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Give back land, take away privileges

© Peter Zohrab 1995

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(published in the Opinion column of the Wellington (New Zealand) Evening Post on Friday March 24, 1995 -- it is therefore outdated in some respects)


By "Honour the Treaty !" I mean two things:

  1. Setting no maximum amount for settling treaty claims on lands and fisheries -- only a target date, which could be well into the future. We can't afford to settle Maori grievances quickly. So the only fair solution, which will also preserve our stability and prosperity, is to do it gradually . Otherwise there will be a festering grievance which will inevitably turn violent.

  2. Setting up a Constitutional Court to replace both the Waitangi Tribunal and appeals to the Privy Council. This court would have the power to impose settlements on Treaty of Waitangi and Bill of Rights issues. It wouldn't just advise the Government what to do, as the Waitangi Tribunal presently does.

The Act of Parliament that sets up this court should state that the Treaty of Waitangi is part of the New Zealand constitution. It should also state that the Treaty doesn't guarantee just the rights of Maoris -- it guarantees the rights of all New Zealanders. After all, the Treaty guarantees Maoris "all the rights and privileges of British Subjects." It doesn't say that they should have more rights than other British Subjects, or New Zealand citizens.

So the same Constitutional Court that gives the Maoris back their lands and fisheries should also take away from them the special privileges which they have accumulated over the years. These privileges discriminate against non-Maoris on the grounds of race, and they are also a source of festering grievance which could contribute to violent polarisation in years to come. So non-Maoris would also be able to take action under the Treaty -- not just Maoris.

This means an end to the Ministry of Maori Development, and an end to affirmative action for Maoris. Maoris would by then have sufficient resources to educate their own people for upward mobility, without needing patronising, racist favouritism by the State.

We could also look at banning the use of the word "Aotearoa" by government agencies. It's not that I particularly dislike the word, but the Treaty of Waitangi uses the name "Nu Tirani". It is hypocritical for Maoris to demand that the Treaty be honoured, if they don't honour it completely.

Another issue is the pronunciation of English words of Maori origin, and leaving the "s" off plurals of such words. A few years ago I was going to present a paper on this topic at a Linguistics conference. A Linguistics lecturer warned me off, saying that it would damage my career. Whether what I was going to say was true just didn't come into it !

If Maoris traditionally took pains to pronounce words of non-Maori origin just as they are pronounced in the original language, then it would be understandable for other ethnic groups to return the compliment. But Maoris don't. Even the Queen of England, with whose representative the Maoris signed the Treaty of Waitangi, gets her name changed from "Victoria" to "Wikitoria"! I find this double standard highly offensive, and racist.

New Zealand's entire fishing industry could pass into Maori hands, with adequate compensation to the present non-Maori fishing companies and individuals. As far as justified land claims are concerned, both private and public land should be returned to Maoris -- with three provisos:

  1. Claims against private land should be given highest priority, so that they can be settled quickly. This is so that the present owners are not subjected to a drastic drop in market value or a long period of uncertainty;

  2. Funds should be made available to ensure fair compensation to present owners;

  3. The proceedings of the Waitangi Tribunal should be widely publicised, so that justice is seen to be done. I personally am against compensation for unforced sales, where the only issue is that the Maoris involved might have agreed on too low a price. No one else gets compensation for selling their property too cheaply, and it is racist to apply this practice only to Maoris. Value is subjective, not objective.

    Some Maoris are talking about reverting to a state of affairs that existed BEFORE the Treaty was signed. They refer to the Maori Declaration of Independence, which was made by some tribes before they signed the Treaty of Waitangi.

    It seems to me that the Treaty of Waitangi superseded that Declaration of Independence. But the longer it takes for the Treaty to be honoured, the more tempting it will be for Maoris to give up on it altogether. If we non-Maoris don't treat the Maori people in accordance with the Treaty of Waitangi, then it is only natural that Maoris will repudiate the Treaty and opt for separatism and independence. That will be the fault of us, the non-Maoris.

    Since David Lange's time as Prime Minister, governments have been giving in to Maori claims -- by allowing the Waitangi Tribunal to operate. This can look like weakness. Maoris have been encouraged by this weakness, by this recognition of the justice of their claims (to put the same thing another way). If the rest of us to try to put some artificial ceiling on claims at this stage, we will create the classic scenario for revolution: concessions, followed by an arbitrary clampdown.


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Peter Douglas Zohrab

Latest Update

19 May 2021