Concerns I have about Waikato River diversion to supply Auckland


A plan to divert more water from the Waikato River is the subject of renewed political attention as Auckland continues to battle a drought. But it may not be as straight forward as National and New Zealand First want.
Some people will be concerned about the attempt to take water from the Waikato River and send it to Auckland. I am too. But not for reasons you might think. The Waikato River discharges an average of 340,000 litres every second – 1 cubic metre is 1,000 litres. This attempt at diverting water from the river and sending it to Auckland will take a bit more than 0.5% of the river’s daily discharge. The media deliberately used the number 200 million litres because it sounds big. Hydrologists measure river flow in cubic metres per second.
My concern does not stem from the water being taken, but from the fact that Auckland really needs to learn to be more economic with its usage of its water resource. I am also concerned that fast tracking this through the Resource Management Act process sends the wrong signals about water use. It is also likely to further challenge Tainui’s Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Crown about the conditions of use of water from the Waikato River – in January Tainui accused the Crown of breaking the Treaty settlement.
 A lot of people south of the Bombay Hills will find it frustrating that Auckland is applying to accelerate the Resource Management Act process, when this is not so much about creating new jobs as saving ones that might be lost from inept water usage. It is also irksome because other provinces such as Canterbury, Otago and Hawkes Bay are used to much drier climates and have learnt to manage their water use. And with climate change, those provinces are expected to dry out further.
We are one of the least efficient users of water in the western world. We take it too much for granted. The decline of our natural water ways in significant part stems from excessive diversion of water for irrigation, from our urban penchant for nice green lawns and so forth.
I am no fan of privatizing a resource that fundamentally I do not believe can be privatized. However one of the negative things we are at risk of inflicting upon ourselves is having to develop a market for water. No one owns water and I believe nor should anyone try to. The water cycle and the common characteristics of the cycle, as well as the universal need of every human being for clean drinking water, mean like the air we breathe.
But before I support Auckland’s bid to make the R.M.A. process go quicker, Auckland needs to have a hard look at its water usage. There are things it could do more immediately such as look for system leakage; people can check their shower nozzles to see if they are working properly; check whether their water mains are at an appropriate water pressure.
 

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.

 

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?