Thursday, April 27, 2023

Bruce Moon: Meanwhile in Our Funny Little Country

To any observer from beyond our shores, it must be a matter of some surprise that we continue to argue about the meaning of a very old document, the so-called “Treaty of Waitangi”.  The reason is that this essentially simple document has become a political football and, as everybody knows, political arguments usually go on for ever and are not always embellished with the truth.  So it is with the Treaty.

The irony is that what the Treaty actually said is very plain and so it should be.  It was, as I hope nobody will deny, translated from Hobson’s English text of 4th February into the Ngapuhi dialect of Maori overnight on 4/5 February 1840 by Henry and Edward Williams, two competent speakers of that tongue who had been resident in New Zealand for seventeen years.

The English draft had been composed by Hobson the previous day with assistance from Busby and Clendon, a British subject and American consul, at the spacious home of the latter, using writing material provided by him, including paper from his private stock watermarked “1833”. 

Moreover, and this is important, Hobson’s wording, well rid of the impediment of his private secretary, Freeman, was very plain.  As a veteran sailor with many years’ service in the West Indies, he knew the importance of plain language and how to use it in speaking to men of little education.  Lives could depend on it.

On that critical day, 5th February 1840, both documents were read to the great assembly of both Maoris and Europeans, many of whom were bi-lingual, and nobody said their meanings were any different.[i]

*    *    *    *   *

Fast forward to April 2023, 183 years later.

In challenging a statement by Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty, Joseph Mooney, National member for Awarua,[ii]  quoted the actual wording of Article Second of the Treaty: "I would suggest Kieran McAnulty has a read of Ko te tuarua (Article 2) of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the guarantee of tino rangatiratanga to 'ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani' - every single person in New Zealand,"[iii] and Mooney was exactly right.

Nevertheless, this brought a sharp ticking off from a youngster, Luke Fitzmaurice-Brown, who lectures at Victoria University of Wellington: “Joseph this is an utterly incomprehensible interpretation of Te Tiriti. Whatever you take the extent and limits of the Art 2 guarantee of tino rangatiratanga to be, there's no doubt at all (and never has been) about who it applies to,  It's a guarantee to Māori pure and simple."[iv]

 If Dr Fitzmaurice-Brown can deduce from the actual Treaty wording quoted by MP Mooney that "It's a guarantee to Māori – pure and simple", then he learnt something at University which I never learned.  Surely to nearly all other ordinary New Zealanders, it is Dr Fitzmaurice-Brown who has made “an utterly incomprehensible interpretation of Te Tiriti.”

One doesn’t have to be an expert in the Ngapuhi dialect of1840, nor the modern lingo, “te reo”, to know, beyond any possibility of doubt that the treaty wording: “tangata katoa o Nu Tirani” to whom the provisions of Article Second applied means exactly “all the people of New Zealand”, and “all’ means “all”.  That was the plain language of Captain Hobson, translated by the competent Williams to the plain language of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Draw your own conclusion, dear reader!

But it gets worse  because the Newshub headline says “Luxon retains confidence in MP who said 'every single person' in NZ guaranteed sovereignty under Treaty’”.  It makes a profound mistake in claiming that Article second, quoted by Mooney in referring to “tino rangatiratanga” said anything about sovereignty.  This was dealt with in Article first, where the chiefs “cede[d] to the Queen of England for ever the entire sovreignty [sic] of their country.”[v]  “tino rangatiratanga”,[vi] an expression used only in Article second, was the Williams’ translation of Hobson’s “possession” of “land, dwellings and property”, unequivocally assured to “all the people of New Zealand” as stated by Mooney.

National Party Leader Luxon, who is said to be studying “te reo”, responded: “I think Joseph got it wrong on this occasion.”  Hang on a minute!  Mooney quoted the actual treaty wording and Luxon says that he “got it wrong on this occasion.”  Mercifully, Luxon continued by saying that he retains confidence in MP Joseph Mooney who said all Kiwis are guaranteed tino rangatiratanga under [the] Treaty of Waitangi” - and so he jolly well should!  Indeed all his other MPs should unequivocally affirm their support for Mooney, loud and clear.

Well, I am not a politician and I refrain from making political statements but I do suggest that electors carefully weigh up this extraordinary sequence before deciding where their loyalties lie.

Amongst others who have chimed in, former Labour MP Darien Fenton said on Twitter that Mooney's comments were "embarrassing", while historian Dame Claudia Orange  told Stuff such rhetoric was how ex-National leader Don Brash "tended to argue, and it's really got no substance to it". 

A former Labout MP would say something like that, wouldn’t he, while Claudia comes in with a dig at Don Brash for good measure!  We have assessed Orange’s work elsewhere. [vii] concluding at one point that it “is speculation, not scholarship”, an assessment we stand by.

So, I say to Party Leader Luxon: If you want to have a chance of winning the next election, you should support your MPs who, like Joseph Mooney, have the courage to stand up and tell the truth.  If you stand on a few toes, brown or otherwise, in the process, it is my guess that you will win a lot more votes than you lose.


[i] Colenso’s record of proceedings, checked by Busby confirms this.  Anybody who is not familiar with this vital account cannot claim to be a “treaty scholar”! 
[ii] My own electorate for many years where I knew the erstwhile member, Begg and the family of member Hargest 
[iii] As reported by Mark Quinlivan, Newshub, 19 April 2023 
[iv] As reported 
[v] Hobson’s final English text of 4th February 
[vi]  The life, death and resurrection of “tino rangatiratanga” with a brand new meaning is a subject for another article! 
[vii] New Zealand; the fair colony”, 2nd Ed., ISBN978-0-473-53728-9, 2020, p.79 80. Refer to

Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".


Anonymous said...

Massive damage has already done with this attitude and lack of support for MPs.

Doug Longmire said...

Once again, Bruce you have shown up the enormous Treaty rewriting industry.

As you describe - the actual words of the Treaty are clear.

Also - in the Treaty, signed in 1840 in good faith, there are no "principles", there is no "partnership.

These are fictions that have been dreamed up in the years since by a variety of activists, judges, politicians etc.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear! But will the invertebrate stand by his team...???
He's not one you'd want to be in the trenches with.

Anonymous said...

Constitution Act 1986- (Replaced our 1852 constitution)

A Bill was introduced into Parliament during mid-1986, and was passed unanimously with the support of both the Labour and National parties on 13 December 1986.
The Treaty of Waitangi, which may indicate limits in our policy on majority decision-making. The law may sometimes accord a special recognition to Māori rights and interests such as those covered by Article 2 of the Treaty. And in many other cases the law and its processes should be determined by the general recognition in Article 3 of the Treaty that Māori belong, as citizens, to the whole community. In some situations, autonomous Māori institutions have a role within the wider constitutional and political system. In other circumstances, the model provided by the Treaty of Waitangi of two parties negotiating and agreeing with one another is appropriate. Policy and procedure in this area continues to evolve.

Jim said...

What anonymous said is right. I intended to vote National but certainly won’t while Luxon is leader. What a useless, pathetic, woke fellow he is. He should have supported his Treaty M P to the hilt, but is so ignorant he thought he’d throw him under a bus
Instead. Who would know why?

Peter Young said...

Thank you Bruce.

And if there is any "principle" it is surely that those bound by it (the Crown and its subjects n- all of them) must "act in the utmost good faith." Something that appears entirely absent, especially when reviewing the likes of 3/5/Affordable Waters, which is founded on the falsehoods that the Treaty requires a "partnership"; that the 'water' is a taonga or treasure to Maori alone; that what is proposed is the best way to deal with these issues; and, that what is proposed will save us all money. A lie on every front!

And, arguably, 'outside' the Treaty, what especially have Maori contributed to this infrastructure and what expertise do they bring to the table that should override not only commonsense, but also traditional democracy being: one person - one vote?

And, as for "anonymous" - the Constitution Act and our politicians, let's have it 'out' and settled once and for all, for the longer this nonsense goes on, it's dividing our Nation and we will all be the poorer for it.

Robert Arthur said...

It intrigues me that the Treaty had been planned for a while yet the English basis wording was sorted only at the last minute. William's knowledge of colloqial maori of the time would have matched or exceeded any others, including since. Circumstances are so changed for all that it is absurd that it is treated today so pedantically, seriously, and artfully. I have just read the Musket Wars. It is very apparent why many tribes were so keen to sign and thus perhaps keep themselves out of the hangi pits and their heads from sale in Sydney.
Many like Orange now have a vested interest in promoting pro maori interpretations. if the Treaty was declared a historic curiosity much feting and junkets would cease, and royalties diminish.

Anonymous said...

Exactly Robert. Nothing like looking at it through a nearly 200 year-old lens and claiming all sorts of things based on current woke, virtue signaling thought, more especially if there's a gravy train attached. Bruce has summed it up admirably over several posts; it makes sense; and it's provenance is impeccable. That said, it's served it's purpose and we've moved on, or we should have. But there are always those that will see a buck in it, arguing the contrary. After nearly two centuries of reparations and wherein no one currently alive should have any guilt or responsibility over what happened (and there were wrongs on both sides of the ledger), ought not we should now put it to a democratic vote and finalise it, one way or the other?

Anna Mouse said...

People with an agenda always use 'facts' surrounding 'events' in differing ways to attain what ever their agenda outcome may be.

They will either use one, some or all of the following to achieve their desired outcome:

Socio-political and cultural bias.
Presentism and/or Selectivism
Arguement ad nauseum (screaming over you)
Strawmanism or even a personal bias
Academic careerism.

We see these in New Zealand history, society, education and politics every single day and no one ever calls these people out.

History is and always has been most soundly agreed upon by using either archaeological and/or forensic evidence.

When people do not use these they are really just promoting their opinion and should be ignored in the face of evidential proof.

Anonymous said...

Anna Mouse: I suggest archaeology does not record all human events and that work by a number of contributors to this column (present one included) has a lot of forensic investigation behind it - well referenced.

Sue. said...

It appears your proposal that the treaty applies to both Māori and non Māori alike is based upon a single phrase in the Māori version of the treaty “ ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani'”. This is revisionist history.

The English version has “the chiefs and tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals”. The British were already British subjects and didn’t consider themselves New Zealanders; this was only adopted as a term for European settlers in the early 1950s, prior to then New Zealanders were the Māori e.g. ”the right of the New Zealanders to dispose of their land, and the right of British subjects to purchase it, were, we think, sufficiently established” (NEW ZEALAND GAZETTE AND WELLINGTON SPECTATOR, VOLUME I, ISSUE 20, 22 AUGUST 1840).

There is no recorded documentation of settlers discussing the proposed treaty and how it would affect them, nor was there any requirement for them to sign it. In short it was a treaty between Māori and the Crown, and applied to those parties, period.

Sue. said...

replace "early 1950s" with "early 1850s"in my post above. Opps!