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National identity

Written By: - Date published: 9:52 am, November 24th, 2014 - 49 comments
Categories: history, identity - Tags: , ,

I missed it at the time, but about a week ago the Waitangi Tribunal released a major report. The excellent Andrew Geddis was quick off the mark with a useful and challenging summary:

…the real money passage comes at pages 525-526:

Our essential conclusion, therefore, is that the rangatira did not cede their sovereignty in February 1840; that is, they did not cede their authority to make and enforce law over their people and within their territories. Rather, they agreed to share power and authority with the Governor. They and Hobson were to be equal, although of course they had different roles and different spheres of influence. The detail of how this relationship would work in practice, especially where the Māori and European populations intermingled, remained to be negotiated over time on a case-by-case basis. But the rangatira did not surrender to the British the sole right to make and enforce law over Māori. It was up to the British, as the party drafting and explaining the treaty, to make absolutely clear that this was their intention. Hobson’s silence on this crucial matter means that the Crown’s own self-imposed condition of obtaining full and free Māori consent was not met.

Wow – that sounds pretty major! The Treaty wasn’t actually the mechanism by which Māori accepted that the British Crown could take over running the motu known as Aotearoa/New Zealand!! Māori assumed that they would retain the capacity to make and enforce their own laws for themselves!!! What then flows out of that historical finding?

If we do accept that picture, then it really poses a challenge to us. Because if we want the story we’ve come to tell ourselves about the Treaty and what it means for who we are to be true, then we can’t just keep on keeping on as we’ve done. Nor can we resolve the breaches of the Treaty simply through payments of money, transfer of resources, and apologies. Rather, it calls for a more radical reworking of the sharing of power over at least some aspects of New Zealand between the Crown and Māori in order to make good the Treaty’s original vision.

And that, it seems to me, is the real importance of the Waitangi Tribunal’s Report and its conclusions. It provides us with a choice – you can either have your comfortable and ennobling history of the Treaty as the founding document of New Zealand, or you can have the current New Zealand State in which the Crown has the right to exercise ultimate sovereignty over all aspects of life within it. But you can’t have both.

There is much, much more. Go read Geddis’ full piece on Pundit, and plenty of other followup summarised by the comprehensive Bryce Edwards.

It is not likely that John Key, with his fantasy version of NZ history, will be interested in acknowledging the ramifications of this finding. Instead we will have an expensive and superficial circus about our flag. But when it comes to the matter of our national identity, this really is a defining issue. Exploring it will be up to some future government.

49 comments on “National identity ”

  1. Enough is Enough 1

    This really opens the door for the Maori party and the opportunity to give themselves relevance.

    National have ignored this and Labour will be too scared of upsetting the “Waitakere Man” to do anything meaningful.

    The Maori party can jump on this issue, cut their ties with the government and create a real movement.

  2. Sanctuary 2

    What is the point of this report? It is a complete waste of taxpayers money. What possible useful outcome does it serve?

    I guess that this ruling is of interest to those on the treaty gravy train, ivory tower academics and give false hope to various assorted Maori sovereignty advocates but it forgets that while de jure is all very interesting, de facto is what counts when the rubber hits the road. For example, Gerard Omiti might claim his Maori passports are valid, but he’ll still go to jail for fraud and the dupes who buy his passports will still get deported for overstaying.

    • weka 2.1

      Telling the truth, yep a waste of time. /sarc

    • You have absolutely no idea what goes on at the tribunal or the supreme importance of it if you think it’s a gravy train.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen another workplace with that much unpaid overtime being clocked in, it’s played a critical part in truth and reconciliation for Maori, and the settlements proposed have done a good shake at evening up the economy and making New Zealand a fair place to live. I don’t see how you can look at the overall work the Tribunal has done with anything but pride if you’re:

      a) Aware of the actualities of New Zealand history.
      b) Not some flavour of denialist regarding structural racism, ie. you acknowledge that due to the way colonisation happened in New Zealand that Maori are dealing with great historical injustice and in many cases economic and/or political disadvantage.

  3. weka 3

    One of the significances here is that the middle class commentariat will now push for discussion about this more broadly. Māori of course have been talking about this for a long time. Hopefully this will be a second wave of decolonisation where more Pākehā start to take it seriously after all the work that was done in the 80s.

    • Sanctuary 3.1

      “…Hopefully this will be a second wave of decolonisation…”

      Maori need to once and for all forget any idea they can turn the clock back and create some sort of proto-racist parallel state permanently anchored in some pie-eyed interpretation of the past.

      Take a walk down Queen street or go to the Avondale markets. Bi-culturalism is extinct in the wild and exists only a dangerous myth in the rarified airs of our ruling elites. Many fourth, fifth and sixth generation Pakeha now feel as much or more part of this land as any Maori. The idea that Maori have any stronger prior claim is regarded by many Pakeha as culturally offensive.

      If it was ever put to a popular vote the whole treaty settle process would be shut down yesterday. That is the political reality. The whole treaty settlement process was imposed by elite consensus on a reluctant population on the basis that a medium term exercise to right the wrongs of confiscation and losses of colonisation was essential in order for us to peacefully move forward as a nation. That deal should not be usurped by trouble makers and Maori sovereignty advocates intent on trying to alter the results of the Land Wars by litigation.

      The government needs to be clear. The settlement of New Zealand by non-Polynesians since 1840 is irrevocable. The universal suffrage and the absolute sovereignty of parliament are not negotiable.

      Dwelling in the past to suggest otherwise is to play a very dangerous game. In an age where right wing populism as a reaction to an imposed elite economic consensus is on the rise does anyone really want to offer a political opportunity to anyone willing to grab it a chance to mobilise one-nation Pakeha nationalism against emboldened Maori sovereignty radicals? No good would come of that, mark my words.

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        The extraordinary thing is how the report simply stops at the point of saying that Maori never signed away sovereignty. Well there is the promise of a further report at some time in the future – but in doing so it leaves far more unsaid than said.

        By definition there can only be one supreme sovereign authority in a nation. It is in fact more or less the definition of a nation. By this statement therefore the Tribunal is implying that the Crown never obtained legitimate and supreme sovereignty.

        You have to wonder why they could bring not themselves to just say this.

        • The Tribunal can’t prove a negative, they can only disprove a positive. They can say that the Crown did not negotiate its sovereign authority through the Treaty. It’s not actually their place to say that the Crown has no sovereignty, as it’s only in their remit to provide information and guidance on what the treaty says.

          (And also as a crown agency they would be making a bit of a paradox in drawing that conclusion, as if a crown agency says the crown has no legal standing in New Zealand, if they are correct, neither does their own ruling)

          IMO they stopped at the correct point. It is for constitutional scholars and news sources to then go “oh, the Treaty doesn’t do what the Crown totally thought it did. Maybe we should reconsider our constitution.”

          • RedLogix 3.1.1.1.1

            Thank you.

            • Tracey 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Red

              The legal aspects which include matthews explanation above and one I have been trying to make are of at least equal importance as the historical observations you have been making. Unless we understand ALL aspects we run the risk of making the matter worse notwithstanding good intention.

              • RedLogix

                While Mathew’s comment is useful and logical – it clearly states that it is not the whole answer. He explicitly says that there is a whole lot of important matters left unsaid.

                So given that the Tribunal has not given us a whole answer – and Mathew has explained why – who do you think will?

      • marty mars 3.1.2

        “Maori need to once and for all forget any idea they can turn the clock back and create some sort of proto-racist parallel state permanently anchored in some pie-eyed interpretation of the past.”

        This does seem to be the big fear for some but really it isn’t based upon any facts or logic imo. The clock can’t be turned back and I cannot hear voices asking for it to be turned back. But we can go forward as the quoted portion of the report says,

        “The detail of how this relationship would work in practice, especially where the Māori and European populations intermingled, remained to be negotiated over time on a case-by-case basis.”

        “negotiated over time” – key phase there that should allay any fears.

    • Tracey 3.2

      did you get a chance to read my suggestion yesterday for an elected maori president to replace governor general?

      everyone votes but only maori candidates can stand. like a monarchy figurehead. not just anyone can be king or queen of England.

      would this be of any use as a way to publicly and constitutionally try and restore mana and honour this aspect of the treaty?

      not meant as lipservice … or patronizing or the only change needed

      • RedLogix 3.2.1

        No I didn’t spot it. But it’s a fine suggestion. I don’t see it as lipservice at all.

        Another one I would like to see is moving Guy Fawkes to Matariki. It’s not original idea but would be a decent small step in the right direction. Symbolic yes – but even the debate it would arouse would be worth having.

        • Tracey 3.2.1.1

          thanks. i meant the question weka in particular but dont mi d who else replies

        • Mr Nobody 3.2.1.2

          Why move Guy Fawkes which would cause a big wah wah. Why not just celebrate both?

          One difference I would make though is make Matariki an official public holiday.

          • RedLogix 3.2.1.2.1

            That’s the point – it would be a big wah wah – but a completely symbolic one. It might shift a lot of people’s thinking.

            • Mr Nobody 3.2.1.2.1.1

              I think you would find you would simply end up turning a lot of people off and adding to the “conflict” between NZ’s various cultures.

              By leaving Guy Fawkes alone you affect nobody however by recognizing Matariki and making it a public Holiday a instead enshrine it as being more significant add to the Kiwi culture.

  4. Weka any “second wave of de-colonisation” while have to take its chances against a ” second wave of re-colonisation” of NZ by US and China.
    Practically the Maori Party will have a marginal advantage in picking up crumbs under the Cabinet Table on behalf of the Iwi Leaders Forum.
    Most Maori will miss out as iwi leaders these days disregard most Maori.
    That will leave most Maori open to lining up with the rest of us to fight the title bout.

  5. Ross 5

    Whatever.

    None of this hot air matters. What happened in the past happened in the past in accordance with the customs of the time. That there was any kind of treaty was utterly against the custom of the time. That is the relevance of the treaty, not who did what to whom and who didn’t pay. There was a treaty. End of story. On the Maori side at the time, for example, there was this type of thinking:

    …having arrived in Wangaroa we took possession of the land in accordance with our customs, and we caught the people. We caught all the people, not one escaped, some ran away from us, those we killed and others were killed but what of that. It was in accordance with our custom.

    Wi Naera Pomare

    …talking about the taking of Rekohu/Wharekauri/Chatham Islands and the slaughter of the Moriori. That was British custom too. That’s how we lived our lives in the nineteenth century. That is how the British were still conducting themselves in Australia at the time. Yet here we had at least the attempt of a treaty. I don’t believe the process was as cynical as others say. If there was no intention of honoring a treaty, then why bother with one at all? It was still the custom of the time to simply slaughter and take.

    There was a treaty conceived, composed, translated, debated and agreed to. As far as I know this was the first time in human history that this had happened. Now you’re telling me that there were mistakes? Duh. Whatever. There was a Treaty!!!!.

    BY endlessly arguing over the minutiae of events that are long in the past we are condemning ourselves to live there. Where we are now and how we all move on from there, that is what deserves a real money passage on pages 525 – 526 of a heavily funded government report.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      🙄

    • RedLogix 5.2

      It was still the custom of the time to simply slaughter and take.

      But that is not the whole story Ross. I’ve spent a fair bit of time annoying people here by re-visiting the Musket Wars – and been thoroughly beaten up for it.

      But my reason in doing so was not to diminish Maori in any sense (the merest glance at European history tell us that Pakeha have not the slightest scrap of moral high ground to posture from either – war, rape and pillage was a commonplace). But the most interesting thing is that by 1840 – reading the accounts of Colenso about the signing of the Treaty – reveal a very real desire by the Rangitira to make a break with this dark past.

      This combined with their very real interest in Christianity, in developing commerce and trade with the wider world can be read as a peoples in the midst of very rapid change – and looking for ways to adapt.

      In that sense I believe the Treaty was conceived in good faith by both sides.

      • Ross 5.2.1

        Too often this discussion devolves into us against them. You are right. I didn’t mean to imply any fault in Maori by using the quote. It is simply the best expression of the thinking of the time, by both sides, that I have ever read. Both sides were looking for a better way. The changes Maori went through in adapting to the new realities were incredible achievements and should be lauded in our history. That the British were also coming to their senses and understanding that taking was inefficient, ruinously expensive and unnecessary – quite apart from just plain wrong – is another golden element of our (shared) history. We have always prided ourselves in leading the way in the world. Why do we choose to continually devalue and trash this world first: the treaty.

        • Tracey 5.2.1.1

          by beaten up… he means disagreed with

        • marty mars 5.2.1.2

          No Ross it isn’t the best description imo

          “It was still the custom of the time to simply slaughter and take.”

          This is just not true, for instance marriage was a time honored, traditional, successful way to co-join different peoples – it worked because of the pulling together of whakapapa and the desire to not simply slaughter and take.

          red – you were the one that was annoyed because your analysis was not agreed to by some.

          • Ross 5.2.1.2.1

            Mm,

            …having arrived in Wangaroa we took possession of the land in accordance with our customs, and we caught the people. We caught all the people, not one escaped, some ran away from us, those we killed and others were killed but what of that. It was in accordance with our custom.

            Wi Naera Pomare

            • marty mars 5.2.1.2.1.1

              Yes Ross I read that thanks.

              There are numerous examples where members of an attacking force let those about to be attacked know so they could escape – that was in accordance with custom too. I know, shock horror there were quite a few customs – sometimes contradictory, sometimes overlapping, and sometimes beyond our understanding – imo cultures are often like that.

            • RedBaronCV 5.2.1.2.1.2

              Not all of them were killed Ross – personally I’m the product of some “in the bushes” activity in that geographical area.

              They also adapted their customs- in the annual raiding party (away match between Northland & Auckland) Ngapuhi had guns first so the Auckland tribes ran away. To even the score Ngapuhi used to ship Henry Williams the missionary with them. Once the firing stared Henry would get up and with much Korero talk them all out of it – so mana was maintained all around. I’m sure that great trouble was taken not to hit the referee…

    • Tracey 5.3

      yea lets just argue english law instead

      contra proferentum

      Discuss

      • RedLogix 5.3.1

        Because logically you can only have one supreme source of authority in a nation, either:

        1. The Crown based NZ State is the sovereign power de-facto.

        OR

        2. Maori never signed away sovereignty in 1840 and therefore have been the legitimate power in this country all the time since.

        It really has to be one or the other. A binary choice. Is anyone realistically suggesting that NZ is actually a nation with two separate sovereign powers that are co-existing at the same time?

        The standard ToW interpretation of a partnership between Maori and the Crown is ruled out by option 2 above – because in that scenario the Crown does not exist as the supreme authority, nor can any of the system of legal governance that flows from it have any legitimacy. (We discussed these definitions earlier.)

        A legal system is a component of governance. It does not exist in isolation. Legitimacy of governance derives entirely from the authority of the sovereign power it is dependent on. If that is lacking – then pointing to a legal principle which is part of it carries no weight. It would be like pointing to say the American 2nd Amendment as a legal defense in a New Zealand Court.

        In other words the principle of contra proferentum is useful principle (and a very good one at that) only as long as you are operating in a governance where it applies. But here in this case we are applying it in a situation which takes that applicability away – and the whole thing vanishes up a logical rabbit-hole.

        That is not the whole story – but it is a consistent and reasonable response.

        • marty mars 5.3.1.1

          “It really has to be one or the other.”

          except the report says,

          “They and Hobson were to be equal, although of course they had different roles and different spheres of influence. The detail of how this relationship would work in practice, especially where the Māori and European populations intermingled, remained to be negotiated over time on a case-by-case basis.”

          I struggle to see why that is so difficult to understand.

          • RedLogix 5.3.1.1.1

            That’s fine – you’re going for the two equal, peer type sovereignties. It’s not so hard to understand when the Treaty was signed in 1840 because at that time Maori and Pakeha societies were very distinct. It was quite feasible to see them as separate.

            No doubt each Rangatira signed in the full expectation that he would retain his mana over the iwi he was responsible for, the people, resources and so on.

            And that the Crown would have the same role regarding the Pakeha.

            But given the enormous changes, the complete intermingling of peoples since – – I honestly struggle to see quite how that works in 2014. Maybe I’m just lacking imagination.

        • I’d note that the treaty does still grant the crown Kawanatanga, however you interpret that, so it’s not correct to say that Maori are the only legitimate legal authority in the country.

          To be honest anyone who’s read an accurate translation of the treaty has known this whole time that legally, we’re in an interesting gray area, where Maori signatories have agreed not to exercise sovereignty over European citizens of New Zealand, have agreed to allow some settlement within legal limits, but have not ceded their own rights as people or as chiefs, only accepted a similar chiefly authority to be placed over european citizens and to have to deal with that authority as equals. (You could argue that our modern representative government works somewhat similarly to this in practice)

          Where we go from here is a question that can and should only be answered by an unbiased constitutional review that is ready and willing to shake up the New Zealand government if it’s the correct thing to do.

          • RedLogix 5.3.1.2.1

            Given that iwi are the largest social unit in Maori society and that in 1840 the Rangatira almost certainly did not imagine they were surrendering the slightest scrap of mana to any other iwi – then how many separate sovereigns do you think exist in this country at the present time?

          • Tracey 5.3.1.2.2

            Matthew, thanks for yourcontributions.

            I have suggested a Maori President elected by all registered voters to replace the govenor general. Not by any means as a pancea but to begin the acknowledgement and restoration of mana aspect.

            I also wondered about a kind of version of a house of lords with jurisdiction limited to certain matters, subordinate to parliament but with certain voting rights.. And thereafter the removal of Maori seats but not the Maori roll.

        • Tracey 5.3.1.3

          You may proclaim your version a consistent and reasonable response but that doesnt make it so.

          In order to ascertain the legal validity of the Treaty, to ascertain who gave or received what, you apply the legal principles. That is what the Waitangi Tribunal has done. It has used historical analysis and legal principle including contra proferentum to determine that Maori did not cede sovereignty.

          You are, with respect confusing yourself. The analysis is to determine what the treaty granted or removed or whether it had any validity at all. The conclusion is sovereignty was not given away.

          You appear to be taking the conclusion, removing the Treaty as a result, and applying an historical matrix to suggest that sovereignty was given because it helped both sides.

          Your questions about where to now, in practical terms, imo, is a crucial one, but your prior analysis I believe is flawed.

  6. coaster 6

    What a potential mess and disaster for nz. Some stones shouldnt be looked under and this is one.

  7. adam 7

    So the war that starts 5 years after the signing of the treaty makes more sense to white NZ now?

    I live in hope.

    People don’t start wars for the hell of it, the New Zealand wars did not roll on for 60 odd years because Maori are a warrior culture bent on making war. The wars were like many colonial wars, wars for survival. Because at the end of the day, land = resources = power.

  8. DS 8

    If the Maori Chiefs did not cede law-making power in 1840, then the New Zealand Parliament as it currently operates is illegitimate. If the New Zealand Parliament is illegitimate, the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 is illegitimate. If the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 is illegitimate, then the Waitangi Tribunal itself is illegitimate – for what is the Waitangi Tribunal but a creation of Pakeha Power which they shouldn’t have had? If the Waitangi Tribunal is illegitimate, it lacks the authority to determine whether the Maori Chiefs in 1840 ceded sovereignty.

    All in all, a nice little paradox.

    • Tracey 8.1

      If you continue your circle, not only the tribunal doesnt exists but neither do any prior laws including confiscation of maori land, so back it all goes. You cant ring off your paradox at a position convenient to a certain view.

      • DS 8.1.1

        Of course the land grabs would be illegitimate. It’s just that there would be no-one with the authority to call them so, including the entire court system and the Waitangi Tribunal.

        The Tribunal really is trying to have its constitutional cake and eat it too.

  9. Paul 9

    Do you support NZ’s involvement in the TPP agreement?
    The Herald is asking for your views and comments
    Presently 6 in favour , 38 against.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11363630

  10. Dont worry. Be happy 10

    Hold your noses and visit the Herald. They are running a poll on whether NZ should sign the TPPA.

  11. I personally think that at the end of the day, whoever takes the seat just needs to put a little effort and compassion into his work and look out for all the people that he can. I mean a lot of this nonsense that they’re debating on comes from arguments that should be left in storage a long time ago instead of being constantly dragged out to no solution…

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  • Speech to LGNZ Conference
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  • Prime Minister's Speech to NZIIA Annual Conference
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