At its 2021 Annual Conference in August, the NZ National Party voted to include as point two of its ‘Values’, ‘Recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of New Zealand’.
The argument in favour is that this is no more than historical truth. However two objections can be made to this decision:
1) The Treaty as Partnership
The text of the Treaty of Waitangi, and subsequent interpretations by people like Apirana Ngata, make it clear that Maori chiefs were conceding sovereignty to the Crown:
‘The Chiefs assembled including Chiefs not present at the assembly hereby cede absolutely to the Queen of England for ever the Government of all of their lands’ (see the Hon. Sir Apirana Ngata, ‘The Treaty of Waitangi: an Explanation’, 1922)
In recent years, however, the Treaty of Waitangi has been reinterpreted as meaning that those chiefs entered into (equal) partnership with the Crown. From the new school History curriculum:
‘It is clear that Maori did not cede their mana to the Crown, and that they signed in the belief that it would give them power to govern in partnership with the Governor’ (See The Big Lie)
Claims by Maori elites for special rights, even inequitable power-sharing, on the basis of this ‘partnership’ model have become increasingly strident. This year Wellington City Council, which already has two self-identifying Maori councillors out of its 14, agreed to invite two iwi representatives on full salary and with full voting rights, citing the Treaty. A few weeks later, the Council (including two National members) voted overwhelmingly to establish a Maori Ward, again citing the treaty, once the government removed the Electoral Act provision for binding polls.
‘If we are honouring Te Tiriti, we are looking at a co-governance structure and that is 50/50 representation’ Teri O’Neil, Councillor, Wellington City Council, video submission, 19:45 – 25:38
Professor Elizabeth Rata of Auckland University, refutes the existence of a Treaty partnership and outlines the strategy being used by the Maori elite to gain control of the country, pointing out that the extremists behind this power grab are relatively small in number and hardly representative:
‘The exclusive biculturalists driving the separatist agenda are actually a rather small group of individuals, numbering only in the hundreds. They are ethnically diverse and include iwi-Maori leaders, intellectuals, lobbyists, academics, activists, lawyers, officials, media figures, and politicians. Tight self-referential networks, strong personal relationships, and a willingness to play the long game have led to their remarkable success. These are all features common to those who lead revolutionary change.’ (The Road to He Puapua – Is there really a Treaty partnership?)
In including a reference to the Treaty of Waitangi in its constitution, the National Party could have taken the opportunity to explain what it means by ‘the Treaty’, but has chosen to leave it to politicians to interpret as they will.
2) The timing – He Puapua
‘He PuaPua: the Report of the Working Group on a Plan to Realise the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in Aotearoa/New Zealand’, was completed in 2019 but kept secret until released to the public this year after a freedom of information request from ex-MP Muriel Newman (ACT).
The He PuaPua report is essentially a road map for co-governance with iwi, ie replacing Western democracy with tribal rule – by 2040.
‘Like a runaway train, the pace of change of this separatist takeover of our culture and institutions, is escalating to new heights. Everything from crushing local government democracy, to changing the country’s name to ‘Aotearoa’, to introducing a separate Maori health authority – with the power of veto over all health decisions – is set out in He Puapua.’ (Muriel Newman, He Puapua)
The report was attacked vigorously in the media by both ACT and National. While Labour insisted that the report was not government policy, National’s leader Judith Collins has pointed out that many of the provisions have already been implemented. So why did National chose this particular year to include a reference to the Treaty in its list of essential values?
National, Three Waters and Taumata Arowai
NZ’s Labour/Green government has introduced a proposal that the control of water management pass from local bodies to four new authorities, know as the Three Waters reforms, 50:50 co-governed by iwi. The proposal has been described as He Puapua in action:
‘Minister Mahuta’s plan will result in freshwater, stormwater and wastewater assets and infrastructure owned and controlled by the country’s 67 local authorities – and paid for by generations of ratepayers – being transferred to four new regional water agencies 50:50 co-governed by iwi. Although local authorities will provide all of the assets, they will be given only 50 percent of the control. The other 50 percent will be given to local iwi.
‘Not only will councils effectively have control of their assets cut in half, Cabinet papers reveal an extraordinary requirement: all decisions undertaken by these new agencies “will require a super majority decision of 75 per cent”. That means no decisions can be made without the approval of iwi. In effect, iwi will have a veto right and be in control of all New Zealand water services decision-making.’
(See also Democracy Action, ‘Three Waters Reform to Give Maori/Iwi Dominating Influence’)
The National opposition’s shadow minister for local government, Chris Luxon, has just published an open letter to the government (see Appendix), criticising the project for the following reasons:
- The touted scale benefits as well as the financial assumptions and cost savings have not been properly explained
- Ratepayers may end up cross-subsidising neighbouring communities
- They will remove local control from communities: ‘We review the entity model as a continuation of the Labour Governemments/
Nowhere does Luxon address the transfer of power to Maori elites. Rather, the letter indicates that National is throwing its full support behind the new water authority in charge of the reforms.
2. We fully support Taumata Arowai, the new water regulator. New Zealand has never had a body to both set and – importantly – enforce drinking water standards. We believe this will be a game-changer and a very important organisation going forward
Luxon is thereby implying support for the model of equal partnership with iwi. Taumata Arowai’s web page spells out the intention to ‘operate from a ‘te ao Maori perspective’ and its commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi, inevitably in the sense of ‘partnership.
Taumata Arowai will operate from a te ao Māori perspective aspiring to higher outcomes for wai and tangata in Aotearoa. We will work in partnership across Aotearoa, taking our lead from Te Tiriti o Waitangi, to regulate and influence the water services sector to improve outcomes and reflect on the importance and interconnectivity of the health of tangata and of wai.
Luxon’s implied support here for the implementation of He Puapua hardly accords with the Party’s official position. Back in July, Judith Collins stated in a press release:
‘The National Party stands for equal citizenship for all. We must be one people underneath the law despite all of our diversity. We will not support a system of co-governance that undermines our democracy and treats people differently based on ethnicity.’
The mixed messages could come from a reluctance to grasp the issue of governance, thereby bringing down on National the full force of the government-funded mainstream media media. However there are real signs that important forces within the National Party support the progression from a Western democracy to tribal rule. The Party’s position needs to be clarified, and soon.
With the sudden emergence into our political life of the revolutionary report He Puapua, it is clear New Zealanders are at a crossroads. We will have to decide whether we want our future to be that of an ethno-nationalist state or a democratic-nationalist one. (Professor Elizabeth Rata, Ethno-Nationalism or Democratic-Nationalism – which way ahead for New Zealand?)
Christopher Luxon’s letter to the NZ government opposing the Three Water reforms: