The Turning of the Tide?
At this year's Waitangi Day, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Bill English gave a couple of speeches which asserted that a quiet revolution is underway in New Zealand. One person covering the speeches claimed that what English said was "extraordinary".
English chose not to go to Waitangi, preferring to attend a breakfast hosted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. When it came his turn to speak during the powhiri, which was held inside the wharenui, he began with a short mihi and then he said, “I want to tell you why I’ve come here, to this marae.”The fact is that the Crown--essentially under National's leadership--has been working through Maori grievances and restituting tribes for historical injustices for many years. For example, in the case of Ngati Whatua, land had been seized by the Crown under an application of eminent domain doctrines, never used for the stated purpose, and yet not given back. Until the Quiet Revolution began.
He said it was because of what had been achieved by Ngāti Whātua and the manner of its achievement. He spoke directly to Joe Hawke, the much-loved Uncle Joe, the man who in 1976-78 led a 506-day protest “occupation” of the very land they were on that day. Hawke sat front and centre across from English, flanked by other kaumātua, many of whom were also protest veterans. He soaked it up.
Hawke is silver haired now, a thin man with the sad eyes of age, but what draws you is the whispery smile that keeps flitting over his face, creasing the skin, puckering the lips, lighting those eyes. He leaves it to others to do the talking, and none of them leaves you in any doubt of their pride at their achievements. English understood it very well.
He told them the modern history of Ngāti Whātua was a story of great success. And he wanted them to know he did not view the protest as an aberration in that story, but as a vital part of it. Later, over breakfast in the wharekai, he built on his theme.
Bastion Point was the biggest and most important Māori land struggle of modern times. Takaparawhā (Bastion Point) was taken by the Crown for defence purposes in 1885 (the Russians were coming, supposedly) and never returned. In 1976 the government announced plans to sell the land for luxury housing and the protest began. It ended in 1978 when the police marched in, tore down the protesters’ buildings and other structures and forcibly removed 202 people.It helped that Bastion Point was prime coastal land in the city of Auckland. Ngati Whatua has parlayed that land and cash settlement into assets now worth $717m. This remarkable success coming from a just restitution is not an isolated one.
But the sale didn’t happen. It was three years after Whina Cooper had led a land rights hikoi from the Far North; three years also since the Waitangi Tribunal was established. After the eviction a long period of negotiations and legal actions kicked in; finally, in 2011, Ngāti Whātua and the Crown signed a Treaty of Waitangi Deed of Settlement. The iwi regained undisputed ownership of Bastion Point, an apology for historic wrongs and, among other things, compensation of $18 million.
English also said, “Ngāti Whātua’s future is New Zealand’s future.” It wasn’t a mere platitude about diverse peoples coming together in national unity. He was pointing specifically to the economic and cultural importance of iwi to whole country. “In the regions,” he said, “and I include Auckland in that, I would say that almost without exception the organisations that are most committed to development are the local iwi.”Remarkable transformations of attitudes can happen when serfs become owners of assets. Many people have experienced the "pride of ownership" when they buy their first house. This pride makes them far more careful about what is done with the property, how they use it, how they maintain it, and what commercial use the house can support. Many Maori tribes, historically fleeced by the State, are now demonstrating a similar attitudinal sea change as a result of settlements of historical grievances.
But English used the occasion to make clear that much yet remained to be done. There are plenty of Maori who are failing on just about every social measure. It remains an open question as to whether these problems can be properly addressed.
“But,” English added, speaking not just of iwi but of the government and the country as a whole, “much as we have good intentions the truth is we have not met our aspirations.” He cited domestic violence, educational underachievement and the high rate of imprisonment: “These things are the signs of failure.As a result of Maori tribal settlements, and the commercial expansion that has resulted for many tribes, much more social work is being done by Maori for Maori. However, ownership of tribal assets will inevitably bring a very different perspective from that of grievance-nurturing. It is to be expected that tribes will be much more demanding of tribal members who are needing help. Help will come at a price: the demand to pick themselves up, so that the helping tribal hand does not become a hand-out.
We have observed several instances of this. Usually these revolve around tribal leaders seeking commercial opportunities which can provide employment for tribal members. But there is an insistence that the jobs should only go those tribal members who are responsible, loyal to their families, and who are solid, dependable employees.
The Left has made an industry out of claiming that institutional racism is the cause of Maori "under achievement". The solution is always, always, always more taxpayer largesse to be showered down upon Maori. This has created a predictable response: Maori come to think that the reason they have not improved their lifestyle nor prospered is they have not been given enough of other people's money.
That attitude will not be borne by tribal businesses or commercial entities. It remains to be seen what will happen when tribes turn their backs upon members who refuse to take responsibility and make themselves accountable to their whanau--as many are now doing.