providing a basis for such a profound and far-reaching proposal as the Declaration Plan. The complete “report” lacks specific information and is overly reliant on generalisations. For example, the disconnectedness of Maori from their whenua is blamed on colonisation, but huge displacement and alienation from the traditional whenua of iwi and hapu took place during the Musket Wars of the early 1800s, well before colonisation even began. And Maori leaders of the 19th and early 20th century repeatedly urged Maori to adopt “Pakeha” ways.
To establish basic credibility in regard to the validity and reliability of this feedback report, the government must disclose the detailed data outlined above upon which it is based, including corroborating statistics to back it up. If the Declaration Plan is to be taken seriously, with substantial public resources to implement it, a different and much more rigorous piece of research needs to take place. This can of course be undertaken by Maori researchers.
All Maori on the Maori electoral roll, plus other identified Maori, need to be given the opportunity to be sampled and to give their viewpoints on the issues contained in the “targeted engagement” feedback, in confidence, which can then be independently analysed using universal analytical techniques. However, given the cultural aversion to individualism and particularly to Western research techniques as a principal agent of imperialism and colonisation, one cannot see how this would be either possible or acceptable.
In spite of the obvious dangers in using the existing material as the basis for the official Declaration Plan, there are several themes within it worth exploring further, which will form the basis of my next article: Henry Armstrong’s UNDRIP Plan.
Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.