180 years since Te Tiriti O Waitangi: Questions linger


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

 

 

 

Ihumatao settling down?


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.

 

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.