Ihumatao not a Springbok Tour moment

This is largely a rebuttal of a column penned by Glenn McConnell for Stuff.

There are several key facets of the Springboks Tour 1981 that simply do not reflect in the Ihumatao protests:

  1. The Springbok Tour was about sending a message to the apartheid regime of South Africa that there is no place for apartheid in the world; that if they insist on choosing sports teams based on skin colour and not their ability to play the game, South Africa’s isolation will be long and miserable
  2. It was about telling the world that New Zealanders are better than supporting apartheid regimes
  3. The police response has been nothing like the Springbok tour – in case Mr McConnell failed to notice the documentaries that have screened on television about the tour
  4. No one is actively denying that Ihumatao has significant indigneous and early settler history – the dispute is about the fact that the land is meant to be getting handed over and even the local kamuatua and kua are satisfied with the arrangements in place

Institutionalized racism still exists in New Zealand. We still see flashes of it sometimes in disturbingly high places in the New Zealand political structure as well as pages on Facebook promoting division. But those flashes are more the acts of people who refuse to recognize the line where freedom of speech of speech reverts to a racist discourse. New Zealand is no different from any other nation: all of them have racists, people with a problem about the ethnic diversification of society. Sad people with a problem about someone’s skin colour.

But this is not about that. This is about addressing what to do with land that has a bit more history than probably most of New Zealand actually knows about. Land that has had both Maori and European settlement on it. And of the grievance factor, I conducted searches of several documents from the Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the Crown and Ngati Whatua. They included a search of the Summary of the Dead of Settlement, the Deed of Settlement between Ngati Whatua and the Deed of Settlement: Properties. I found only one very brief mention of Ihumatao in The Deed of Settlement. The oral record of the area’s history is well documented. It is not like Ihumatao was unknown to Maori or to Europeans when the settlement was signed in 2011. The documents are available on the New Zealand Government website.

New Zealand was a nation utterly divided by the Springbok tour. Many of the generation of politicians who have left Parliament in the last decade or so were leaders of the protests – Helen Clark, Keith Locke, Rod Donald, among others. The rugby fans were there to see a match being played in a sporting code that was still stuck in the 19th Century. Several years earlier there were African nations threatening the International Olympic Committee with a boycott of the Olympics if New Zealand was not sanctioned for hosting racist rugby tours.

Mr McConnell seems to have misjudged the audience or is only committing to looking at a warped cross section through the community. Whilst Green and some Labour M.P.’s have gone to attend the protests, just as many as well as New Zealand First M.P.’s have stayed away. Nor have National or David Seymour of the A.C.T. Party attended any of the protests. And I do not see or hear a ground swell of anger rising in the background as there most certainly would have been around the Springbok Tour.

I have received commentary about the Amnesty International involvement at Ihumatao. I wish to reiterate that contrary and to the probable disappointment of some people involved in the occupation, Amnesty has to remain strictly neutral, which it is doing. It is there to observe actions and ensure that both the Police and occupants recognize human rights law.


Ihumatao occupation: A skate on thin ice

Ihumatao. An area near Mangere with a rich volcanic history as part of the Auckland volcanic field and overlain with an equally rich human history, bearing evidence of both Maori inhabitation as well as early European inhabitation.

As New Zealand struggles with its shortage of housing stock Ihumatao has become a flash point. Protesters are wanting to protect the land and Fletchers Construction who own it and want to commence construction of a subdivision, are reaching what will probably be the climax of a three year occupation. Police have been asked to clear the occupied land, but in doing so have attracted the attention of activists, who have further delayed the ending of the occupation.

The older activists might remember back to a time at Bastion Point where Police and the New Zealand Army were instructed to clear land of occupiers following an occupation that lasted 507 days. The occupation was the climax in a long running saga of grievances, questionable occupations and confiscations by the Crown that dated back to the 1800’s. It was finally handed back to Ngati Whatua in the 1980’s with compensation for the past wrongs committed as part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlements process.

Ihumatao has significant archaeological and geological importance in telling the story of the Auckland volcanic field and the inhabitation of the land by Maori prior to European settlement. It features Maori stone gardens, sections of original forest and land whose use by Maori and Europeans for farming helps to determine the chronology of human arrival. Ihumatao was farmed privately for 150 years before being sold to Fletchers for the development of the subdivision that has caused the current stand off to occur.

Fletchers say that they have spent considerable time trying to talk to Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL)about reaching some sort of agreement over use of the land. SOUL have occupied it since 2016 in order to stop the development of the 480 house subdivision. It is noted that Iwi have been involved with Fletchers in planning the development, which suggests to me a degree of understanding has been reached between them. How much of this protest then is actually driven by Maoridom as opposed to activists?

Thus far the Police have acted with restraint. The spokesperson for the Police at the protest has said that on the whole protesters have been very good and only a very small number have been problematic. Small factions of activists however have tried more radical, disruptive action to which the Police can only reasonably respond to by arresting for moving on those involved. Such actions have included blocking part of a motorway, and chaining themselves to vehicles. Such actions are not going to help the overall protest or the achievement of the bigger goal of bringing this to a peaceful resolution.

Some people have incorrectly considered the presence of Amnesty International staff at the protest to be an indicator of Amnesty support for the protest. That is not the case. Amnesty staff are there in a neutral capacity to ensure that due process between Police and protesters is followed by both.

The state of Maori health investment: Not all that healthy

The Ministry that governs Maori Affairs, Te Puni Kokiri is under fire after a tribunal released its findings into why Maori health continues to consistently under perform. Te Puni Kokiri was the subject of a damning assessment by the Waitangi Tribunal Health Services and Outcomes Inquiry that found it had systemically abused its responsibilities under the Treaty of Waitangi to Maori. And as the dust slowly begins to settle, the ghosts in the closet from the failings of several successive Governments are starting to emerge.

Te Puni Kokiri was found in breach by the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal on grounds of having ignored the principles of good governance and active protection.

But it is more than just a breach of two principles that the Ministry should have known about, understood and respected the purpose of. It is also about the billions of dollars over the last 20 years that have been invested into Maori health, about the relationship of Maori on the subject of health and the Crown which is responsible for funding and resourcing, but also setting objectives, and the policies to give effect to those objectives.

In short this is a substantial red flag that has been waved at Maori health. It is one that will unsettle a lot of people in Iwi and hapu, in the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards. I expect that the Minister of Health, David Clark, will issue a media statement or two to fend off the media and answer initial questions. But deep down he must be thinking “how do I undo 2 decades worth of badly invested money and resources? Do I need to set up a Maori Health panel or other body and if so how?”

For me though, some of the problems are staggeringly obvious. This is entirely why we have performance monitoring of government agencies. This is entirely why performance targets exist and when they are not the relevant officials find out why and make sure that they start being met. The fact that such obviously needed monitoring is not happening makes me wonder if there is a larger, more systemic problem in how we govern this country because it is not nuclear physics.

I can totally understand the anger and the frustration that must be coursing through the health workers in the front line. Te Puni Kokiri was meant to conduct reviews on a regular basis of District Health Boards to make sure that they were meeting their responsibilities to Maori. Between 1993 and 2004 only four reviews were carried out despite consistently poor performance outputs, and no mention has been made of reviews since then.

What needs to happen is that the management of Te Puni Kokiri are put on notice. Hire a statutory manager to oversee how those changes that are recommended are implemented and send packing anyone who cannot or will not get with the programme. Maori have every right to feel like they and their whanau, their mokopuna have been failed.

So too, does the New Zealand taxpayer who will rightfully wonder what went on.

Is Hobsons Pledge a hate group?

Today it was announced that the Maori Council wants Hobsons Pledge to be investigated for hate speech. The call comes after concerns about an accumulating body of commentary suggesting Maori are somehow more privileged and entitled than other New Zealanders.

So who are Hobsons Pledge (H.P)?

H.P. are a group which various New Zealand politicians have been linked to, including former National Party leader Dr Don Brash. The organization is named after Commodore James Hobson, who signed the Treaty of Waitangi on behalf of the British Crown. Their purpose is to oppose alleged Maori favouritism, citing concerns about how much public funding their causes receive, that the Treaty of Waitangi grievance settlement process is some sort of gravy train and that the accepted history of Maoridom is revisionist. Their Twitter account description says that they advocate for a New Zealand in which all citizens have the same rights irrespective of where they or their ancestors came from, or when they arrived in New Zealand.

I personally find their conduct to be borderline, divisive and have tried not to give their social media any of my time. H.P. have a Facebook page on which they frequently post. A quick survey of the posts yesterday showed comments of an angry or ridiculing nature on nearly every one.

Hobsons Pledge ignore the social context in which much of the perceived grievance occurs. I wonder when it comes up how the British settlers would have felt if the roles were reversed and the Maori were coming to take their land. I wonder how history would have viewed incidents like Parihaka where hundreds of colonial soldiers were sent to occupy lands and destroy much of the village. Or what about the Wairau Affray where Maori had been coming to survey the land and had reneged on conditions agreed to in negotiations, like the New Zealand Company allegedly did.

I utterly refute the idea that the Treaty of Waitangi is a grievance gravy train. Over the course it has run thus far, six of the seven major Iwi have been able to reach settlements with the Crown – Ngai Tahu, Ngati Porou, Tainui, Ngati Whatua, Ngati Tuwharetoa, and Ngati Arawa. The remaining iwi to settle are Ngapuhi in the far north of the North Island, whose ancestral lands include the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi. Whilst a few have had a couple of teething problems with their Treaty settlements, all have accepted that they are full, fair and final.

The final point I want to contest is about whether or not iwi owned businesses pay tax or not. As charities they are exempt to paying income tax and Tainui Group Holdings Limited supply health, education, religious, cultural and other services. I have never seen an acknowledgement from H.P. about what Iwi and businesses they own actually do for their communities.

I cannot help but wonder what the reaction would be if H.P. were invited to a Hui to discuss concerns about supposed favouritism. Who would go? Would anyone turn up?



No favours for New Zealand in C.P.T.P.P.

Yesterday an unfortunate thing happened. New Zealand Parliament accepted the third reading of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership Amendment Bill. It was passed through Parliament with only the 8 Green Members of Parliament voting against it. This now makes the passage into law of the C.P.T.P.P., which succeeded the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement a virtual certainty.

I opposed this when it was the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (T.P.P.A.). I oppose this now when it is the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (why negotiators feel the need to come up with such long, convoluted names is beyond me).

I opposed this when it was first conceived because there were – among other things – the following:

  • The possibility that New Zealanders would be made to pay more for medication from Pharmac, whose ability to negotiate good deals for New Zealand would be significantly reduced
  • The possibility that Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses would be inserted – and I think probably have snuck in despite the opposition that has been raised – which would potentially expose New Zealand to court action from multinationals for enacting laws that by their judgement somehow affect their ability (true or not) to make a profit
  • That New Zealand’s numerous international commitments, for which we earn much credit on the international stage, and our ability to uphold them would be undermined

I oppose this now for several reasons, not least because to the best of my knowledge and contrary to the statements from New Zealand First, Labour, National and A.C.T., the C.P.T.P.P. still has the contentious clauses that made it essential to resist in the first place. This is based on having searched through the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement Amendment Act 2016 and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership Amendment Act 2018. During that search I was looking for provisions specifically protecting the Treaty of Waitangi, eliminating Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses.

I found that much effort was given to provisions relating to copy right, performance.

There are other reasons why New Zealand has made a mistake passing this legislation into law:

  • Japan and the United States are highly protectionist, and to a lesser extent South Korea – for significant gains to be made there has to be changes in their domestic legislation and posturing around this
  • Philip Morris attempted to sue the Australian Government over tobacco advertizing; a mining company tried to sue Costa Rica over its attempts to protect its environment – whilst Philip Morris lost, there is a risk that despite assurances to the contrary such moves might be made by a multinational against New Zealand
  • I cannot agree with the claims that the Treaty of Waitangi is not impacted unless there are explicit clauses saying so in the legislation – I did not see anything of that nature

All trade agreements that go before Parliament should not become law unless they have the following guarantees:

  1. That a review clause becomes active after 10 years, at which point a select committee reviews the legislation and enacts any recommendations
  2. That its continuance can be voted on after 20 years, with a sun set clause tripping if the result is NO

A trade agreement is only as good as the people who negotiated it at the time. Like laws they can become dated or be found to be defective. No responsible Parliament or elected Government should ignore defective legislation or trade agreements.