The Treaty of Waitangi: an ode to Muriel Newman and the NZCPR

By   /   April 3, 2013  /   14 Comments

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New Zealand’s constitution doesn’t promise permanency, but it can be said that the three certainties in our context are death, taxes and Treaty-hysteria.

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There are two certainties in life: death and taxes. Benjamin Franklin lent fame to the phrase in a letter to French historian Jean-Baptiste Leroy. Franklin claimed that “our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. New Zealand’s constitution doesn’t promise permanency, but it can be said that the three certainties in our context are death, taxes and Treaty-hysteria.

The establishment of the government’s constitutional review panel has coincided with a rise in Treaty obstruction, falsification and denial. The obstructionist, falsifier and denialist in chief is the New Zealand Centre for Political Research (NZCPR), a “web-based think tank” and home to storied thinkers like Muriel Newman and David Round. Let’s run through a handful of their claims.

Apparently, the Treaty is non-binding. Well, we’re expected to keep to our agreements – governments are no different. The Treaty doesn’t have a time lapse, an out clause or a guarantee that rednecks have the right to make post-facto decisions about its moral and legal force. The Treaty was created, offered and accepted under the assumption that it would bind the Crown and Maori. It’s a basic question of human decency and the rule of law: if men and women are held to their agreements, shouldn’t society and governments be expected to do the same? If anything, society and governments should be held to a far, far higher standard.

I’ve also been told, very matter-of-factly-by-condescending-white-guy, that race can’t be part of a constitution and the Treaty is discriminatory because it awards more rights to Maori. Well, matter-of-fact-condescending-white-guy, the Treaty is already part of the constitution and, therefore, so is race. Race is central to any multicultural society, especially one where the founding document recognises the indigenous race.

On the discrimination point: wake up. We award different rights to different groups all of the time. Think children, women, immigrants, the disabled and the rich. Many rights aren’t universal. Every person has inherent rights, but those rights are defined by race, gender, age and so on. To use the tired phrase, there is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.

The Constitution of Canada provides protection for the “aboriginal and treaty rights” of First Nations people. The Australian government is moving to recognise and affirm the constitutional rights of Aboriginal people. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People guarantees a suite of inherent and human rights. Inserting the Treaty into a written constitution wouldn’t make New Zealand an outlier, we already are.

The world is moving towards forms of multicultural and bicultural pluralism. India, Singapore and Puerto Rico maintain special representation for ethnic minorities and the indigenous Sami people of Scandinavia enjoy separate Parliaments in Finland, Norway and Sweden. The world is bathing in its diversity and recognizing that justice and harmony demand a degree of self-determination for indigenous people and ethnic minorities. The myth that we are all one people is, well, a myth. The one people argument is a euphemism for assimilation – a justification for maintaining the economic and cultural dominance that matter-of-fact-condescending-white-guy.

The Treaty guards my right to retain my Maoritanga and everything that comes with that: my language, lands and other parts that define me. There is nothing insidious in that. If you think that there is, that says more about you and your values than it does mine.

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About the author

Morgan Godfery

Morgan Godfery - Te Pahipoto, Lalomanu (Samoa). Morgan is based in Wellington and is a political writer specialising in Maori politics. Better known as the author of Maui Street, Morgan spends too much time following international politics, indigenous peoples and TV. He is humbled to be a part of New Zealand’s best blogging line up.

14 Comments

  1. Chris Miller says:

    Surely if the Treaty is no longer valid for any reason, that means that we should be returning to the state of affairs that existed before it was signed. After all if the Crown doesn’t have to live up to its obligations, neither do iwi.

  2. Funny how right wingers insist the the Treaty is no longer valid – and yet they uphold the sanctity of contracts…

    Hypocrites of the first order. They value contracts when it suits them.

    I wonder what Ms Newman might say if I tried to occupy her land, saying her title to it had “lapsed”… Betcha she’d be none too pleased.

  3. harry r says:

    Dr Muriel states that intermarriage is proof that racism doesn’t exist. Obviously NZCPR have not heard of divorce.

  4. Lew says:

    Frank says Funny how right wingers insist the the Treaty is no longer valid – and yet they uphold the sanctity of contracts…

    The crucial question for these Treaty deniers: What is whitey’s word worth? Hobson was ordered by Queen Victoria to treat with the Māori as equals, and indications are that as far as the Treaty goes, he did. This sanctity of contract — the ability to rely on a person’s undertakings and to seek redress if they are not met — is one of the cornerstones of European mercantile culture and the civil society of which, in 1840, the British Crown was the leading example. They remain almost sacred in our civil society.

    By failing to honour the Treaty, Pākehā society is in breach of its own most fundamental and hallowed principles. Speaking as Pākehā, breaches of the Treaty by the Crown and settler agencies are a violation of our own standards of conduct — and failing to put them right is a shame on us all.

    I want to pay my debts. I wish the rest of my kind did too.

    L

  5. Geoff says:

    Anti-Treaty attitudes tend to reflect anti-indigenous peoples attitudes – where they see us just as part of some big white blamange world.

    Maori are what make us different. As a Pakeha, I’m proud that we have an indigenous people such as them and I’m proud of the fact that the Treaty has such a unique place in colonialism and the history of the British empire.

    I still feel bound by the Treaty as our country’s founding document, whether or not it is part of our constitution. Denialists who don’t feel the same must undoubtedly feel that marriage is only a temporary contract….. and that Queen Victoria got it wrong when she told Grey in writing: “You will honourably and scrupulously uphold the Treaty of Wautangi”.

  6. Timmy_Testies says:

    What a sad, sad opinion! The assumption that the tow has any relevance in today’s (and least of all tomorrow’s) globalised society is comical. I mean come on…seriously, do you honestly think that the NZ tax payer is going to keep paying today’s market rates for land (water, wind, solar, tidal, radio spectrum, hydro storage and so on) supposedly taken from NZs pre-European colonisers (note: the fanciful concept of Maori as indigenous in any respect is FALSE by definition)? Cash is tight, essential social services (i.e., hospitals, schools – not racist maori only institutions/facilities) are going without due to reduced govt funding – how can we afford the annual 1.8 BILLION dollar bill to artificially prop-up a bygone culture? Mate, there is a groundswell forming in NZ signifying a gutsful of this tow distortion, perpetuated by people such as yourselve. NZCPR is only one mouthpiece of this groundswell (one of the more civilised may I add). Murial for PM I say!

    • Tony Dotcom says:

      Muriel, not Murial.

    • “do you honestly think that the NZ tax payer is going to keep paying today’s market rates for land (water, wind, solar, tidal, radio spectrum, hydro storage and so on)”

      Why not?

      You pay for your land, don’t you?

      We pay oil exporting nations for their oil, don’t we?

      What’s the difference?

  7. Fred A says:

    Where are you hiding Mr Godfery?? LOL

  8. Mike says:

    This guy has to be the most dumd Maori in N Z he dosn’ under stand how a white man thinks

  9. Don Esslemont says:

    > The establishment of the government’s constitutional review panel has coincided with a rise in Treaty obstruction, falsification and denial. The obstructionist, falsifier and denialist in chief is the New Zealand Centre for Political Research (NZCPR), a “web-based think tank” and home to storied thinkers like Muriel Newman and David Round…

    That is really just asserting that you don’t agree with what they are saying. Muriel Newman is a right-wing politician and a former MP, and David Round is a lecturer in constitutional law at Canterbury University. Describing them as “storied thinkers” is presumably an ironical suggestion that they are in fact rather feeble thinkers, and that what they have to say need not be considered seriously. Could be; let’s see what you have to say to substantiate that.

    > Apparently, the Treaty is non-binding.

    Who says that? You seem to be implying that Newman or Round do. You may be right, but I don’t remember either of them making that claim.

    > Well, we’re expected to keep to our agreements – governments are no different. The Treaty doesn’t have a time lapse, an out clause or a guarantee that rednecks have the right to make post-facto decisions about its moral and legal force. The Treaty was created, offered and accepted under the assumption that it would bind the Crown and Maori.

    The Treaty was an agreement between the British government. and the chiefs who signed it, not the Maori people collectively. The government did guarantee that owners of property would no longer be subject to dispossession by raiding rival tribes, and it promised that, in exchange for the cession of sovereignty, all Maori people would have the same rights as British people. On the whole, I think these promises have been kept. If you disagree, can you explain why you think so?

    > It’s a basic question of human decency and the rule of law: if men and women are held to their agreements, shouldn’t society and governments be expected to do the same? If anything, society and governments should be held to a far, far higher standard.

    No argument on that 🙂

    > I’ve also been told, very matter-of-factly-by-condescending-white-guy, that race can’t be part of a constitution and the Treaty is discriminatory because it awards more rights to Maori.

    “Condescending white guy? Presumably you mean someone who does not claim to have any Maori ancestors. Why is that relevant to his or her opinions? Are you suggesting that a person’s “race” should be taken in to account when deciding whether his or her views are correct?

    He or she is obviously wrong, in saying “race can’t be part of a constitution”. Race was or is a factor in constitutional rights in British India, South Africa, Nazi Germany, Fiji, Si Lanka, Malaysia, the USA, and many other countries. It was a factor also in our own country, in the days when people of Chinese ancestry were discriminated against.

    The “white guy” may have meant to say that a person’s race should not be a factor in deciding that person’s constitutional rights. I agree with that, very strongly. If you do not, can you explain why?

    > Well, matter-of-fact-condescending-white-guy, the Treaty is already part of the constitution…

    Huh? What do you mean by that? If by “the constitution” you mean “the rules according to which laws are made and the government is carried on” the only argument in favour that I can think of it that the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986 introduced into law the “principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”.

    > … and, therefore, so is race. Race is central to any multicultural society, especially one where the founding document recognises the indigenous race.

    You seem to be asserting that the Treaty of Waitangi is in some sense the “founding document” of our country. What do you mean by that? It is obviously important in our history; the British government gave strict instructions to Hobson that he was not to declare British sovereignty over New Zealand without the agreement of chiefs who might themselves claim to be sovereign.

    But New Zealand would have become a British colony in any case, if it had not become a French one. The startling thing about the Treaty was that it gave British citizenship to all the Maori people of the time. That was an amazing thing in 1840.

    And why do you say the Treaty “recognises the indigenous race”? Where does it do that? The only mention of “nga tangata maori katoa o Nu Tirani” is in Article Three. That Article promises them protection, and the same rights as “the people of England”. The same rights, not special or additional ones.

    > … The Treaty guards my right to retain my Maoritanga and everything that comes with that: my language, lands and other parts that define me…

    Sorry, I think you need to read the Treaty again. Where does it say that you, as a part-Maori, have rights different from those of other subjects of the Crown?

  10. Fred A says:

    On the button Don Esslemont 🙂

  11. Hmmm, it appears that fans of NZCPR have discovered this page and the like/dislike buttons…

    Having seen and heard David Round on TV recently, his attitudes are from a by-gone era and have little to do with a real Treaty partnership in this country.

    And as for Don’s spiel, there’s not enough time to read the whole lot, so I’ll focus on his punch-line,

    ” … The Treaty guards my right to retain my Maoritanga and everything that comes with that: my language, lands and other parts that define me…

    Sorry, I think you need to read the Treaty again. Where does it say that you, as a part-Maori, have rights different from those of other subjects of the Crown?

    Sorry, Don, but YOU need to re-read the Treaty yourself. To wit,

    Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and OTHER PROPERTIES which they may COLLECTIVELY [my emphasis] or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession…

    Morgan didn’t say he has “rights different from those of other subjects of the Crown” – YOU did. You’re assigning words to him he never made.

    Morgan DID say, “Race is central to any multicultural society, especially one where the founding document recognises the indigenous race.”

    Which IS true because there are TWO parties to the Treaty contract;

    (1) the Crown
    (2) the Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand and the separate and independent Chiefs who have not become members of the Confederation

    Read the wording here: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/treaty/read-the-treaty/english-text

    Maoritanga is as much a “OTHER PROPERTIES” as is intellectual property in the West and elsewhere. Ergo…

    My question to you is why you’re so hung up and fearful of making the Treaty a cornerstone of any Constitution.

    Having read it, I can’t see anything that might frighten anyone. Heck man, what do you think will be taken from you???

    (Funny – isn’t this the same argument that was made over marriage equality? Homophobes seemed petrified that marriage equality would take “something” away from them)

  12. Helen says:

    What amazes me about all the comments from the Pakeha-maori people is that they stress their Maori side but ignore their Pakeha side. Surely they should be equally proud of ALL of their heritage. How they can suppress one part of their make-up is quite beyond me.

    Having said that, the Treaty was solely to bring the Maori people under the Crown equally with the rest of us so we would ALL have the same rights – no more, no less. The Treaty is NOT our founding document – how could it be when it was only between the Crown and the Maori people? Our true founding document is Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter signed on 16 November 1840 which allowed us to have our own colony and not continue to be ruled from NSW. The Maori people should be especially thankful given how badly the Australians treated the Aborigines.

    Too many Maori-pakehas now read things into the Treaty which were never there. It was a done deal in 1840 and achieved its aim then. Of course there were problems with land both on the Maori side and the Pakeha side but these were dealt with over time and were all completed by 1947.

    The problems we have today have been created by weak politicians who have reinvented the Treaty and created new Principles that were never there. Any claims today are fraudulent.

    Unless we want to be like South Africa used to be when they had apartheid, it is essential we are all treated equally as the Treaty said. Any special treatment or initiatives should be based on need, not race. There are virtually no full-blooded Maori people now – only Pakeha-maori people. If we want to be a decent happy country again, we should all pull together and make it great.

    Stop the divisive talk, recognise what a great little country we could have and be thankful the colonists came otherwise with the musket wars from 1806 to beyond 1840 amongst the Maori tribes, together with female infanticide and cannabalism, the Maori people would have become extinct.