Sunday, June 25, 2023

Peter Winsley: While people focus on the election radical change is happening without voter awareness

It is election year. Political parties are building candidate visibility – they are testing each other in the House before they clash on the hustings – they are refining existing policy and announcing new manifesto commitments.

Democracy requires free, fair and regular elections based on one person, one vote, and all votes are of equal value. It requires freedom of speech, open Government, a critical media, and the rule of law. It assumes human universality and therefore equal citizenship rights. It requires a secular Parliament and other Government institutions.

That is the way democracy is supposed to work in New Zealand. However, the reality is that radical change is now occurring with little scrutiny, and much electioneering is just a side show.

One change driver is the belief that centralization and Government control will give better outcomes than market workings, subsidiarity, individual initiative and local democracy. However, the major driver of radical change is enhancing race-based rights for Māori. It is asserted that Te Tiriti included principles, was an equal partnership between Māori and the Crown, and is an evolving document reflecting modern language, not that of 1840.

In fact, Te Tiriti states no principles. It makes Māori subjects of, not partners with, the Crown. It is constitutionally impossible for the Crown to enter into partnership with its subjects. In 1840 ‘taonga’ meant real property such as a waka or a patu, not for example, language, water, or a broadcasting spectrum.

The Waitangi Tribunal was initially set up to deal with specific grievances which, when resolved, would enable New Zealand to move forward. In fact, the Tribunal can only stay in business if it can find new grievances or amplify and complicate existing ones. Surely its “finding” that Northland Māori did not cede sovereignty reaches a nadir in legalistic tail-chasing, or is it a zenith that the Tribunal will aspire to go beyond in future? The Tribunal and Te Tiriti are now so unbounded they have “slipped the surly bonds of earth.” For example, Te Tiriti and “Treaty principles” are seen as integral to New Zealand’s space policy!

The ideology that has emerged in New Zealand is shaped by pre-colonial atavism and post-modernism, racial singularity, an enduring sense of grievance, benefit dependency, and the growth of an entitlement mentality at the expense of personal responsibility and agency. The ideology leads to absurd assertions that gain credence only because they are endlessly repeated and any criticism of them is branded as racist. Examples of such assertions include that colonization was an unmitigated disaster, that pre-European Māori lived in harmony with nature and with each other, and that traditional beliefs and “ways of knowing” such as mātauranga Māori should have equal standing with science.

Currently, all significant new legislation, government initiatives and institutions refer to Treaty or Te Tiriti “obligations” and/or “principles,” with frequent references to Crown-Māori partnerships.

New Zealand’s constitution and culture reflects both its British and Māori heritage, and the rigorous discourse, reason, evidence, and science arising from the European Enlightenment from around the late 17th to the early 19th century and from science and culture that preceded the Enlightenment. New Zealand developed an egalitarian culture early in its modern history, and liberal and inclusive Christianity also fostered and gave direction to our social progressiveness. Fruits from this mix included trade unionism, universal suffrage, and institutional innovations such as the Plunket Society.

The recent fixation with Te Tiriti and mātauranga Māori has interacted with the rise in New Zealand of post-modernism and social constructivism, in line with other countries such as the US and Canada. These philosophies argue that there is no absolute truth, and objectivity is dismissed as “naïve relativism”. This paradigm conflicts with Enlightenment-based rationalism and scientific rigour.

Government’s belief in centralisation, rather than devolution, is reflected in its Water Services Entities (“Three Waters”) legislation, and its proposed replacement for the Resource Management Act: the Natural and Built Environment and the Spatial Planning Acts. This legislation will negate local decision-making and democratic accountability and replace it with unelected, co-governed central planning committees. The draft legislation uses nebulous language and undefined Treaty obligations which will probably need to be clarified in court.

The secretly-prepared He Puapua document (2019) aims by 2040 to have effectively created two separate though overlapping governance systems. One would be based on rangatiratanga, interpreted as self-determination for Māori. The other would see more active Māori participation in government (kāwanatanga). There would be clearly defined iwi (tribal) boundaries. More Crown land would be transferred to tribes, which would be able to impose levies on water, petroleum and minerals.

He Puapua seeks biculturalism rather than multi-culturalism, though non-Māori/non-Europeans make up 25% of the total population, some 10% more than Māori. It envisages Te Reo Māori thriving, and the state sector being heavily influenced by tikanga and mātauranga Māori.

Despite assurances that He Puapua has been deferred, government agencies are actively implementing it. This has included Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand, Māori and Te Tiriti-centric education policy and curricula, the Water Entities (“Three Waters”) legislation, Māori electoral wards, and radical change in resource management legislation. The Review into the Future of Local Government (June 2023) recommends local government acting as a Tiriti partner. It seeks amendment to the Local Government Act to require councils to prioritize their capability in Te Tiriti issues and in relation to Māori values, mātauranga Māori and tikanga.

The He Puapua and wider Te Tiriti-centric ideology falls apart on close examination. The ideology assumes that race can be the core variable around which a prosperous and inclusive society can develop. There is no modern example of such a successful race-based society. Nor has any tribalistic society in the modern world delivered prosperity, good government and human rights.

What therefore should be done? The top priority is that people respect and listen to each other. A current example is the debate over criteria governing access to surgical operations. Decisions on specific operations should be made on clinical rather than ethnic grounds. However, the relationships between low socio-economic circumstances and poor health are strong and cultural differences matter.

Disparities in health outcomes across ethnicities are not a result of systemic bias within New Zealand’s health sector but instead emerge from unequal socio-economics, poor and overcrowded housing, genetic factors or lifestyle choices. Some underserved groups can be better connected to health services if more Māori and Pacific doctors are visible and available. I believe the special pathways into medical training for Māori and Pacific are a big success, others disagree.

Social wellbeing interventions must be targeted to those most in need, and their effectiveness may depend on cultural understanding. Bill English should be celebrated for the social investment model he championed. Sadly, some of the Tiriti activists (including Pakeha) are concerned more with power, mana and money than with those with the greatest need, though others are motivated by genuine desire to repair disparities.

All New Zealanders should read the Treaty/Te Tiriti as written in 1840, with the meaning that the words had at that time. Politicized twisting of the 1840 texts to support today’s agendas should be ignored.

Our school-level educational achievement is now well behind that of the leading developed countries. We need a national curriculum delivering rich knowledge and high-quality disciplinary content to all New Zealand students. This should allow young people to fully participate in an internationalized economy and society. It would help them reject divisive forces such as racialism, and to reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of social media, artificial intelligence, GM and other technologies.

The history curriculum is politicised and promotes a narrative that excludes vast swathes of New Zealand history and its multi-culturalism. The science curriculum should focus on international science. While some mātauranga Māori is science, much is best suited to social studies or civics classes. We must celebrate our great Māori scientists and technologists such as Garth Cooper, Ross Ihaka and Sir Ian Taylor who can set the tone and be the role models.

Co-governance can be branded as a new apartheid. However, it can also see local and central government work effectively with iwi on service delivery rather than political or constitutional subversion.

Finally, it would benefit all parties if constitutional issues could be resolved openly and formally rather than through assertion. For example, if New Zealand is to be renamed ‘Aotearoa’ it should be put to a referendum.

Dr Peter Winsley has worked in policy and economics-related fields in New Zealand for many years. With qualifications and publications in economics, management and literature. This article was first published HERE


Anonymous said...

It depends what you mean by co-governance. If it's 50/50 Maori self-identified, having 50% representation in all governance (i.e. over represented by 35%) that is not democracy as we know it. If it is then overlaid by final iwi determination mechanisms as in Health, 3 Waters and the revised RMAt becomes Maori governance.
However if you mean that Maori should have more inputs into their own local outcomes then yes co-governance could be great.
As for John Tamihere saying Maori own the water, how do you reconcile that with co-governance? The water is on an interminable cycle and we use it but cannot own it. As a vehicle for taking money from all the people who need it, what a wonderful scam.

Cecelia Smith said...

Enthralling reading. Most eye opening and fascinating. Thank you so much.

Robert Arthur said...

If we had an objective press, as in former times, the current and looming catastrophe would be realised by very many. Now it is only those who have succeeded in locating and who fritter time monitoring the very very few reasonably objective blogsites that acquire a reasonable grasp.

Robert Arthur said...

That 50/50 co governance can succeed for the majority common good is nonsense. The maori half act as a bloc, motivated primarily by material and (among themselves) mana gain. They have power of veto and invariably one of the other mixed faction will side with them, so that maori are certatin carry the day. The Tupuna Maunga Authority in Auckland demonstsrated this. Until mayor Brown interceded at least one of the council team had a direct maori lineage. In the current racial climate, far more likley to influence allegiance than ownership of a few shares. The TMA has generated much discontent among users of the facilities, plus court and other needlessly generated expenses

David Lillis said...

Hi Peter.
Another common-sense article from you. Above all, at this point in time we are in danger of losing our hard-won democracy or, at least, having it diluted in ways that will lead to division and bad feeling.

In some ways New Zealand has led the world and we can be particularly proud of certain achievements. For example, New Zealand became the first nation in the world where women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

The Electoral Bill granting women the right to vote was passed in 1893 and women voted in the election of that year.

Today, Maori enjoy greater representation in Parliament than their percentage representation in the total population.

While not all shortfalls in economic, education or health outcomes have been repaired, many initiatives are in place to address those problems - sometimes to the extent of favoring certain minorities more greatly than others, even others in equally significant need.

While not every aspect of our history was impeccably clean, we have done well overall, and we have created a relatively fair society where we are making genuine attempts to fix existing disparities. We should cherish such achievements and fight to retain our democratic way of life which, unfortunately, is under threat.
David Lillis

Doug Longmire said...

Excellent article, Peter.

You have described vary clearly the appalling racist division now occurring in New Zealand.
I recall that when the Waitangi Tribunal was formed we were told that it was simply a panel to hear Treaty claims to take the pressure off the law courts.
Well - the Tribunal has certainly done it's job (over and over) and has also done lots of damage.
Their deliberate misinterpretations of the original Treaty document has led to a multitude of falsehoods and creations that were never in the Treaty document itself. The Tribunal has simply rewritten history. Such falsehoods as "partnership" and "principles" are quite simply NOT in the Treaty document itself.

Any educated person looking at the date and wording of the Treaty can see quite clearly that it is a document of unity under the sovereignty of the crown. The words are clear and simple.

The entire farago of lies from the Tribunal is indeed a castle built on sand.

Anonymous said...

Apartheid is apartheid is apartheid. There is NO place for co-governance at any level in government either central or local.

Doug Longmire said...

Apartheid definition, Oxford dictionary:-

"a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race."

aka co-governance.!!

Anonymous said...

A great commentary Peter, but you lose the plot somewhat towards the end. Maori have every ability to rise to the top as they have done time and again, so the term "co-governance" should have no place in our society. We are all equal in terms of opportunity, or leastwise that is what we should strive for. Any place at the table on what is right for our country in terms of the general public good should be on merit - not identity based on age, race, or gender.