A dispute 180 years in the making is exposing fault lines ahead of New Zealand elections


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  8 months ago  •  29 comments

By:   Saphora Smith

A dispute 180 years in the making is exposing fault lines ahead of New Zealand elections
New Zealand government efforts to share decision-making with Mori have fueled a debate about how to guarantee Indigenous rights without undermining democracy.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

MERCER, New Zealand — New Zealand's longest river courses through spongy green lowlands on the country's North Island, a mighty behemoth that local Mori see as a living ancestor.

For more than 10 years, government ministers and tribes of New Zealand's Indigenous people have appointed equal numbers of board members to work toward the restoration of the health and well-being of the Waikato River.The arrangement — known locally as co-governance — isthe result of a settlement delivered by a decadeslong effort to resolve state breaches of a historic treaty and has been described as a success by representatives of both groups.

Since 2017 however, government efforts to go further and share decision-making with Mori in other areas of public life have fueled a febrile national debate about how to guarantee Indigenous rights without undermining democracy, echoing tensions in other postcolonial societies.Now in an election year, the issue is a political fault line ahead of what is expected to be a close race in October.

The discussion, which many say is picking away at social cohesion, is rooted in differing interpretations of the country's founding document — the Treaty of Waitangi — and competing visions for the best way to redress colonial wrongs and foster a just relationship between the British Crown and its Indigenous treaty partners.

The agreement between the Crown and some 540 Mori chiefs paved the way for British sovereignty and colonial governance in New Zealand. However, the English and Mori versions of the text differed, and many argue that Mori chiefs would not have signed had their version said they were ceding sovereignty to Britain.

People cross a street in central Auckland. New Zealand, a liberal democracy that is increasingly multicultural, is grappling with how to guarantee Indigenous rights without excluding others. Saphora Smith

The Mori version said their leaders gave Queen Victoria what has been translated as "complete government" over their territories, but that they were guaranteed the "unqualified exercise of their chieftainship" over their lands, villages and all their treasures. The English text by contrast says Mori leaders gave the queen "all the rights and powers of sovereignty" over their territories, and guaranteed Mori "exclusive and undisturbed possession" of their lands and other properties.

A New Zealand government website examining the differences between the texts says Mori believe that they kept their authority to manage their own affairs but ceded a right of governance to the queen in return for the promise of protection. "There can be little doubt that the chiefs who signed the Treaty expected to enter into some kind of partnership and power sharing in the new system," it says.

More than 180 years later, New Zealand is self-governing and independent from the United Kingdom, although King Charles III is still its head of state and bills still need royal assent to become law. While government efforts to increase shared decision-making with Mori have been welcomed by many as a recognition of Mori rights as signatories to the 1840 treaty, they have alsobeen slammed by others as "dismantling democracy" in a country that was the first in the world to give women the right to vote.

"The Treaty of Waitangi represents true partnership," Tukoroirangi Morgan — a leader of the Waikato-Tainui tribe and a chief architect of the Waikato River settlement agreement with the Crown — said earlier this year from a cafe near the muddy brown river. "Whether it's health, or water or waterways, or any other thing in this country, we're the perfect partner."

But for David Seymour, the leader of the small libertarian ACT party, broadening power sharing in a country where Mori represent less than 20% of the national population, calls into question the principle of one person, one vote democracy and gives preferential treatment on the basis of race. The government's interpretation of the country's treaty risks "abandoning liberal democracy at the altar of the treaty," he said during an interview in Aprilat his party's head office in central Auckland.

Tukoroirangi Morgan was a chief architect of the Waikato River settlement agreement with the New Zealand government.Saphora Smith

Since coming to power in 2017, coalition governments led by the center-left Labour Party have made it easier to establishMori wards on local councilsand introduced reforms they say will allow Mori greater authority over their health and greater influence throughout the entire health system. Under Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, the Labour-Green coalition government has said water infrastructure reforms will ensure there are an equal number of Mori and council seats on regional advisory groups.

These reforms have met with ardent opposition from some quarters, with many saying the end goal of the policies remains unclear.This was fueled by the publication ofa report commissioned by the government that setout a vision to share more power with Mori over the coming decades. Opposition parties accusedthe government of keeping it under wraps, while Jacinda Ardern, who was prime minister at the time, was quoted as saying it had not been published because it was not government policy.

The latest polling suggests that Labour's main opposition, the center-right National Party, and ACT could together capture a slim majority of seats in October's election, well ahead of the number a potential Labour and Green coalition are currently polling. Government policies that share more decision-making power with Mori seemingly hang in the balance. National has told local media that while it supports the co-management between government and Mori for natural resources in the context of treaty settlements, it does not support co-governance of public services or separate bureaucratic systems for Mori and non-Mori. The ACT party has called for a referendum on the matter.

Debates about the status of Indigenous communities in modern society are not limited to New Zealand. There are parallels in other countries where European settlers came to dominate and Indigenous communities suffered as a result.

In Canada, First Nation communities announced earlier this yearthat they were challenging unilateral Crown control over around two-thirds of Ontario province, arguing that they never ceded decision-making power over the lands and resources. And in Australia, a proposal by the government to recognize the country's Indigenous people in the constitution has inflamed a culture war and set off divisive debates — including among Indigenous people themselves.

The debates playing out in former British colonies often center on interpretations of historic agreements made between the Crown and Indigenous communities and how they apply to the modern day. They are colored by the fact that Indigenous communities have been marginalized and have been victims of discrimination.

In New Zealand, what was agreed to in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi between the Crown and Mori chiefs is still debated today. A museum at the treaty grounds situated on the idyllic shores of the Bay of Islands attempts to carefullyunpick the disagreement for its visitors.

The Waikato River is New Zealand's longest, making its way from high in the central North Island volcanic zone to the Tasman Sea.Olly Box

The use of different words such as sovereignty rather than government and possession rather than chieftainshipare complicating relations almost 200 years later. While the meaning of the treaty is still debated, in the late 20th century it was acknowledged that the Crown breached the agreementby confiscating and acquiring Mori land, and for the past three decades the government has been negotiating and settling Mori claims.

The process has resulted in formal Crown apologies, multimillion-dollar compensation packages and power-sharing agreements over waterways and landforms, such as the one that governs the Waikato River.In 2010, the then-U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous people, James Anaya, described the treaty settlement process as "one of the most important examples in the world of an effort to address historical and ongoing grievances of Indigenous peoples," and it is broadly accepted by New Zealanders as a justified way to redress colonial wrongs.

However, Seymour, the ACT party leader who is Mori, is concerned the government is interpreting the treaty as a partnership between Mori and the Crown in which matters in the public sphere should be co-governed as "a matter of course" and where Mori are reserved seats at the table based on their race. It amounts, he said, to saying New Zealand is no longer a "one person, one vote democracy."

"That's where there's a major resistance from people like me," he said. "I don't think there's any basis for what they're trying to do."

He has called for the principles of the treaty to be properly debated and defined by Parliament, with resulting legislation put to a referendum.

The government declined to comment or answer NBC News' questions on its position on the treaty or entrusing more power to Mori and local government minister Kieran McAnulty declined an interview request.

Asked earlier this year whether the government's water infrastructure reforms were democratic, McAnulty told the broadcasterTVNZ that "there are provisions that we have in this country that wouldn't stand up to a purely academic democratic framework."

"But that's not how we work in New Zealand," he said. "We recognize that this country was founded on a treaty that gives Mori particular rights and interests in certain things."

Christopher Finlayson, a former National politician, attorney general and minister for treaty of Waitangi negotiations, disagrees with Seymour that a referendum is a good way to resolve the definition of the principles of the treaty. But, he says, it is worth exploring their codification.

"Parliament should sit down and have a proper debate about some of these fundamental concepts," he said. "I think it's healthy."

Christopher Finlayson is a former attorney general and minister for Treaty of Waitangi negotiations.Saphora Smith

For those who welcome government efforts to share more decision-making with Mori and see it as upholding Mori rights under the treaty, new leadership after the October election risks a step back.

Asked about accusations that sharing more power with Mori was undemocratic, Waikato-Tainui leader Morgan said New Zealand was founded on the treaty, and that democracy by the terms of opponents to co-governance was a "tyranny of the majority."

He pointed back to the treaty's signing in 1840 where historical accounts suggest that the Mori population in New Zealand was somewhere between 70,000 and 90,000, while the European, or Pkeh, population was closer to 2,000.

"We were by far the majority," he said. "But we still shared power."

For others, even under the current government there is still a long way to go for Mori rights to be fully recognized in New Zealand.

Millan Ruka, founder of Environment River Patrol Aotearoa, is fighting for the recognition of his tribe's ownership of the Poroti Springs on the country's North Island. "We consider we own the water, we never ceded our resources in the 1840 treaty," he said. "But we can concede totally that we share it."

But for Susan and Lee Short, co-founders of Democracy Action, there is concern that the direction of travel on shared decision-making under recent governments is eroding the accountability of some organizations and undermining democracy. Their organization was established to champion "democracy and equality of citizenship in New Zealand".

Co-governance needs to be clearly defined and there should be a referendum because "the public have never been asked" what they think about it, said Susan. Lee said that they understood the need for settlements where the treaty has been breached and support preserving Mori culture but that government moves toward sharing more power have divided what was once a very cohesive society.

In recent years he said, there had "been massive division in New Zealand between Mori and others."

Lee said he believes that if Labour is triumphant in October's election and governs with the Mori party, a possible kingmaker, lots of people will leave for neighboring Australia.

"This race issue is one of things that will drive them out," he added.


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Principal
1  Kavika     8 months ago

It's much the same the world over when it comes to indigenous rights and treaties. The Kiwis are now worried about democracy when they took that away from the Indigenous people. 

Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Kavika @1    8 months ago

Apparently so. 

Professor Principal
1.1.1  devangelical  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.1    8 months ago

colonists that have kept their treaties with natives is a very short list. people that have exploited others for their own selfish purposes seem to get louder when the concept of equality starts to become reality.

Professor Quiet
1.2  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Kavika @1    8 months ago

Doesn't anyone proofread anything any more? The indigenous people of New Zealand are called Maori not Mori...

Just Jim NC TttH
Professor Principal
1.2.1  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.2    8 months ago

I wondered if anyone else would catch that................

PhD Quiet
1.2.2  shona1  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.2    8 months ago

Morning..yes nothing like insulting a First Nations people with a horrendous blunder by not even spelling their name correctly...

Pkeh?? I assume they mean Pakeha which means white..and I am not even a Kiwi..

We are holding a referendum in Australia shortly in order to change our constitution to recognise the First Nations people.. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders...

As more information comes out I think it will be a no vote...for me I feel the Kooris are already very well recognised from having there own flag, acknowledgements of their past, present and future presence..from dentists, hospitals, schools, TV stations and everything else you can think of there is written and verbal acknowledgement..

They are already very well represented in many forms of Governments and run their co ops and medical services and into a diverse number of organisations..

Can we change the past injustices...no.

Can we do better... certainly...

And no we don't need anymore Kiwi's over here..we already have a 10th of their population as it is..

Professor Principal
1.2.3  Kavika   replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.2    8 months ago

Yes, I saw that Doc, and it isn't surprising since it's done on a fairly regular basis as it is in the US.

If you go to the seeded article it is spelled correctly.

Professor Principal
1.2.4  Kavika   replied to  shona1 @1.2.2    8 months ago
Pkeh?? I assume they mean Pakeha which means white.

I would assume the same, shona.

Can we change the past injustices...no.

No they can't be changed but, IMO most important is to recognize them for what they are and not try to hide them or make excuses for them.

Can we do better... certainly...

Without a doubt.

Many of the experiences of the indigenous peoples of Australia mirror those experienced in the US and Canada. 

This is, of course of special interest to me:

Australia’s forgotten indigenous World War II veterans

Torres Strait, Australia CNN  — 

Almost every able-bodied Indigenous man throughout Australia’s Torres Strait Islands signed up to defend their country against the threat of invasion during World War II, despite not being recognized as citizens.

The country’s first and only all Indigenous army unit, the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion, was formed in 1943 as the Japanese Imperial army menaced Australia’s northern coastline.

Approximately 880 recruits enlisted, from an estimated able-bodied male Indigenous population of 890, across the Torres Strait island chain – an Australian sea territory between the northern tip of the state of Queensland, and southern Papua New Guinea.

Speaking on the 75th anniversary of the battalion’s founding in March, Australia’s Chief of Army Lt. Gen. Angus Campbell said it was possibly the highest rate of voluntarism in the whole country, per capita, during the WWII.

PhD Quiet
1.2.5  shona1  replied to  Kavika @1.2.3    8 months ago

Morning Kavika..sort of off topic but to do with First Nations people..

The three US Marines that were tragically lost on the Tiwi islands here have been named...they were doing manoeuvers with us and some other countries...

I thought it was very touching and appropriate what is being done for the lost souls by the local Tiwi people.

On the Tiwi islands, elder Bernard Tipiloura said he and his people were preparing a traditional ceremony to help spirits of the deceased rest...

A vigil was also held in Darwin last night for them...the three fallen Marines will be very well taken care of as they begin their long journey back home to their loved ones..


Professor Principal
1.2.6  Kavika   replied to  shona1 @1.2.5    8 months ago

Chi miigwech (many thanks) to the Aussies and to the indigenous people and elder Bernard Tipiloura. It is in a true sense of indigenous people both in OZ and worldwide. 

May they be guided by their ancestors on their journey on the path of souls.

Professor Quiet
1.2.7  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Kavika @1.2.3    8 months ago

I noticed that as well.

PhD Quiet
1.2.8  shona1  replied to  Kavika @1.2.6    8 months ago

Morning...see one of the Marines who is in critical condition has been airlifted from Darwin to Melbourne...

A very long journey to under take when so ill. Obviously requires high specialist care and the Alfred hospital will go above and beyond for the Marine...

The three lost souls are now in Darwin getting ready for their final journey home back to the States..


Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
1.2.9  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  shona1 @1.2.8    8 months ago

Thanks for the update shona. Military training deaths are unfortunately all too real. 

Australia lost four soldiers last month when their helicopter went down off of the Queensland coast in a biannual, multi national military exercise called Talesman Sabre.

The Marine accident occurred in a follow up multi national exercise called Predator’s Run.

The Northern Territory is an ideal training area with airspace, land and sea.

These exercises having been growing in size and frequency to simulate a conflict in the Indo-Pacific, which would require maritime and air combat, together with land operations focused on control of islands and coastlines. 

Talisman Sabre last month was it largest to date, involving 34,000 troops from 14 nations.  During it, there was testing of advanced missiles and interoperability and development of improved logistics. Talisman Sabre included a mock invasion of the Australian territory of Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Our two nations have stood shoulder to shoulder now for over 100 years and that partnership will continue.  Given your population size and GDP, you continue contribute more than your fair share in our alliance.

Thank you.

Professor Principal
1.2.10  Kavika   replied to  shona1 @1.2.8    8 months ago

Semper Fi, Marines. 

Professor Quiet
1.2.11  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Kavika @1.2.10    8 months ago


PhD Quiet
1.2.12  shona1  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @1.2.9    8 months ago

Morning Drinker...the US certainly saved us when the Japanese were bombing Darwin and Broome in WW2...and when the subs reached Sydney we would have been cactus..

So as always you have our backs and we have yours...and if you throw in the Kiwi's we are not a bad team..

Now if we convert you all to Vegemite Russia, China and North Korea wouldn't stand a chance..

Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
1.2.13  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  shona1 @1.2.12    8 months ago
Now if we convert you all to Vegemite Russia, China and North Korea wouldn't stand a chance..

Years ago you won over my wife with a sex sandwich for breakfast: Penis Butter and Vaginamite”

Professor Quiet
1.2.14  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  shona1 @1.2.12    8 months ago

Vegemite is definitely a acquired taste from a young age. A taste I have never been able to aquire myself.😏

Professor Quiet
1.3  cjcold  replied to  Kavika @1    8 months ago

Dad and I had planned a trip to NZ back in the day. We both did the research.

Dad had a heart attack and died before we got around to it.

Still a trip I would like to experience one day. Suppose I'm too old now.

Part of our trip was to involve doing civilian research at McMurdo Station.

I had just earned a degree in environmental science and dad had the money.

PhD Quiet
1.3.1  shona1  replied to  cjcold @1.3    8 months ago

Arvo CJ.. hopefully you make it one day..you will have a ball...i

If people think an Aussie accent is strange wait till you hear the Kiwi's..🤣

Professor Quiet
1.3.2  cjcold  replied to  shona1 @1.3.1    8 months ago

Dad was a Rotarian and we hosted many foreign exchange students from down under over the years. A guy named Rex was a serious hoot!

Y'all talk funny but it's not that hard to get used to after awhile.

Fell madly in love with an Aussie exchange student named Kathy. Drop dead gorgeous.

Professor Quiet
1.3.3  cjcold  replied to  cjcold @1.3.2    8 months ago

Last I heard, Kathy was happily married with three children (sigh).

She kept in touch with her American families over the years.

Professor Quiet
1.3.4  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  shona1 @1.3.1    8 months ago

Kiwis do not think they have accents. They think the rest of the world has accents.

PhD Quiet
1.3.5  shona1  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.3.4    8 months ago

Yes I know..have two Kiwi friends one who is Maori and we are constantly bagging each other out when I speak to them..

PhD Quiet
1.3.6  shona1  replied to  cjcold @1.3.3    8 months ago

Well if you make it to NZ we are just four hours away across the ditch..you could come across and make contact with her again...

Professor Principal
2  Kavika     8 months ago

I would be amiss if I didn't recognize the Maori warriors. The video is the Haka being performed for a Maori service member KIA.

PhD Quiet
2.1  shona1  replied to  Kavika @2    8 months ago

One of the best Hakas I have ever seen when it was performed years ago..

Professor Quiet
2.1.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  shona1 @2.1    8 months ago

I was at McMurdo Station, Antarctica the first time I ever saw a Haka performed was by the Royal New Zealand Army Support Group. They performed a Haka before a Hangi, which is the Kiwi version of a Luau. Very impressive!

Professor Quiet
2.2  cjcold  replied to  Kavika @2    8 months ago

Reminds me of what I stayed far, far away from in Mindanao.


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