GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Wealth and Waitangi


Globalisation is not something new. In 1840, when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, Victoria had been the British Queen for just on 3 years and her ambitious nation was in the throes of the industrial revolution.To increase its wealth Britain sought more resources and so just like France , Holland ( now the Netherlands) and Germany ,Britain used its military might to annex foreign lands in order to exploit them for its own benefit.

At a superficial level all of the above paragraph is true, but if you peel back the onion layers of history then what you find is that it was a rich elite of individuals in these European countries who , particuarly at the beginning fo the 19th Century , were seeking ways to increase their wealth by exploiting the people and resources of lands other than their own through conquest and colonisation,

In the case of Aotearoa/ New Zealand however things did not quite go to plan. Maori were not so easy to conquer and it would certainly be a mistake to think the Rangatira who signed the Treaty were all gullible men who put their names to a document they did not understand. All who signed that treaty in February of 1840 – Maori and Pakeha -saw a benefit in doing so at the time.

That said; whatever the differences between the English and the Maori versions of the Treaty ( and they are much disputed) one thing I think is clear. Under Article 2 Maori were guaranteed (in the English text ) ‘exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries and other properties’.
In the Māori text, Māori were guaranteed ‘te tino rangatiratanga’ or the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages, and all their property and treasures.

As we reflect on what the Treaty of 1840 means for New Zealanders today it is worth remembering what this first Treaty actually promised – because over the last 30 years a succession of neoliberal governments have entered international trade treaties willfully ignoring the intent and spirit of our very first New Zealand Treaty .

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When negotiating with other countries it is my view that today’s government and all our future NZ governments are duty bound to face up to areas of possible conflict with our very first Treaty signed at Waitangi and we should refuse to sign deals that allow the world’s financial elites to slowly buy up our country and enslave our people through usury and debt

We need to remember that today – just as in 1840- Treaty deals are largely about money .

So before we sign up to today’s “free” trade deals containing ( as they do )substantial chapters on finance, we should think very carefully about how much control of our own lives we are signing away and how much they violate the spirit of the first Treaty we agreed to in February of 1840

Because there is nothing “free” about them .

Let’s not forget that in the end Treaty deals such as the CPTPP ( or TPPA -11 ) are simply a tool by which a few rich people -Global Financial Elites – can increase their wealth, power and influence at the expense of the many.


Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. On Waitangi day I’m reminded of the lyrics of a song written by the late great John Lennon, “gimmie some truth”.

    We are a nation of liars, we lie about who we are, how we got here & how things are today. What’s really painful though is that we don’t even know we’re doing it most of the time.

    If we’re really honest with ourselves then we’d see that NZ has the potential to be extraordinarily great, but the reality is we live in an insular, uninspiring, moronic, intellectual wasteland that’s being held back by decades of unresolved racial tension.

    The only way we’ll defuse the racial powder keg that threatens to explode & tear our country to pieces is through the formation of something like a truth & reconciliation commission.

    Only then will be able move on from the stifling stagnation that is distracting us from realising our visionary destiny, which is to lead the world safely into a sustainable post-globalisation era. The Prophet of Zealandia, Waitangi day, 2019.

  2. What I find astounding is that NZFirst/Winston Peters was party to this coalition govt’ssigning of the TPPA. Which makes a mockery of their party’s name.

  3. Totally agree that the Treaty should stand above any subsequent trade deals etc.

    One thing that both parties to the Treaty both gained and lost was their exclusive heritage and bloodlines. We are indeed becoming one people. In this hopefully the Treaty can protect us from the deals of the wealthy, the foreigners.

    On top of this NZ became per capital maybe the largest recipient of immigration during the 9 years of National. Nowhere do I see an obligation for all new comers to understand or respect what the Treaty means to us, the locals whom they intend to become. I feel sold down the river by Key and his mates.

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