May 13, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Gareth Morgan, Treaty Partnerships and the Mercy of the Majority

8 min read


You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

Dr. Seuss

Gareth-MorganIt was less than 24 hours when we posted our response to Gareth Morganonhis comments about the Treaty of Waitangi and his ideas for a new plan, a new path forward.

The feedback to our whakaaro was mixed, with some saying we seem to hate Gareth personally (which we don’t) and others claiming that New Zealanders are looking for a messiah, a Pakeha Moses, to give them back a little confidence.

His latest offering(here)in some small way confirms my skepticism about not only his intentions, but also his judgement.

To start, Gareth begins his analysis mid-way through the book of our nationhood.

There is virtually no recognition of the atrocities committed during and after the colonial land wars from 1860 to 1920, and instead a quick reference to the interpretation of the words within the Treaty of Waitangi. No mention of the breaches that had been admitted by the Crown; no mention of the significant loss of land by Maori to colonial forces, missionaries, legal methods, etc, just sticking points around Rangatiratanga and which version of the word matters.

To this he says:

The main sticking point is the word rangatiratanga from the te reo version. In modern times, this word comprises three aspirations – greater self-determination, more political power and eradication of social and economic disadvantage. These aspirations are quite different to what’s in Article 2 of the English version. Thankfully this debate over who meant what, and what was and was not agreed in 1840, is irrelevant.

Is he for real or just taking the mickey?

Rangatiratanga is a Maori word that has a traditional context, associated either with the ability of a chief, a hapu, or a leader to bring people together, to identify common ground and common goals and to assert their independence. All this more, more, more stuff is what he thinks Rangatiratanga means, not what we as Maori usually apply meaning to (kind of reminds me of the korero around Whanganui and how the powers that be wont listen to Maori onhow a Maori word should be correctly spelt). Either way, its all irrelevant he says.

This line in particular caught my attention:

We have a lot to learn from other countries about how to fulfil the aspirations of indigenous peoples.

Ok then, which countries? Please dont say not Australia (ask John Pilger), or America or even Canada, who are all on record for initially not signing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. New Zealand did not sign up immediately either.

Wikipedia stated that all four member states that initially voted against have their origins as colonies of the United Kingdom, have large non-indigenous immigrant majorities and small remnant indigenous populations and regarded the UNDRIP as inferior to internal laws that protect the rights of the individual over the collective. The best it could be was aspirational.

So, wed love to know which countries Gareth is talking about.

And then we head into the Waitangi Tribunal, where he is less than flattering. I must put forward a disclaimer to say that I worked as a Claims Coordinator at the Tribunal for nearly 2 years from 2005 – 2007 and read dozens of the reports. They are an amazing read, filled with historical stories of hope and hate, of love and dishonesty, or brutality and redemption.

I would put it that Mr Morgan has not read a single report from front to back, let alone taken the time to actually read or listen to the korero from Tainui, from Ngai Tahu, from Te Arawa, from Tuhoe, from Taranaki.

To say that the Tribunal stands as a counsellor between both parties is an interesting perspective, but we know at the end of the day, the Crown/Government has all the power, all the money, the Police, the Army and the GCSB, all the resources and can do what it likes. Gareth might say it should be a Treaty partnership of 50/50 but come on, from where we stand it looks more like 99/1, and only recently slipped to 90/10. If New Zealand is so equal, why havent we had a Maori Prime Minister yet? 38 New Zealanders and 0 Maori is not partnership. It looks more like institutionalised racism.

The next part made me laugh.

The rights of citizenship are protected for all in Aotearoa New Zealand

No theyre not. Every day a new example pops up to prove that Maori are discriminated against, with wolf calls from the majority telling us to be quite. It does seem naive to believe that Maori rights are protected, and that is where we get into the area of Local Government.

I predicted this would be a touchy subject for Pakeha in 2015, with recent moves by some councils to build better relationships between iwi and local government authorities. If we were to line up every mayor and councillor throughout the country, my guess is that 90% would be Pakeha New Zealanders. After attending many local government conferences on behalf of our own Te Arawa Standing Committee in Rotorua, it was clear to see that mainstream Pakeha issues dictate what getsdone, when, why and how. There are countless cases of Maori losing land to council through the Public Works Act, of sacred sites being desecrated and of Maori advice being ignored.

And now his article attempts to send a collective shiver of fear up the spines of the average Kiwi who now believe Maori are getting more power than we deserve, and could be getting rights that ordinary Kiwisdont have. Let’s again be honest – the powerful have been playing the people off for so long that the people tend to defend their leaders, even when they don’t like them.

And then I spot a sentence that sums up theattitude within this article: Mercy of the Majority.

What Gareth is insisting is that Maori need to beg for power, that we need to be humble in seeking resources or positions and that could only come if we are blessed with the mercy of the majority.

When Maori were the clear majority back in 1840, the call was to share and to build a new way forward. Now that Pakeha are the majority, we have to ask for their mercy to have any say?

Now is that 50/50 partnership?

It all smacks of the my way or the highway attitude that many others before have asserted.

And to make it worse, we are being asked to show this majority what sets us apart as Maori. If the argument was really about equality, that dumb question could easily be sorted, for it is as much about political representation as it is about social justice, historical respect and creating a better future for all of our children, not just the middle class white ones who have access to privilege.

I think what Gareth does not see (or maybe he does) is the changing demographics that will transitionthe old male stale & pale redneck attitudes as they leave this earth and when an emerging young Maori population take their place. Then we will see middle age white people look to young Maori to provide them with the standard of living they are so comfortable in maintaining.

Now some might say that since the jandal is on the other foot, the Pakeha minority will have to show us how they are so different and appeal to our mercy. I dont think that will happen but I know it is the dystopian future that critics like Gareth pray upon. It is what keeps them up at night, writing to maintain their position and hoping to generate enough fear that it continuesto mutate and grow.

If there is anything I agree on it is his closing statement:

The process of constitutional reform demands the engagement of all New Zealanders, not just those inside the Treaty processes.

Tika tou korero, although probably for a different reason.

I think it is important for everyone to hear in the open what was said in the privacy of a formal court setting like the Waitangi Tribunal. As many of the original claimants have passed on, it is important to keep that korero alive, to make sure the young hear the stories of what was said by the old and to share the history and herstory of the local whenua. Perhaps Gareth could work alongside whanau and hapu groups to bring that historical korero alive in engaging and interactive ways, as I am always asked by Pakeha Kiwis when overseas onthe history of our country because no one teaches much of it here at home.

If anything, Pakeha should be demanding that the Crown and the Government, who are always present at Tribunal hearings I must point out, to raise the level of awareness amongst the general population. Often, Maori know the past of local lands and it is Pakeha who have forgotten their own korero, their own ancestry here in Aotearoa, good andbad.

But more than anything, if there is a challenge in the writings of Gareth Morgan its that even rich guys dont know much. With all that money, he still suffers the blindness of his own privilege and fails to connect with the rich depth of cultural knowledge that sits all around him. These writings sound like the outdated commentary popularised by Stuart C Scott, with his book Travesty of Waitangi, rather than the insightful and thoughtful researched pieces of Michael King, Judith Binney or James Belich. Gareth is sure to receive many requests to speak to Rotary clubs over the coming months. We ourselves have sent an invitation for Gareth to attend Ratana Pa later this month and await his response.

If there is one question I would put to Gareth it would be this: If your own marriage was like the relationship seen between Maori and the Crown, how would you make sure your partner felt loved, respected and appreciated? Because honestly, if I were Gareths partner, I would kick his arse out of the house, throw his clothes out the door and make sure that his feet go where his big mouth seems to beleading him.

Anyway, let’s see where his path continues to go. At this stage, it is a struggle to paitiently perserverebut we are fast followersand can adapt on the move. Kia ora ra.

I timi noa te tai


Further reading

Dr Seuss quote:

Gareth Morgan – Treaty justice triumph of commonsense

Will Gareth Morgan be the new Moses to ignite a Maori Exodus?

Will Gareth Morgan be the new Moses to ignite a Maori Exodus?

Wikipedia: United Nations Declaration of Rights on Indigenous People

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