Indigenous Imperialist?


THE APPOINTMENT OF NANAIA MAHUTA as New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister was hailed as a triumph for indigenous peoples everywhere. Now, at last, the foreign policy of Aotearoa-New Zealand could move beyond the very white and very male perspectives of her predecessors. (A group which, sadly, includes Winston Peters.)

As the Māori development minister who commissioned the controversial He Puapua Report, Mahuta gave every appearance of wanting to bring a new and radical perspective to the task of representing a state born of, and still very much a prey to, the historical processes of colonialism and imperialism.

As late as November 2021, Mahuta was still signalling that hers was a perspective distinct from those of most of New Zealand’s friends and allies:

“Our connection to the Pacific is reflected through language, peoples, ocean, history, culture, politics, and shared interests. Together, we share kaitiaki responsibilities for Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa — the Blue Ocean Continent. This concept is enduring and inter-generational: what we do for our children today, sets the course for our tamariki and mokopuna. When we consider livelihoods we speak to intergenerational objectives.”

Set alongside her earlier statements suggesting a measure of diplomatic separation between New Zealand’s perspectives and those of its “Five Eyes” partners, Mahuta’s remarks to the NZ Institute of International Affairs continued to sustain the hope that she remained determined to give her country’s “independent foreign policy” a decidedly indigenous inflection.

It was not to be. When push comes to shove in the Pacific, New Zealand will always find itself among the pushed and the shoved. No matter how fervently factions in the NZ Defence Force and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT) might wish it, this country is unlikely to ever be included among the major-league pushers and the shovers. In the five-fingered Anglo-Saxon fist, New Zealand’s is the “pinky” finger – attached to, bur wielding no power over the much larger and stronger fingers of the USA, UK, Canada and Australia.

But, if New Zealand possesses insufficient heft to push upwards, or shove outwards, it is regarded by its big Anglo-Saxon brothers as having more than enough power to pushdownwards on the micro-states of the Pacific. The countries it describes, condescendingly, as living in New Zealand’s “back-yard”.

In a division of diplomatic labour indistinguishable from the imperialistic carve-ups of the Nineteenth Century, Australia has arrogated unto itself the responsibility for keeping the independent nations of Melanesia in line. New Zealand’s job is to do the same in Polynesia.

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Like a couple of pith-helmeted district officers of the British Raj, the two “White Dominions” of the Southern Hemisphere are positioned side-by-side on the imperial verandah, sipping their gin-and-tonics, and keeping a watchful eye on the “natives” of the Blue Ocean Continent.

Clearly, it was too much to hope that Mahuta might balk at this grotesque assignment. That she might simply refuse to act as the Five Eyes’ policewoman in the South Pacific. Sadly, Mahuta’s response to the Solomon Island’s decision to sign a security agreement with the People’s Republic of China has been everything her Anglo-Saxon bosses could wish for.

Not only have she and her fellow Labour Māori Caucus member, Defence Minister Peeni Henare, flown off to Fiji to sign the “Duavata Partnership”, a beefed-up climatic, economic and defence deal with the Fijian prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, but Mahuta has also introduced a whole new term to the strategic vocabulary – “Regional Sovereignty”.

Speculating that the actions of the Solomon Island’s government might necessitate a bringing forward of the scheduled meeting of the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) in June, Mahuta declared:

“It’s my view that several of the Pacific nations will want greater clarity from the Solomons around the nature of those agreements, and the extent to which the sovereign interests of Solomons may well impact on the regional sovereignty and security interests of the Pacific.”

Clearly, it is Mahuta’s view (and presumably the view of her advisors at MFAT) that while the Solomon Islands, as an independent nation state and member of the United Nations, possesses, along with all other states, “sovereign interests” to advance and protect according to its own best judgement; the “Blue Ocean Continent”, which, as a mere figure of speech, cannot claim the rights of an independent nation state, nor become a member of the United Nations, nevertheless possesses regional sovereign interests of its own.

Further implied, in this new coinage of Mahuta’s, is that “regional sovereignty” trumps national sovereignty. Bluntly: Honiara proposes, but the PIF (i.e. Australia and New Zealand) disposes.

Not only is this concept new, but it is also profoundly pernicious. With the undoubted backing of New Zealand’s Five Eyes “partners”, Mahuta is asserting the right of the Solomon Island’s neighbours to determine its foreign and defence policies.

A century-and-a-half ago, at the high point of the Age of Imperialism, such an overt curtailment of national sovereignty would have been described as transforming what had formerly been an independent territory into a “protectorate” of one or the other of the great imperial powers. In the Solomon’s case, the “protectors” are the five English-speaking nations which have, since the end of the Second World War, looked upon the Pacific Ocean as an Anglo-Saxon lake.

So much for the “Pacific resilience” about which Mahuta boasted in her speech to the NZIIA last November. New Zealand’s foreign minister is openly participating in the restoration of Anglo-Saxon imperialism across the “Blue Ocean Continent” – for no better reason than to keep her country’s largest and most important trading partner out of it.

China will draw its own conclusions. And so, too, if it has any instinct for national self-preservation, will the Solomon Islands.



  1. Surely Mahuta is only expressing a NZ view of what the Solomon Islands should do. She knows very well that she has no power to control or direct what they do.
    D J S

  2. Meanwhile back in reality, most of these island states are simply incapable of running their own affairs.
    I recall one island state that was preparing to hand over their entire fishing rights to the Chinese because the various village chiefs had been given ATVs for Christmas. LOL

    The White Man’s Burden – it’s a thing.

    • Is that your racist rant for today or is there more to come?
      Could you please explain or provide evidence of, “I recall one island state that was preparing to hand over their entire fishing rights to the Chinese because the various village chiefs had been given ATVs for Christmas.” or are we to assume you “LOL” is evidence of you having a disingenuous laugh over a made up yarn.

      As for, “The White Man’s Burden – it’s a thing.” What the hell is that about. Didn’t you get the message – the Solomon Islands is a sovereign state and quite capable of making its own choices.

      • He’s a very naughty boy, perhaps “brown woman’s burden” would have been moe appropriate in this case.
        When I was in the Cook Islands a few years ago there was a big scandal; one of the politicians had accepted a large, secret, back hander to support Chinese fishing concessions. This sort of thing is not unusual, the Pacific peoples have been victims of deception and corruption for centuries. The Tongan government were regular victims of various scams and con artists in the eighties and nineties. There’s a certain naivety and the rule of law and not always what it should be.
        What bothers me about the Solomans situation is that the politicians will, almost inevitably, become unwitting (?) participants in the sort of thing that occurred in the Cook Islands. The Chinese imperialists have, therefore, bought themselves a powerful coercive weapon to control the local politicians and, to make things much worse, would have the martial force to to put down any dissent from the people. It’s not really a criticism of the people to say that they are a bit naïve, they are isolated and sheltered – or were.
        Yeah, I get it, independent country, etc. but I don’t think we should shy away from taking a paternalistic interest in what happens to these people. I think, if these Chinese forces are installed, it will be very bad for the Solomans people. The security issue for us is a minor concern.

  3. A lot of ordinary New Zealanders have long fallen for and embraced by default, the venerable class trap of siding with “their” imperialist power/s. Which is rather obviously US Pacific Deputy Dog Australia, and the rest of the 5 Eyes bunch.

    It is quite mind boggling to think about how we ever achieved Nuke Free legislation via a mass movement in the 1980s in Aotearoa NZ. I guess neo liberal hegemony was not absolutely entrenched back then, and Nuke Free did coat tail to some extent on the powerful World Peace Movement whose goal was to remove ICBMs from Europe.

    It is disappointing to see another Labour Minister whipped into submission by her Dept., the neo Blairist Labour Cabinet, and the Septic Tanks, yet again. Solomons are a bit of a failed state but should be allowed to pursue their own course none the less.

    • +100
      Which is a big reason why our public service is the way it is and why politicians are so easily captured by it.
      ….”embraced by default……..” Indeed! It’s now second nature to them and most are not even aware of it

      (We now again parachute them in from the Empire in a way that’s reminiscent of the days when they came to show us the way. It’s really a bit pathetic – but yeah but nah)

    • To some degree we got the nuclear free legislation as a sugar pill to help us swallow the noeliberal revolution .
      D J S

      • David Stone: “….a sugar pill to help us swallow the noeliberal revolution .”

        Yup. That’s certainly how it looks in retrospect. While our attention was diverted by the nuclear issue, the government was able to sneak through far-reaching changes to society, without the attention they ought to have received.

  4. This’ transformational’ Govt ,should really be named the ‘pragmatic’ Govt.

    I’m sure Mahuta must feel frustrated but has little..choice.

    • which would be fine if they were pragmatic but it’s a case of what elastoplast fix will get me through todays press call.

      • Lol.
        If the British or American empires were colonizing now I’d be against that too.
        The shabby history of the western Anglosphere doesn’t forgive the Chinese (or Russians) of corruption and murder.
        Have a look at what good friends the Chinese are to PNG:
        And I note it didn’t take long for the anti American pro Russian crowd around here to go quiet as signs of mass murder by the Russians appear.
        I’m not doubting the Mike Smiths and other useful idiots in NZ will go quiet as the Chinese fishing fleets arrive in the pacific with their armed escorts and zero care for fish stocks or races that aren’t Han Chinese.
        Will the communist sympathizing NZ left care then when the ghost boats and bodies washing up will be local pacific fishermen not North Korean?
        Time may tell.

        • Kcco: “….. signs of mass murder by the Russians appear.”

          Lord: surely you don’t actually believe that? False flag alert! It’s not as if we haven’t seen this sort of thing before: multiple incidents in any conflict involving a polity which the US/UK have deemed to be enemy du jour.

          And of course Russia is always enemy du jour. It’s a little difficult to figure out why that continues to be so.

          We’ve been getting a one-dimensional account from the usual suspects in western media, so many of us come to the blogosphere for a more nuanced perspective. And what do we find? The very same just-so stories as those purveyed by the msm. Grrr….

          Surely it’s dawned on people by now that they’re being propagandised? Do you know why Russia is carrying out this military operation in the Ukraine? You certainly won’t hear it in the msm. But consider: this is the largest military operation carried out by Russia since WW2, when the USSR threw out the Nazis and chased them all the way back to Berlin. It must be obvious from this fact that more lies behind this conflict than what we’re being told by the msm.

            • SPC: “Sure when “Russia” is the aggressor there is a reason for it that needs to be considered.”

              That’s the whole point, isn’t it? This is something Russia hasn’t done since WW2. It isn’t Russia’s style to come in swinging in this fashion. And there surely is a reason for it.

              Not only is this operation legal under the terms of the UN charter, it is most emphatically justified. I know: I have extended family connections back into the Donbass.

              It sounds to me as if you have the msm view of Russia. This isn’t the US or the UK we’re talking about here. Nor even NATO, notorious for its unmandated bombing of Serbia all those years ago.

              Russia doesn’t attack without provocation polities outside its boundaries. Anything you’ve heard to the contrary is propaganda.

              I also advise you to read: nothing from the US or the UK msm, though. There are many independent news websites online, which will give you a more nuanced view. Try Consortiumnews and MoonofAlabama for a start. Both American, thus English language. There are many others.

  5. So you are saying her concern that a nation not be subordinated by China, is not supporting indigenous rights … . To what, sign a treaty that allows foreign investment and ownership and military presence to secure that …

    Like the settler government in New Zealand calling in imperial forces to own Maori land …

    • SPC: “Like the settler government in New Zealand calling in imperial forces to own Maori land …”

      Even if the above statement were an accurate reflection of what happened here after the signing of the Treaty (it isn’t), the current situation in the Solomons isn’t at all commensurate.

      What are you proposing? That NZ and other countries ought to save the Solomons from itself? Good luck with that.

      NZ should stay out of it. It isn’t our business what its government decides to do.

      • covid is pa: “…by bringing in mercenaries like Von tempsky.”

        That’s not what happened at all. Von Tempsky was a migrant from Australia: he came here with his family.

        He certainly fought in many campaigns here, his prowess and courage earning the respect of the indigenes. History records that when he was killed in Taranaki, Titokowaru ordered his corpse to be cremated. Other dead soldiers were eaten.

  6. All the communists in this left wing blog must be welcoming Chinese incursion into the South Pacific area. Those of us who live on the islands of Aotearoa recognize, as does minister Mahuta, that we are part of the Blue Ocean Continent and should do what we can to support other island nations and oppose sell outside imperialism.

    • Agree with your sentiment but Aotearoa is only one island technically speaking.
      That being it’s originally specified definition. I don’t believe anyone has consulted on changing that definition despite widespread misuse, even on kiwi passports.
      Misusing “Aotearoa” is disrespectful to South Island Maori let alone everyone else that lives there.
      Colonialism and all its appropriation eh

    • Imperialism? Chinese incursion?

      Solomon Islands, one sovereign state signed an agreement with another sovereign state, China
      How the fuck is that imperialism? There has been on coercion on either side.

      Imperialism is what the West does – attacks countries from Haiti to Panama to Libya to Afghanistan to Iraq, killing the leaders and massacring thousands in air strikes.

      Moreover Australian and New Zealand have both hitched their economies to China in the past couple of decades, both have had visits from Chinese warships, both recognized the PRC over Taiwan in the 1970s. Did they ask the ‘permission’ of their Pacific neighbours before they did this? Of course not.

      It seems brown people then have to ask the permission of white people for doing the same thing that white people have already done?

    • Peter H: “…Chinese incursion into the South Pacific area.”

      China has been variably active in the South Pacific – and south-east Asia – for centuries. Since imperial times and earlier. The Chinese were already trading in that area when the first westerners (the Portuguese, as I recall) arrived.

      I’m not sure what there is to get excited about over the Solomons.

      “….should do what we can to support other island nations and oppose sell outside imperialism.”

      Evidently, it hasn’t occurred to commentators here that the Solomons ‘ conclusion of a security deal with China may reflect its desire to be protected from, rather than by, the US and its “allies”.

  7. For once I have to disagree Chris. This decline in the overseership of the pacific didn’t happen overnight.
    The Pacific has been neglected by the dominions for decades.
    I’m not a Mahuta fan but blaming her for the insurgency in the Pacific is a bit much.

    He PuaPua is nothing but a bunch of ideas put together which have been drawn from other ‘doctrines’ from the past, like, Mana Motuhake’s original manifesto from the 1990s.

    Like 3 Waters, He Puapua, and other Maori ‘aspirational’ doctrines, they all need a little bit more work, and not by academics, but by He tangata, he tangata, he tangata along with a better frontman, woman to sell these ideas.

    If they really want to ‘sell’ the 3 waters proposal. Pay off all of the 67 council’s debt! Aucklands is the biggest at about $10.5b and the rest of the country’s council’s collective debt will bring it up to about $12b!

    Grant ‘Loadsa-monet’ Robertson has a spare $37.5b sitting in the Treasury account!

    Basically. This government is ‘spent’. They’re worse than stale bread. The mould has set in.

  8. Greed is the corner stone of politically irrational behavior.
    While this might seem off-topic, it isn’t.
    Four main AO/NZ banks tell us what to do and when to do it.
    Watch this.
    Russell Brand talks about Ukraine and the private debt building up against it.

      • I’m reasonably sure that ‘neoliberal’ is the term you’re looking for. Call me naive but except for some parts of Eastern Europe, fringe extremists and with a negative connotation in woke circles, ‘whiteness’ is no longer an effective mobilising ploy.

        I don’t particularly disagree with your assessment of imperialist interests and hypocrisy although I fear realpolitik may ultimately result in a choice of western neoliberal or CCP imperialism where ‘none of the above’ is not an option.

        However the framing is remarkably aligned with critical theorists. Unless you’re invoking lazy tropes to enhance the narrative, you go beyond calling out western imperialism to saying Mahuta and Peters are ‘white-adjacent’ which is odd given your opposition to identity politics.

        Do you think neoliberal ideology is intrinsic to race and ethnicity? If so should we regard CCP ideology as intrinsically ‘Han’? That would be a surly be a surprise for many Taiwanese people.

  9. Yes, hypocritical. Acting in our nation’s best interests to ensure our security sounds a bit like how the Russian’s are justifying their actions in the Ukraine. Truth is, we need to be careful as any country ignores the PRC at their peril but there is a fine line between prudent manoeuvring and interfering in a sovereign nation’s business.

  10. It may be true that Mahuta will not give NZ’s “independent foreign policy” a decidedly indigenous inflection.

    But the specific language CT raises is a wired hook to hang that on. “Regional Sovereignty” could easily be shorthand for “sovereignty of nations in the region”.

    It’s also a wired issue to look at. Like would it be good to have this inflection, or not, or what? Presumably would would be good, cos colonialism etc.

    The more interesting q is whether we respect sovereignty or not by expressing disquiet about our neighbours’ international dealings. Heaps of people think we’re being hypocrites, as one suspects does CT. As I’ve commented elsewhere though, our liberal values are better than authoritarian values, even if we don’t live up to them perfectly. Can CT tell us why that’s not the case?

    • Ah…? ( Cough-cough. )
      @ brenty, you write
      ” …our liberal values are better than authoritarian values, …”
      Our neo- liberal values ARE authoritarian values. Back to the drawing board old boy.

  11. @ CT. You write:
    “…for no better reason than to keep her country’s largest and most important trading partner out of it….”
    Let’s ponder WHY China is [now] “her country’s largest and most important trading partner”?
    So. Why is China now the “country’s largest and most important trading partner”? Hmmmm….?
    I can tell you why. It’s because them Good Ol Boys in our agrarian marketing boards got fucking greedy, didn’t you? Aye boys? Got a little sticky fingered didn’t you? You thought you had our traditional trading partners over a barrel, making them wait to force up the prices on all that butter, fruit, meats, fishes, skins, wool, etc, etc until they got fed up ( pardon the pun) with you good ol boys fucking them around. You paid the premium prices, the prices our farmers never saw, then they dropped us like a brick then went elsewhere. But guess where they went? You’ll laugh! They went to Australia. That’s right. They went to CER* Australia.
    That reads like a con job, right? Well, it was. I’d argue it was TOO easy to get your sticky little fingers over our world first, fresh-as produce so the UK, The EU, The USA, France, Belgium, Holland, etc, etc, etc got bored with being held to ransom by you Boys so they told you to go fuck yourselves, didn’t they? Yes, they did.
    Example Alert!
    An SMP* was paid to farmers, in this case wool, which was then triple dumped** then stored in massive warehouses to force the price up while the sheep farmer had to go cap in hand to the banksters for a loan to get through another year? Yes, you did. Oh, yes you did. You naughty, naughty little men.
    Damien O’Conner ? Yoo hoo? Damien…? Hello? Wakey, wakey ? What do you think about that, then?
    You have the most important ministerial portfolio in Government and you spend most of your time fucking asleep.
    * CER.
    Wikipedia: “The Australia–New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement.”
    Aw, bless. All lovely and snuggle fur and everything. Aye Boys?
    ** Supplementary Minimum Price. AKA con job.
    *** Taking three bales of wool then squeezing them into one bale of wool to expedite savings and efficiencies in shipping while ripping off wool farmers with eye watering audacity.

  12. Personally I have usually found Nanaia Mahuta to be overrated as a politician but only slightly. The fact of the matter is that you can only do so much work.

    I was just thinking the other day about Maori in authority being given more prominent roles within the different political parties. This fits in with that.

    There’s a lot of well educated and articulate, intelligent, and hard working young Maori in this country at the moment who are aspiring to be our future accountants, lawyers and judges and legal assistants, doctors and nurses and carers, and politicians and political leaders, amongst other occupations.

  13. yes an article about nuie but I see no mention of SUVs or fishing rights???indeed the ‘lack of local fishing’ is mentioned at the bottom of the piece

  14. Interesting how those prepared to site instances of “backhanders” being taken by island states to facilitate the advantage of foreign interests, fail to see that, in opposing China doing a deal with the Solomons for instance, we are in effect doing so to secure our economy’s trade “backhander,” from those with the power to cancel such arrangements.

  15. and our own ‘aid’ isn’t a bribe?…so the chinese have deeper pockets…that’s capitalism folks…and these days the ‘chinese commies’ do capitalism better than we do….welcome to the 21st century.


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