Monday, March 25, 2024

Frank Newman: Update -“Book burning” at the Hutt City Council

On the 5th of March, I wrote about the Hutt City Council removing copies of
a booklet called The Treaty of Waitangi – An Explanation by Sir Apirana Ngata from their community “hubs”. The booklet was included as an insert in the Hutt News in early February. It was part of a nationwide campaign that has delivered 1.1 million copies.

Sir Apirana Ngata’s Explanation was written in 1922. It was considered of such importance that in 1963 the Ministry of Maori Affairs translated the work into English and distributed it to every Maori household in NZ. Given the current debate about the meaning of the treaty, and the high regard with which Sir Apirana Ngata was held and is still held (his portrait appears on our $50 banknote), the NZCPR considered it a useful contribution to the debate.

An article by Carwyn Jones appearing in Spinoff supports our view. He says, "Apirana Ngata’s explanation can form a useful part of our discussion…We should be encouraging people to share information about Te Tiriti.”

However, not everyone is happy about the work being distributed, including a senior manager within the Hutt City Council.

What we now know is that it was an unnamed senior manager who directed staff to remove Nagta’s Explanation. We understand the Council CEO, Jo Miller, was on leave at the time. I have asked for a copy of the directive, but the Council's "Information Management Team" has yet to provide the information.

The fact that one of her staff issued the directive does not exonerate or diminish Jo Miller’s role in this matter. In an email of 27 February, she took ownership of the decision, saying,

"We generally do not support the dissemination of information of this nature in our official buildings. The insert produced by your organisation spread a very particular political viewpoint and without counterbalance, was viewed as spreading misinformation. I stand by my staff regarding this operational matter."

Jo Miller says The Explanation is misinformation, but doesn’t say why.

The insert is a word-for-word reproduction of Ngata’s work. To label something misinformation when it is a word-for-word recital is lunacy. 

Perhaps Jo Miller thinks the 1963 translation by M R Jones is not a true and fair reflection of Ngata’s words? (Believe it or not, an anonymous individual has made that assertion.)

Clearly, the Ministry of Māori Affairs had high regard for M R Jones when they commissioned him to translate the work. This is how the Encyclopedia of New Zealand describes him.

“An accomplished Māori orator with a keen interest in the preservation and development of the language, Jones was for many years the Māori news announcer on national radio. With Pei Te Hurinui, he worked on revising and expanding Ngā mōteatea, Ngata's collection of waiata. He was examiner for the University Entrance Māori examination, chairman of the committee which revised H. W. Williams's Māori dictionary, and a member of the management committee of the Māori journal Te Ao Hou. A council member of the Polynesian Society from 1939, he became president in 1955. He was presented to Queen Elizabeth II at Waitangi in 1963.”

The ability of Jones as a translator is beyond doubt.

Then there is the absurd assertion by Jo Miller that the publication lacked counterbalance. Presumably, she is of the view that modern-day reinterpretations of the Treaty also need to be published with counterbalancing arguments? The suggestion is laughable, and the Advertising Standards Authority makes it clear that advocacy advertising does not require counterbalance.

The claims of misinformation and counterbalance are comical nonsense.

The real reason why a senior manager within the council ordered staff to remove The Explanation is almost certainly because he/she/they did not like what Ngata had to say.

Maybe they did not like this:

“These are but a few words but they indicate a complete cession. The main purport [of the Treaty] was the transferring of the authority of the Maori chiefs for making laws for their respective tribes and sub-tribes under the Treaty of Waitangi to the Queen of England for ever.”

Or this:

“The Treaty…made the one law for the Maori and the Pakeha. If you think these things are wrong and bad then blame our ancestors who gave away their rights in the days when they were powerful..”

Or this:

 "British Law has been the greatest benefit bestowed by the Queen on the Maori people." 

Or this:

“[A]ll the Maori people would receive protection…against invasion by foreign powers… When we look at ourselves we realise the full significance of this protection… The Treaty found the strong committing outrageous acts against the weak, the chiefs against the commoner, the Pakeha against the Maori, and such acts were breaches of the law… according to the British code of law adopted as the law for both the Pakeha and the Maori under the provisions of, ‘and imparts to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects’.  This article represents the greatest benefit bestowed upon the Maori people… British Law has been the greatest benefit bestowed by the Queen on the Maori people.”

Perhaps Jo Miller should have given this matter some more thought before leaping in to defend the actions of a staff member who seems to have no respect for Section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act 1990 which states: 

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”

Previous column: HERE >>>


Robert Arthur said...

Barely a whimper in the msm. All still firmly locked into pre election biasses. With so much pro treaty reinterpretation now about, it is absurd than one counter view should require specific individual accompnying counter.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.... There is at least one senior membrr of the HCC management structure who has a direct line to the maraes in Wsiwhetu and Wainuiomata. It may not have been him... But HCC are very enthrall to Te Atiawa who are based at those marae... You just need to atten community boards and council meetings in Hutt to know that.

Anonymous said...

Frank, keep the pressure on them ( jo Miller and co). This is the way to out these true racists who are trying very hard to protect their insideous agendas. Great work but we the good people can't rest on our laurels we have to support and help Great people like frank who are standing up to those who seek to destroy our democracy.

CXH said...

Perhaps the answer is more basic. These managers are racist and feel the words of a Maori should be shutdown at every opportunity.

Ewan McGregor said...

Jo Miller says, "The insert produced by your organisation spread a very particular political viewpoint and without counterbalance, was viewed as spreading misinformation." So, where does the 'counterbalance' come from? It can hardly be expected to be included in the insert, and certainly can't come if the insert is not first published. It's nonsense. Secondly, it is an insult to Ngata to refer to his work as 'misinformation. This is an action designed to frustrate the expression of free speech and warrants total condemnation.

Empathic said...

What appalling, racist disrespect for one of the greatest Maori statesmen and intellectuals NZ has seen.

Ken S said...

Why are we importing the stupidity of the likes of Jo Miller (and there are plenty of other examples) when we have more than enough of the home grown variety?

Don said...

I agree with CXH and his suggestion that HCC managers are racists but for reasons the opposite from those he suggests. As a ratepayer I resent attending functions where the Mayor and his colleagues insist on beginning their orations with a few incomprehensible sentences in Maori. Publications from HCC are well seeded with Maori and often in the prime place over-riding the English version. This would be quite acceptable if our population had a higher proportion of Maori but since all Maori in the HCC area are fluent in English and a miniscule proportion understand the Maori version it seems to be a ludicrous gesture. Furthermore Sir Aparana Ngata was one of our most noble and admirable New Zealanders and to withdraw his wise opinions is demeaning to all of us.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I agree in full.
I live in Napier and the Napier council is using minimal maori language.
Maybe, because some people have protested against the use of it.
I honestly can't read Swahily and wrote to the council.
Have they taken this on board?? Yes! I think so.
Either language, be it maori or English, but, please, don't spike news with a foreign language.