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?



A national holiday needed for ALL New Zealanders

Today is Waitangi Day. It is the day in 1840 on which Commodore James Hobson signed the Treaty of Waitangi with Maori chiefs. Te Tiriti O Waitangi was intended to give the British sovereignty over New Zealand, and the Governor the right to govern the country. The Maori view differed somewhat in that they had ceded the right to governance without giving up the right to manage their own affairs.

I cannot help but wonder what the non-English immigrant populations who have settled in New Zealand think of Te Tiriti O Waitangi, and of relations between Maori and non-Maori. Has any academic conducted formal kaupapa Maori research with leaders in Maoridom to see what the perceptions of their people are about the understanding New Zealand’s immigrant population has when it comes to the Treaty? Do they believe it should be kept separate from celebrating New Zealand’s overall identity?

But at the same time, who has talked to all of the many ethnic groups living in New Zealand, be they Chinese or Colombian, Fijian or Somali, Iranian or Serbian. What do they think of the Treaty of Waitangi? What do they actually know about the history behind it? Do they feel a need for a day where they can celebrate their sense of belonging in New Zealand.

On A.N.Z.A.C. Day many more people show a much greater degree of respect towards New Zealand as a nation. We turn up in our thousands to dawn services. The great/grandchildren of war vets wear their great/grandparents medals. New Zealand schools spend time and effort coming up to each A.N.Z.A.C. Day learning about the day and our military history. Media devote columns and air time to documenting new discoveries about our war time past.

Some people say A.N.Z.A.C. Day is a more New Zealand day. Certainly it is one of general unity. With one or two exceptions from peace activists who should have known better than to do so, it is protest free. But in the same sense that Waitangi Day is primarily about the Treaty, which has little real significance to those of ethnic groups not from New Zealand, how much do non-New Zealanders relate to A.N.Z.A.C. Day?

This is why I support New Zealand Dominion Day (26 September)becoming a day that all New Zealanders can come together on and celebrate our nation, our way of life. There are 364 other days of the year when Treaty politics can be debated, where iwi can debate the ins and outs of wrapping up the remainder of the grievance settlements. But a day when all New Zealanders, tangata whenua or not,come to celebrate being one of the brightest prospects in the international community is not that day.

So let us enjoy Waitangi Day tomorrow. I hope the ceremonies at the Marae go well . But let us remember Waitangi Day is not about ALL New Zealanders. And that there are other days on the calendar which CAN be.

A depiction of the Treaty of Waitangi being signed 06 February 1840.

Time to change Waitangi Day format

How rare it is to have a Waitangi Day go past without some sort of controversy. Whether it is grandstanding local Maori kicking up a fuss because they feel they have been hard done by a grievance settlement system; protests by disgruntled Iwi or a Marae trying to tell media how to cover this significant New Zealand anniversary, few in the last 3 decades have been wholly peaceful.

Some of the protest events have been entirely legitimate, reflecting concerns of the day about how the Treaty of Waitangi grievances settlement process is getting on. Some of the others were no more than adolescent males looking for a confrontation with the police, who for their part have done admirably, walking a fine line between keeping the peace and sending rowdies packing. The most notable incidents have involved nephews of former Maori Party Member of Parliament (and later Mana Party leader)Hone Harawira, who was expelled from the Maori Party for poor conduct and whose Mana Party was destroyed in the 2014 election.

And then there have been the Marae politics. Some have involved controversy as a result of politicians having speaking rights denied. Others involved misinterpreting the purpose of a powhiri (to welcome, and accept the welcome – not make a political discourse).

It is however quite improper to shut out the media on the most important day of the New Zealand calendar at the most important site in New Zealand. If the Marae kaumatua are not willing to permit streaming coverage going live on the internet and on the free to air channels, perhaps it is time to consider whether to change the format of the celebrations.

Whilst it would be a shame to do this, 06 February 1840 is New Zealand’s national day. There are 364 other days this year that there could be/could have been protests on.

I therefore propose that Waitangi Day becomes a travelling event, with the major marae in each of the large centres or a signifcant regional marae taking turns at playing the host. There are for example well organized celebrations at Okains Bay Marae on Banks Peninsula every year that are attended by hundreds. I am also quite sure that Ngai Tahu, Ngati Arawa, Tuhoe, Ngati Porou, Tainui, Ngati Tuwharetoa would be interested in having input into how national commemorations are run.

Trouble in Ngapuhi as Government seeks treaty settlements by 2020

After months of growing unrest, the first signs of a potential implosion in the largest Maori tribe are emerging. Ngapuhi, the northern most Iwi (tribe), has long held out on settling its Treaty of Waitangi grievances with the Crown. But with the Crown setting a deadline to wind up treaty negotiations nationwide the Iwi has begun to splinter along Hapu (sub tribe) lines.

As a New Zealander I have taken time to understand the treaty settlements from both the perspective of the Iwi and their Hapu, as well as the Crown. I believe settling them needs to be fair, full, and final. By fair I mean that the Crown and the negotiating Iwi/Hapu are both happy with the final settlement. By full, I mean all applicable grievances have been addressed. By final, I mean both the Crown and the Iwi/Hapu accept that there is no changing or going back. ThisĀ  is the only way forward and that failure to do so leaves the Crown, the Iwi whose settlement has collapsed and the New Zealand public at large worse off.

Ngapuhi’s ancestral lands cover Hokianga, the Bay of Islands and Whangarei. They have the largest affiliation of any Iwi and have 150 Hapu. Ngapuhi claim to have never ceded sovereignty to the British when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, and this was backed up by a report resulting from an inquiry into the meaning and effect of the treaty for the Crown and Maori.

Whereas the other major Iwi have settled, or are in the later stage of settling their Treaty of Waitangi grievances with the Crown, Ngapuhi have stalled because of infighting and unfortunate incidents clouding the judgement of the Board. Tuhoronuku, which is the Board that was set up to oversee the allocation of the settlement is divided following years of infighting among the Hapu. This is angering the Government, which has set a deadline of 2020 to settle all Treaty negotiations and the Attorney General, Chris Finlayson has indicated he considers Tuhoronuku to have failed. A timeline of events goes something like this:

  • September 2008: Ngapuhi offered an early hearing into Treaty of Waitangi claim
  • March 2009: Treaty settlement process begins
  • August 2011: Ngapuhi vote on new board
  • March 2014: Infighting delaying treaty negotiations
  • June 2015: Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau caught with dead Kereru (protected birds)by Customs; fails to step down
  • September 2015: Claims emerge that Tuhoronuku is unfit to to oversee Ngapuhi treaty settlement; questions arise about (mis)use of $500,000 loan
  • October 2015: Tuhoronuku put on notice by Minister for Treaty Negotiations
  • September 2016: Renewed infighting as vote on how to proceed with treaty negotiations looms
  • September 2016: Minister tell Tuhoronuku it has failed; may sack/bypass the Board

Ngapuhi need to settle. The Iwi needs to stop fighting. It needs to unite behind a board and move forward. The longer it takes for this to happen, the costlier it will be for the Iwi, the Hapu, the Crown and ultimately New Zealand.

The need for honest education about New Zealand’s history

When I was doing a Year 4 course at University of Canterbury in 2005 that examined kaitiakitanga and resource management – Maori guardianship of their resources and appropriate resource management – I was given a hand out that contained the text of the 1835 New Zealand Declaration of Independence. 11 years later as Maori sovereignty issues come to the fore over water ownership and the politics of race, I find it fascinating to think about what might have been if this had been recognized and given effect to.

New Zealand Declaration of Independence

This is a fascinating document because it addresses a segment of history often not taught in New Zealand schools – none of the classes I had in primary, intermediate or high school so much acknowledged the New Zealand Declaration of Independence even existing. Although I certainly had social studies subject matter on the arrival of Maori in New Zealand and the Land Wars, all of the associated history I was taught started post-6 February 1840.

I never knew that the Independent Tribes of New Zealand existed until I saw this version of the New Zealand Declaration of Independence. Nor did I know that an official representative of her Majesty Queen Victoria had established residency in New Zealand. I did not even know that there had been any significant or formal British contact with Maori prior to 1840.

How disappointing. When social science gets taught in schools – I thoroughly enjoyed learning about other cultures, nations, current affairs – I hope that social science curriculum will be amended to make the Treaty of Waitangi and the New Zealand Land Wars a compulsory part. It is only proper that nations acknowledge their history, however unfavourable it might be (noting Japanese students are sometimes surprised at the hostility of Chinese and Korean students, because the Japanese curriculum downplays the offensive nature of Japan’s role in World War 2, the causes and the atrocities committed). But for political purposes, sometimes history can be an inconvenient truth.

Perhaps the idea that the sovereignty of independent tribes being guaranteed might not have stopped the Land Wars from starting or the atrocities such as the Wairau Affray or the massacres that Te Rauparaha committed from happening. Perhaps the confiscation of land and assets might have still gone ahead, but what if – just for a minute – that individual iwi such as Ngai Tahu, Ngati Porou, Ngapuhi, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Arawa had become legitimate nations? Would they have been so accepting of the Treaty of Waitangi? Possibly not, and in actual fact I wonder if it might have degenerated into the sectarian strife that overtook Iraq after the U.S. invasion, or more recently, Syria.

Perhaps it is just as well that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, but people learning about New Zealand history should know that for just over four years between late October 1835 and February 1840, something quite different to Te Tiriti o Waitangi existed.