Over the last several days, my understanding of New Zealand’s history of British colonialism has been severely tested by events that have unfolded in New Zealand, and which may be linked to the recent unrest in the United States. With the rioting having subsided, massive protests pushing for a racial reconciliation have been breaking out.
In New Zealand the events in the United States have brought a necessary focus on our own race relations. How do we teach colonial history in schools? Are we teaching the right history? Is that history being taught without bias? Clearly we have an issue when in a matter of days, we can go from not even thinking about doing so, to toppling a statue of a person whose history am going to guess most New Zealanders knew nothing about.
When I think about my knowledge of the New Zealand Land Wars, following the Treaty of Waitangi and the Musket Wars prior to the treaty signing, I find quite significant gaps in my basic knowledge about the events, the timeline over which they happened and who was involved. These are very significant events in understanding the relationship between settlers and Maori, and the Musket Wars for example cost many more lives than I was aware of – I thought they had cost a couple of thousand lives and not the estimated 20,000-40,000, with perhaps as many as 30,000 more made to emigrate.
I did not even know what John Hamilton’s first name was prior to Thursday, when the first rumblings that the statue of him in Hamilton was going to be removed began to surface. I certainly knew nothing of his past, that the statue stood on the spot where Cook’s crew killed nine Maori.
At the same time I feel like my knowledge of Captain Cook has failed me. I knew nothing about the incident involving H.M.S. Adventure crew members, or that 8 Maori were killed by crew when Cook first anchored in New Zealand waters. I feel like my schooling has failed me. As Graeme Lay notes in a column for The Listener in 2019, some interactions were very cordial and productive, whilst others ended in violence.
But I am not the only one. My parents said that they were taught none of this either. My mother who grew up on a farm near Pukekawa in rural Waikato for example says that her school learnings were about the invasion of Waikato by the British in 1863, following the refusal of Maori to take an oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria. This was one of the major conflicts of the New Zealand land wars and easily the deadliest. Both Maori and the British invested significant forces and resources in this. The British called up 10,000 troops for the campaign. The Maori built more than 22 kilometres of fencing which had about 1,500 troops manning it.
So, it is for these reasons I totally support the compulsory teaching of these events as basic New Zealand history. Improving our understanding of the events that happened and how they came to happen will go some way towards a sort of reconciliation between non Maori and the tangata whenua. Given the 12,000km² confiscated in Waikato following the 1863 invasion are now worth billions of dollars, the $171 million that was paid to Tainui in 1995 is barely 1% of its current value.
The best thing we as New Zealanders can do is learn from our colonial past. The best thing the education system can do is make sure that that history gets taught in schools.
On this day in 1840 Aotearoa became New Zealand. Te Ika A Maui and Te Waipounamu became the North Island and South Island, respectively. 180 years later, following a brutal series of land wars between the Crown and Maori, questions linger as to how to move forward.
But first things first. Of the seven Iwi that need to have their claims settled with the Crown, six have done so, but Ngapuhi are yet to come to the table. Indeed no one is quite sure how or when Ngapuhi will come to the table. The Crown no doubt hopes that this is soon, so that New Zealand can move on. New Zealanders at large for various reasons hope it will be soon.
How many Maori believe that the Treaty negotiations need to be wound up soon is unknown. The younger generation, having been made more aware of the past than their elders, have a more proactive view on the matter. This has manifested at various times at Ihumatao and more recently on the Kaikoura coast, where younger Maori are not so keen to embrace the idea that the settlements that have been completed are full, fair and final.
At Ihumatao Fletcher Construction was meant to build new housing on land of significant importance to local Maori. It had already reached an agreement with the kaumatua (elders) on how to proceed and was only days or weeks away from beginning construction when protesters occupied the land. Fortunately, unlike the Bastion Point occupied which ended violently in the 1970’s, this seems to have come to a peaceful conclusion, or the media lost interest.
A second one is coming out north of Kaikoura at the moment where the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Rebuild alliance has been forced to post-earthquake repair work. This because protesters have occupied the coast line that had been allocated for a new cycle way. They claim that the coast and ancestral graves on the hills above Ohau Point and Waipapa Bay are being desecrated. Maybe, but it is almost like after 3 years of work, it has suddenly become a problem now – the cycle way was being worked on when I visited in March 2019, which is nearly a year ago.
I find these late interventions frustrating. Perhaps it is a reflection on the elders not being stringent enough when their Iwi was negotiating with the Crown, and that maybe the protesters have a point. Certainly I believe it is an indication that communications between Maori interests has not been as good as it should have been. But should non-Maori be subject to an internal quarrel that they were not honestly aware of?
HAPPY WAITANGI DAY
After an occupation that nearly boiled over in July on land owned by Fletchers, near Auckland International Airport we now have what might be a peaceful solution at hand.
New Zealand owes a degree of thanks to Tainui for their work with Fletchers to bring this to what will hopefully be the last step in a peaceful conclusion in the Ihumatao stand off. The settlement and the nature in which it has been reached is a far cry from the eviction of protesters from Bastion Point in 1975. In that event protesters were dragged by the hair in front of the media and police had the assistance of the New Zealand Army in removing them.
Protest leader Pania Newton was effectively sidelined in the negotiations, which focused on how to move the housing project planned forward. Ms Newton might be aggrieved, but she was neither the seller, nor the buyer. She was merely a protest leader who decided that there had somehow been an injustice committed against Ihumatao when in actual fact Fletcher had purchased the land legitimately, with the blessing of the kaumatua.The land had in fact been owned by Fletchers for several years and in that time until it was signalled that the land might be built on, no one had raised any points of contention.
The fears that this would be another Bastion Point eviction, whilst not impossible in the tension-filled days in mid-July, were I think fairly remote. The Police would have realized that it would do their reputation no favours to be seen forcibly removing protesters. They might have also realised that organizations like Amnesty International would be watching with their own observers on the ground.
Since the 1970’s Iwi, who were probably on the fringe for reasons not of their making, have become much more main steam – 6 of the 7 main ones have reached agreements with the Crown. Communications between tribal seniors and authorities would have improved in that time, perhaps helped along the way by a couple of stand off’s such as at Moutoa Gardens in Whanganui in 1995, where Police learnt about the art of the stand off and that it is possible for these to end peacefully on their own accord.
Hopefully this means that Fletchers can now move full steam ahead and build some seriously overdue housing to help offset the ongoing housing crisis in New Zealand. I expect that of the several hundred acres purchased by Fletchers, the most sensitive parts where archaeological and geologically significant features are present, will be bought back by Tainui.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should now visit Ihumatao and acknowledge what happened there.
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:
- 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
- It was about telling the world that New Zealanders are better than supporting apartheid regimes
- 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
- 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.