Friday, August 11, 2023

John Robinson: A message to demonstrators

For many years a proposal to divide New Zealand into two people, in direct opposition to the early call that “Now we are one people”, has been built up.  Supporters of racial division have threatened those who stand up for equality, becoming ever more active with many efforts to prevent or close down any debate of the current government policy of co-governance, in a series of determined attacks on free speech.[1] 

There has been no willingness to listen to any alternative point of view by this Government and its supporters, and thus no dialogue.  Many of the public remain unaware of what the policy means and how it is being put into action.

Once again, we challenge these zealots to explain their ideas and meet with other New Zealanders in an open forum.

That aggression and disruption have not always been the Maori way.  As one example, consider the meeting of Waikato iwi at Rangiriri on May 9-16, 1847 to consider the highly contentious idea of a separate Maori king.[2]  Although feelings were running high, there was a lengthy meeting and an ordered debate, allowing each to speak and be heard as different points of view were expressed.

Participants came over several days, and by the Thursday (May 9) some 2,200 had gathered in tents and houses, including a number of ‘Europeans’ (non-Maori New Zealanders).  Friday was devoted to eating and talking; on the Saturday afternoon, Mr. Ashwell, the clergyman, and Mr. Fenton, the magistrate, came down the river; Sunday was devoted to Christian worship.  The Monday was “devoted to a reconciliation of old hostilities”.  This was a civilised gathering, allowing time to meet together.

On the Tuesday the supporters of a Maori king came to the meeting place, bringing their new flag.  Soon after, two Union Jacks were seen on nearby hills, and the supporters of the Government filed in and took their seats. The third side of the square was filled with Maori who did not appear to have joined either party, and at the fourth side appeared the native teachers, headed by Hoera and Heta.

At the commencement of proceedings, Heta read prayers, including the prayer for the Queen, and Hoera delivered a short address on moderation and temper.  After the customary pause, Te Kereihi, from the loyal side, rose and said “Commence your talking.”  Then Hoera, who, as a teacher of religion, occupied a sort of moderator position, said “The talk will be about the flags; let them be disposed of; direct all the speeches to that end.”

During the following two days the two opposing views – of loyalty to the British Crown or the formation of a rival Maori monarchy – were debated.  There was no consensus, and on the Thursday all returned home.  Opinion was clearly divided: while the lower Waikato opposed the proposed new king, some from the upper Waikato, who were more isolated and had less contact with Europeans, were in favour of rebellion.  Even so, despite the great importance of the issues and the depth of feeling among those present there was no violence, no outright aggression of either side to the other and no shouting out any speaker.

If those Maori chiefs could act reasonably, to allow all to speak of their wishes, there is no reason why those who now call for Maori tikanga should not follow suit. 

This is the challenge to the supporters of co-governance, to follow the example set down in 1857.  Call off the mob attacks, allow all to speak their minds and explain their positions, and take your appointed place to explain your ideas.  Once chiefs could do just that, to meet and to disagree within a setting of civility.  If the policy that you support is valid and reasonable, you have nothing to fear.


[1] One recent description is at

[2] Report on this meeting, “The Native Question” in The Southern Cross of Friday, June 5, 1857; Robinson J L 2016, The kingite rebellion, Tross Publishing, pages 122-131

Dr John Robinson is a research scientist, who has investigated a variety of topics, including the social statistics of Maori.  His recognition of fundamental flaws in the interpretation of nineteenth century Maori demographics led him to consider the history of those times in several books.


Anonymous said...

A full debate is exactly what must be avoided at all costs - according to the present govt. and their Iwi supporters.

Confusion and misunderstood concepts are rife - and have done massive damage.

Will Mr Luxon see reason on this matter? He says this is not needed.


CXH said...

Really, open debate? What planet or century are you from. As they say, the science is settled. The way forward is to important to take allowance of differing ideas. The elite know what is best for us and have no interest in discussion. What would we know, especially if we disagree. So it is all name calling, backed by violence if we persist. All backed by the power of the state.

We look back at our history with wonder at what was considered the norm in our past. Our future generations will look back in disbelief. Assuming they are allowed we'd to look back, which is getting more and more doubtful with each passing day.

We need to stop being sheep. Become the sheepdog against the wolves. Debate when debated. Dish out abuse when abused. Strike back when struck.

Murray Reid said...

John, in your opening paragraphs you refer to a 1847 meeting, yet your final paragraph puts the date as 1857.
Obviously just a typo, but which is correct?