Why Ngāpuhi should reject the treaty settlement process

Some motivational words before I begin this post:

‘Renegades of Funk’ cover (2000)

by Rage Against the Machine

[original by Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force (1983)]

Now renegades are the people
With their own philosophies
They change the course of history
Everyday, people like you and me

We’re the renegades we’re the people
With our own philosophies
We change the course of history
Everyday, people like you and me

If you read my About page you will see that I am a Ngāpuhi descendent. Admittedly, I’ve had minimal exposure to my iwi and culture and identify more closely as an urban Māori of Ngāpuhi descent. I am nonetheless still extremely passionate about issues affecting Māori and in particular, my iwi.

For the record, I do not and have not lived in a predominantly Māori community at all in my lifetime, so my views arise from an external standpoint. Although, despite living in predominantly Pākehā communities, I have certainly felt and continue to feel the stigma of being Māori in NZ.

I’m well aware that I am susceptible to criticism from both iwi-connected Māori and non-Māori alike, in proposing to make claims against a process that many view as vital for improving relationships within NZ.  But either way, I am going to state my argument knowing the criticism I open myself up to.

Ngāpuhi must reject the treaty settlement process and advocate for real change, for the recognition of Tino Rangatiratanga.

For the regular reader of this blog, it’s of no surprise that I am deeply sympathetic to political anarchism. This is important to note because it helps contextualise why I think Ngāpuhi should reject the Treaty settlements process. Although my rejection of the State and hierarchies, and the treaty settlements process do correlate, the key reason for rejecting the latter is the settlements process closes the door on the fundamental issue of Tino Rangitiratanga and therefore Mana Motuhake.

The treaty settlements process is a vehicle for preserving the privilege of the ruling political elite. It does this by feigning to settle injustices through monetary compensation, knowing the sovereignty issues are ignored in this process. Moreover, when the State are faced with opposition from Māori for issues arising under the Treaty, these monetary payments are used by the State to build a narrative around Māori as a people who would sell out their principles for a few zero’s in their bank accounts.

Does the settlement process not strike anyone as the same tactic used to lure Māori into signing the Treaty in the first place? These settlements reinforce the master-slave relationship that locks iwi into a corporatocracy wedded to hierarchy and elitism.

Graham Cameron recently wrote that Māori fail to recognise the thing that infuriates us is ‘not the dogwhistler’s but the leash’. The metaphor is superb. He further writes:

…we have adhered to the oppressor through the Church, through business and profit, through co-operating with the councils in development of land, through having most of our tamariki in mainstream schools, through giving up our sovereignty for a treaty settlement. At each point we have hoped for liberation, but again we have mistaken the status quo for freedom. [Emphasis added]

The treaty settlements process claims to liberate Māori, instead it lengthens the leash. I appreciate that the monetary compensation has assisted certain iwi to become ‘profitable’ entities and improve the outcomes of members of their iwi. But with all due respect, this has put a handbrake on the real emancipation needed to improve social, economic and environmental outcomes for all Māori.

Hone Harawira recently wrote that Ngāpuhi provide the basis for our future understanding of Te Tiriti’ and that the government ‘can’t effectively claim to have settled the Treaty until they can bring the biggest tribe in the country to the table’.

Harawira also writes that:

Once Ngapuhi’s signature is on the Deed of Settlement, the Crown will have achieved “full and final” settlement of all major iwi claims, at which point the Treaty will have finally achieved the status conferred upon it by Chief Justice Prendergast in 1877[1] … it will to all intents and purposes finally be “null and void”

This is the reality if Ngāpuhi choose to settle under the conditions predetermined by the Crown. If this is our last opportunity to fight for Tino Rangitiratanga, then we need to make sure that it is not an opportunity wasted. Any settlement under the current framework will waste this opportunity. As the only iwi yet to settle and complete the Crowns colonisation project, Ngāpuhi have the final opportunity to fight for Tino Rangitiratanga. Not just for Ngāpuhi, or for Māori but for all New Zealanderr’s.

We wont achieve Mana Motuhake if we continue to visualise Tino Rangitiratanga as exclusively for Māori.  I do not here assert that Tino Rangitiratanga should represent a departure from our Māoritanga. Rather that it must reflect the inclusive qualities that form its core.

We must create a vision for New Zealander’s illustrating as Cameron points out, that Tino Rangitiratanga is an alternative to the abysmal corporatocracy that we presently endure.

Like anarchism, Mana Motuhake and Tino Rangitiratanga are practices not theories. The practice of self-determination, the realisation of freedom. Self-determination and freedom are about enabling communities to decide how best to meet their needs – they do not privilege one person over another. Moreover, self-determination and freedom enables people to decide how they want to organise their communities. It does not mean that we devlove into separate warring communities rather that we develop co-operative communities that ensure everyones needs are met.

And so what if the liberals bleat that its a utopian dream. So what if change doesn’t happen immediately. Shouldn’t we at lest try to change the course of history?

I don’t presume any resistance would be simple or without its own opposition, but I do think Ngāpuhi can build momentum for a shared vision by rejecting the settlements process. Ngāpuhi must see through the divide and conquer strategy foisted upon them, and take this opportunity to liberate Māori and Pākehā alike from the corporatocracy that keeps us divided for its own preservation.

[1] Wi Parata v Bishop of Wellington (1877) 3 NZ Jur (NS) SC 72.

Pōwhiri and gender essentialism

Following an Editorial piece in the NZH on 8 January 2014, there is currently a debate (in NZ) regarding whether Māori women should be able to whaikōrero (make a formal speech) at pōwhiri (welcome ceremony) which requires that they sit on the paepae (orators bench).

The discourse is seemingly lead mostly by males – both white and Māori (Update: I am now starting to see voices from across the spectrum, and no I haven’t been reading the NZH comments section).

I was going to publish last night, but decided I should make sure I am certain of my views, since 1) they are probably very controversial and 2)I have been grappling with this issue since it was discussed in one of my Jurisprudence classes at University a couple of years ago (raised by Māori Law Lecturer Valmaine Toki). I decided to publish because I believe that as a Māori woman, I am not alone in my views, so I make no apology for disagreeing with the narrative largely lead by Māori men.

Graham Cameron writes a beautiful piece on the story of the pōwhiri and introduces his views therein.  I say its beautiful because he tells the story of pōwhiri so eloquently. And I agree that pōwhiri is not intended to dominate women. But my contention is that it is not sufficient to accuse critics of cultural imperialism while ignoring the views of Māori women who may in fact want to whaikōrero at pōwhiri.

I was introduced to the concepts of ‘gender essentialism’ and ’benevolent sexism’ by a Pākehā woman yesterday. And I agree with her that these concepts are prevalent at pōwhiri  and that they are discriminatory irrespective of custom. Additionally, these concepts are not unique to Pākehā culture.

Cameron’s piece alludes to the idea that because these tikanga customs and practices are culturally essentialist, gender essentialism is justified on these grounds.

How about that – a man justifying what is and isn’t important to the experience of Māori women at pōwhiri, you know, because culture dictates it.

Cultural essentialism does not justify gender essentialism. The mere fact I am a woman and must be protected (benevolent sexism anyone?) so I can have babies is no justification for depriving me the opportunity to whaikōrero at pōwhiri. I acknowledge that this is a really uncharitable interpretation of Cameron’s post, but as a Māori woman, this is how it reads to me.

A great proportion of this debate also centres around how karanga and whaikōrero are equally important aspects of the pōwhiri. And this is true, but it doesnt detract from the fact that they might not be equally important to the Māori women who actually want to participate in the whaikōrero.

Do I think that Māori should change this practice because the Speaker of the House says so? Absolutely not. Do I think Māori should have the discussion within their respective whānau, hapū, and iwi, allowing Māori women to express their own preferences and making consensus based decisions? Absolutely.

As Māori we are consistently talking about the fluidity of our tikanga, yet when a male privilege is challenged – cultural imperialism!

Admittedly, I am not as familiar with feminist theories and the various nuances as others are and I do feel like I might be less protective of this particular cultural aspect than others because I was raised in a predominantly urban environment with limited exposure to my Māori heritage.

But I will not sit idly back and let this discussion be derailed by the Speaker of the House and the dominant culture or by Māori men justifying gender essentialism based on a context that no longer afflicts our interactions with each other. Tikanga is fluid. It can adapt. But its up to Māori to decide if they will adapt.

(Note: this post was originally much larger, but I decided to reduce it so the basic message isn’t lost in a typhoon of academic speak)

Are white voices amplified and privileged over indigenous voices?

Native Affairs screened a story last night on Tim Morrison who spent the past 18 months defending a manslaughter charge for a crime he didn’t commit.

As usual, Twitter was an abundant hive of activity and commentary. But one particular comment stood out to me,  the commenter stated she did not ‘trust white indigenous rights activists’ because ‘in a culture of white hegemony, white voices are amplified and privileged over indigenous’.

While the first comment seemed to be more personal in nature, I think in a different (but related) context the second point is extremely important.

In my view, white voices that advocate for Maori or advance Maori issues are often subordinate to our dominant Maori activist voices. Moreover, most white indigenous activists in NZ will defer to our Maori voices for commentary on indigenous issues and our better journalists will request comments or interview Maori voices known to be respected in Maori communities.  So in this respect, I think Maori are very skilled at having their voices heard and advancing indigenous issues in NZ. I’m more concerned about gathering the support necessary to implement change and this is why I consider white indigenous activists as vital for building grassroots relationships. Since Maori are a minority, we need to build support networks and the first step is in embracing those who support our cause.

I think we should be careful about distinguishing between people who advance issues as allies of indigenous voices and those who advance them as a means of thwarting the decolonisation process.

I do agree that in a colonised country white voices are amplified to the detriment of indigenous voices but more so in the context of white voices serving as an impediment to neutralising the privilege of being white in NZ, or alternatively stated, as a means of maintaining that white privilege.

In Open Letter to the Pocahotties: Annotated Version, the author makes some very good points on how when referring to ‘white’, ‘racism’ and ‘privilege’, the usual response is defensive and those who refuse to acknowledge their white privilege often cite their own historical misgivings as justifications for their racist actions.

I also found an excellent article on the top 10 list of how not to respond to indigenous experiences of racism. The author here highlights many of the common responses to charges of racism and briefly explains the problems with such responses. For instance, many argue that some racism is worse than other racism. In the NZ context Maori are often belittled because Australian Aboriginals have a much worse experience of racism than Maori. The article highlights that racism is deplorable no matter how you frame it.

Another relevant point is that some people use ignorance as a shield because their reality differs from the reality or experience of an indigenous person; they often claim that the indigenous persons experience is just wrong because it doesn’t match their reality.

A common reason (noted in the article) that I hear in NZ is that while we were racist in the past we are not now. Notwithstanding the statistics, the cases that evidence institutional racism, and the everyday responses from supposedly non-racist white NZer’s that perpetuate the egregious racial stereotypes.

In summary, my view is that white indigenous activists in NZ are usually respectful and aware of their privilege and will often defer to Maori voices for commentary on Maori issues. However, many white NZer’s are still tied into their privilege and do not understand that they have it or that their privilege perpetuates racism in NZ. I believe that we need white indigenous activists to help show those who enjoy white privilege that there is no shame in acknowledging and understanding that privilege and the inherent racism and surrendering it once its understood. Such persons need to understand that the shame is in trying to justify it.

People in glass houses

This post may not resonate well with some readers, mostly because I am calling out someone well known and highly respected for her ‘progressive opinion shaping’ as an advocate for human rights in NZ and abroad.  
I’m not saying I’m perfect, nor that I expect anyone else to be. When we are so grossly offended, we often say or do irrational things. Its human nature.  
I’ve been chatting to some friends on Facebook – one in particular who was rightly upset by the comments made by Marie Kraup, the Danish Politician (reportedly a far right nationalist) who recently slandered Maori culture in an opinion piece in a Danish newspaper. I’m a little late and many have written on this topic already, but there is a different angle I want to take. 
An angle that brings to mind a heated twitter exchange I saw a few weeks ago where @ColeyTangerina went to town on @Kaupapa for referring to the careerist left women of Labour having more balls than the men and for saying that ‘ovaries’ don’t have the same linguistic currency as ‘balls’.
I happened to agree with him – yet I could also see @ColeyTangerina’s point. So long as we believe ‘balls’ have more linguistic currency than ‘ovaries’, is as long as that will remain the status quo.
It also brings to mind the case of John Key’s ‘gay red shirt’ comment, since he got slammed for using the term ‘gay’ derogatorily notwithstanding that he attends gay pride shows – which he wouldn’t if he were homophobic. Not defending John Key, just saying that some terms are used in ways that we often take for granted as being derogatory or offensive to others.
So what does this have to do with Marama Davidson? This:
The part I refer to is line 5 beginning ‘upholding Danish racist pastry woman’s comments’. And when asked if ‘pastry’ was a typo, she replied: 
Marama is usually an amazing advocate and her writing and comments are usually well considered. But referring to Marie Kraup as a Danish racist  pastry is not the conduct one has come to expect of a progressive opinion shaper, especially when the point of the status update is to call out our Race Relations Commissioner for failing to provide guidance on this issue.  
I wholeheartedly agree that Susan Devoy should be making some comment to send a global message that we are united against cultural intolerance. I suspect that most readers of this blog will agree that what Marie Krarupsaid was abhorrent and her own intolerance was the most primitive thing about the whole situation. 
But is this a justifiable response given it is in the context of criticising the lack of commentary from the Race Relations Commissioner? 
Surely the message could have been conveyed without resorting to her own ill-considered comments?Many Danish people will take offense to the petty name calling and derogatory reference to their nationality as pastries. Maybe some of my readers will think what she said wasn’t offensive in the context of what was said about Maori culture, but in my view, this was a bit of people in glass houses. Not particularly conducive to improving race relations nor promoting tolerance. 
What I will say, is that I agree if you are reading this and upset that Dame Susan Devoy has not made any comment, then do call or email the Human Rights Commission and demand a response. 
Note: these comments from Marama are made publicly on Facebook, so are easily accessible by any person. I haven’t covertly extracted them. 
*I get that the word ‘pastry’ is not offensive on its own. Its the use of pastry as a way of belittling that could be deemed offensive to the people of Denmark.

Unqualified Teachers & Charter Schools

The first point I want to make is that parents should have the choice as to how they want their children educated. As it currently stands we have state schools, private schools and integrated schools. These schools are subject to government imposed curriculum and employ on the basis of an institutionally recognised qualification. I am indifferent to Charter Schools. I’m neither pro nor against. Although, I can see how others might perceive my stance as pro-Charter.

Charter Schools
What I disapprove of with Charter Schools is the proposition that they should not be subject to oversight by the Ombudsmen. Of course they should be – they are entrusted with the education of children and must be accountable to someone outside their organisation as they are performing a public function. They must also be subject to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act to prevent abuses of power while performing a public function.

In my opinion, education belongs to the commons much the same as land, natural resources and the internet and as such society must have ways of holding those in education accountable where rights are breached and powers abused. If there is no external oversight, then we cannot be assured that there are no abuses of power or breaches of civil rights.

What I like about Charter Schools is that they propose models of education that are not mainstream for instance, they can address the different needs and requirements of minority groups in NZ such as Maori, Pacific Island, Special needs, and our growing population of immigrant minorities.  And they offer a way of innovatively engaging such students in learning in a way that is meaningful to those students.

I am aware of the vast array of literature that criticises Charter Schools although I’ll admit that I haven’t actually read any of it. But my point is that the idea of a charter school model provides a different choice to parents, and as a society that is diverse such choices should be made available.

Unqualified Teachers
I’m not against Teachers obtaining a qualification that is recognised by an institution. But I do not believe that to be a Teacher you MUST obtain an institutionally recognised qualification.

I accept that the qualification equips people with the skills to manage a classroom and to teach what is required under the curriculum. I also accept that many teachers develop their own style to make learning more engaging for students and therefore such qualifications do not necessarily produce ‘homogenous robots’ . But my argument is that it is not the qualification itself through which teachers develop their own style. It is through experience that teachers develop their own style and come to understand what works and what doesn’t. This means that even without the qualification a teacher can develop strategies that work best for the students they work with.

Another argument raised is that there is an over-abundance of teachers who have invested time and money in teaching qualifications, but in my view that’s not a justifiable reason to prevent unqualified persons from teaching. It proposes an arbitrary restriction purely because some teachers are going to be out of pocket. In fact, I would argue further that because of the mandatory qualification some experts are arbitrarily restricted from sharing their knowledge simply because they do not possess the qualification, even if they have the skills.

What’s my solution? If it is important to many that teachers have an institutionally recognised qualification then the government can maintain the status quo and require that teachers’ possess the qualification to teach in Mainstream/State schools – the benefit of obtaining a qualification I suppose is that a teacher will be able to work in either State school or any other school. But do not restrict those in private or charter schools from employing people who have no teaching qualification per se but have knowledge that can be imparted to students. Besides, it’s unlikely that a charter school will employ a person that shows no capability of being able to teach if they are held accountable for the outcomes they produce. 

An analogy: bio-engineered salmon

Recently I tweeted that “As an indigenous person, I’m feeling a little like a bio-engineered salmon”. This may seem a little random, but while attending the recent World Indigenous Lawyers Conference this made sense, to me at least.

Let me explain. In the very first seminar, Rebecca Tsosie gave an example about the backward way in which we approach a crisis. Instead of taking a precautionary measure to preserve the environment in its natural state, we intervene. She spoke of an example where salmon populations had depleted because of climate change. The waters were warmer and became inhabitable for the salmon that had a history of breeding in those waters. This affected not only the salmon migration patterns, but also affected the availability of a food resource for the indigenous people in that area. The suggestion (and I am unclear on whether this actually happened or whether it was simply a suggestion or merely a hypothetical) was to bio-engineer the salmon to adjust to the warmer waters. The consensus is that climate change is a result of excessive carbon emissions. The peculiarity is why we would bio-engineer a species to adapt to worsening environmental conditions, when we could simply change human activity that adversely affects the environment. Prevention or precautionary measures are more sustainable and therefore, better in the long term. 

How does this relate to my statement? Well, the example stayed with me throughout the whole conference – in every seminar I attended, whether it be about education, politics, banking and so on.

Lets talk about the banking seminar. The issue was: Do we need a Maori bank or do banks need to be more Maori? It was claimed that a key factor in accelerating Maori success in business was overcoming issues of access to finance. The suggestion was that the banks need more Maori in banking roles and to be more Maori – this being more Maori was about ‘pastoral care’ of whanau and Maori enterprise to improve the Maori experience of banks. Personally, I seethed throughout the whole seminar. My view was: in what ways was it conducive to tikanga Maori to promote capitalist structures to trap Maori in a fake credit system? Encouraging Maori to take on debt in order to fit within the structures of a society that has a different modus operandi so to speak – where success is measured by the profitability of a business or personal wealth is not particularly tika in my view. I am not here suggesting that business and profitability are negative in all aspects. 

My view is that as indigenous peoples, Maori should be very careful about conforming to an economy that conflicts with Te Ao Maori (the Maori worldview). So here’s where the salmon analogy comes back in. Prior to colonisation Maori had a very productive economy. It may not have been capitalist, but it functioned in a way that was beneficial to all its members. Since colonisation, Maori have been forced to adapt to the ways of the colonising empire in all aspects. This adaptation is analogous to the bio-engineered salmon example. Instead of recognising that Maori had an economy, that they had rights and interests in natural resources and allowing them to continue to operate in that way, a way that was sustainable and a way that every member was cared for, deculturating Maori prevailed.

Additionally, instead of educating Maori in Te Reo, in an environment that was suitable for their learning and in subjects that enabled individuals to find their own talents and roles in Maori society, the education system assimilated Maori. Maori were and predominantly are taught in English, taught subjects important to those in power and are taught to behave according to the norms and values of a foreign culture.  Bio-engineered salmon. Suffice to say when sitting in the politics seminar on the last morning of addresses, I realised that we Maori, as indigenous peoples, enable the deculturation. The status quo is that the key is to be at the table. My opinion, this buys into the bio-engineered salmon. The disharmony at the moment over consultation as to water rights and interests shows that while the government can divide Maori, Maori will remain politically modified to fit within a system that refuses to recognise Maori indigeniety and the rights, interests, duties and obligations that come with that indigeneity.

The conference also helped me make sense of a reading that I had done prior to the conference. It was from an International Environmental Law paper I am doing, the chapter comes from a book called “When two worlds collide” written by my lecturer Klaus Bosselmann. In this particular chapter, Klaus sets out a planetary calendar from the beginning of time to the possible moment of the extinction of the world in which we have to make a radical choice to prevent the decimation of humankind . It is very dramatic but reminded me of the presentation given by Justice Joe Williams, who told a similar story but more specific to Maori about there being two scenarios in the future for Maori which depends on a common vision within and between Maori. Those scenarios were a dystopia and a utopia, with the former being a world where our indigeneity was simply seen as an experiment and has no value in that world with Maori continuing to dominate the negative statistics, while the latter is a world where Maoridom is embraced by all New Zealanders and is integral to national identity (I will discuss this further in a later post).  

While the bio-engineered salmon analogy impacted how I understood and interpreted the seminars I attended, another statement also had a profound effect on my thinking. Bentham Ohia shared a statement made to him by Bolivian President Evo Morales: “I am not a capitalist, I am not a socialist, I am Indigenous”. Bentham shared this with the audience because it resonated with him. I am pretty sure it resonated with every indigenous person in the audience. 

The key ideas, that I took away from the conference are as follows:  

(i) Recognising the struggles of indigenous peoples as being analogous to struggle of the salmon and the foreign solution – to bio-engineer; and  

(ii) Acknowledging that I am an indigenous person and that I need not subscribe to a dichotomous political spectrum that does not appropriately recognise my idigeneity. 

NOTE: The World Indigenous Lawyers Conference 2012 was the first ever held and was hosted by Te Hunga Roia o Maori Aotearoa. I will write more on these seminars when time permits. My understanding is that Maori Lawyer Joshua Hitchcock intends to do a write up on this conference so keep an eye out: http://roiamaori.wordpress.com/ 

The Third Sector: Public and Private, its time you met Iwi

It is natural to talk about society consisting of two sectors:  public and private. This derives from the notion that the government and those empowered by the government to carry out a public function are the ‘public sector’ while functions not performed by the public sector are by default the ‘private sector’.

My view is that New Zealand society consists of three sectors: public, iwi and private.

Iwi are most often categorised as occupying ‘private sector’ roles and this is probably the result of the commodification of the treaty settlement process.  By reducing treaty settlements to commercial transactions, little work was done toward rectifying the cultural and social injustices suffered by Maori subsequent to signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi. [see Maria Bargh “Maori Development and Neoliberalism” in Maria Bargh (ed) Resistance: An indigenous response to Neoliberalism (Huia Press, Wellington, 2007)].

Before I discuss the three sectors, it is worthwhile outlining some of the underlying issues that prevent iwi as a third sector being acknowledged or even accepted by the wider NZ community.

There will be some reading this who will argue that categorising Iwi as a separate sector in society is racial favouritism promoting separatism and to be honest that is the kind of comment I’d expect from those motivated by those who subscribe to libertarianism or other such ideologies that place their own self-interests at the centre of any debate surrounding indigenous rights and in particular, in the case of New Zealand, Te Tiriti o Waitangi. I don’t make that comment lightly either. Those who advocate the ‘one law for all’ (OLFA) have false understandings about what is required of equality. Yes, we can have a legal system that applies to all within New Zealand’s territories, and in fact that is the system we have. The specific details of certain laws require amending for sure, to meet our treaty obligations, international obligations and in response to the needs of society. But to imply that Maori are above the law or not subject to the same law is not only misleading but is absolute nonsense created by scare mongering of the OLFA’s. If Maori were above the law and had significantly more advantages than every other New Zealander then ask yourself this: why are Maori disproportionately represented (in the negative) in all statistics relating to the socio-economic wellbeing of NZ citizens? Because the advantages espoused by the OLFA’s are a myth.

The OLFA argument is premised on the idea of equality. But equality does not mean that everyone has the ‘same’. To treat it as such is in effect to deny equality. We are not simply cutting a pie and giving everyone the same amount, and even if you take that logic we might get the same amount of the pie, but we get different pieces. Equality is more complex than the view proposed by the OLFA’s.

PIE EXAMPLE: Alf and Bill

Alf is an athlete of solid build and requires significant amounts of food to replace the energy lost during his game. Bill is in IT and leads a sedentary lifestyle, and is conscious about gaining weight due to his lack of exercise. Prima facie, it seems fair to give each of them half the pie.  But by doing this, Alf does not get the replacement energy needed and Bill packs on those extra calories. So to balance this out, it makes more sense to factor in those arbitrary considerations. Therefore, it is fairer to give Alf 2/3 of the pie and Bill 1/3 so that they both benefit from their share in the pie for their own reasons.

So to translate this example into the context of this post, while it appears that Maori get more through perhaps targeted admission schemes at tertiary institutions or the Maori electorate voting, this does not mean that the rights of the general public are reduced in anyway, only that sometimes some groups will require more to meet their needs than other groups. OLFA’s suggest that these provisions for different rights are discriminatory and amount to racial favouritism and therefore promote racially based inequalities. This is not true. A good explanation of this is found in the New Zealand Bill of Rights book by Rishworth et al: 

Discrimination and equality are terms that are often used to describe the opposite conclusions that may be reached in analysing government action. Distinctions thought wrongful are said to be discriminatory, while those considered appropriate are said to respect equality. This has led some to suppose that freedom from discrimination and equality are the same thing. But a world without discrimination is not necessarily a world of equality (see Rishworth et al The New Zealand Bill of Rights. (Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2003) at 368)

This statement in effect shows that while the OLFA’s view is one law for all, and if successful, it might remove discrimination, but it will not achieve the objective of equality that the rationale behind the argument is premised on.  

While mainstream media are busy reporting that Maori get this, that and the next thing, what isn’t reported or at least properly acknowledged is that Maori live within a system that favours non-Maori culture: the court system, the economy, the political system were all constructed and implemented in ways that benefited the colonial settlers. It is not reported that Maori had their own way of organising themselves legally, economically and politically prior to signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi. And when it is, the self-interested response is that we cannot change what has happened in the past, its time to move on.

But what is moving on? Dispensing with the past since we can’t change it? For Maori to dispense with the past is to dispense of their history, culture, practices and norms. The OLFA essentially advocates for Maori to dispense with their sense of identity and belonging to their culture to avoid racial favouritism in law.  This is hardly equal. It shifts from having areas in law to protect minority interests to having law that reflects only the majority interests.

Now, returning to my point about the three sectors. Iwi (as a grouping) developed in response to colonialism as it gave Maori a stronger voice against the might of the colonial empire. It is evidenced through the implementation of the Waitangi Tribunal and various other forms of legislation and general knowledge within the public domain that the Crown recognises Iwi as its own entity. However, it is incorrectly categorised as a ‘private sector’ entity, which does little more than to corporatise Maori culture in line with the commodification of the treaty settlement process. So if iwi are not private sector then are they public sector? Again, no. If iwi were categorised as public sector agents then it makes no sense for them to be in partnership with the Crown, since they are constrained by Parliamentary sovereignty, iwi would not be a partner but a department or a ministry subject to incumbent governments. However, iwi fulfil an admixture of public like and private functions, insofar as developing businesses and investing (private sector work) and general community work through Marae and other forums (public sector).

My suggestion is that in effect Iwi occupy their own sector that does not sit within either of the formally recognised sectors. Therefore, NZ consists of three sectors: Public, Iwi and Private.

However, this position will only gain traction if iwi recognise their unique role and look beyond treaty settlements as commercial transactions and start seeking rectification for past social and cultural injustices. Once iwi show that they are an active, engaged political, social and economic force, then these preconceived notions of Te Ao Maori as obsolete by OLFA’s can be abandoned. It is up to all iwi to lead the way and take Maori forward (beyond land settlements and proprietary interests) and forging a future for Maori that cannot be deprecated by OLFA’s.

This may involve the convergence of the Iwi Leaders Group and the New Zealand Maori Council, or it may call for a democratically elected body of iwi representatives. But this is a discussion for another day.