Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Waitangi's Ironic Welcome

Welcoming " The Enemy": John "Junior" Popata lunges at the Prime Minister on 5 February , 2009. As he approached Te Tii Marae on 5 February 2011, did John Key grasp the irony of being greeted by Wikitana Popata as "the enemy"? Convicted alongside his brother for assaulting the Prime Minister two years ago, Wikitana was sentenced to just 100 hours of community service. A "settler government" less concerned with keeping the goodwill of Maori might not have been satisfied with such a lenient sentence.

I WONDER if the Prime Minister grasped all the ironies of his latest "welcome" to Waitangi. It’s hard to know where to begin - there were so many.

Perhaps the most obvious was the identity of the young man with the megaphone who abused Mr Key as he made his way on to Te Tii Marae.

Two years ago – to the day – Wikitana Popata and his brother, John ‘Junior’ Popata, had physically accosted Mr Key on his way to the same meeting ground.

In any other country than New Zealand such an attack would have been treated extremely seriously. It is difficult to imagine that a person found guilty of assaulting the President of the United States would be at liberty to harangue him again, from a dangerously short distance, just two years later.

True, but we Kiwis are a forgiving bunch. The National-led Government’s need to keep its Maori Party coalition partner on-side, and the extraordinary fact that the accused were relatives of the Maori Party MP, Hone Harawira (who, equally extraordinarily, gave John Key’s assailants his moral support) meant that the two young protesters’ ultimate punishment was very light.

Now, there are those who celebrate this sort of easy-going approach to the personal security of our politicians. That the Prime Minister can be manhandled by protesters in front of the television cameras without the Diplomatic Protection Squad emptying their pistols into those responsible is held to be a good thing.

Our national day is a very relaxed affair compared to, say, France’s Bastille Day. Tanks and guided-missile-carriers do not roll beneath a triumphal arch as Mirage jet fighters trail banners of red, white and blue smoke across the nation’s capital – not in this neck of the woods. Here the tradition is for several hundred protesters, shouting separatist slogans and carrying their own flag, to march up to the nation’s birthplace on the Waitangi Treaty Ground.

That this tradition has been allowed to develop should not be viewed as evidence that "Pakeha racism" is on the wane but, rather, of its growing subtlety. It is precisely because we do not take the ritual posturing of the protesters seriously that we allow them their little show of defiance. That the Police and the Navy are not ordered to break up the annual protest-march to the Treaty Ground is not proof of our tolerance – but of just how patronising the whole Waitangi Day celebration has become.

The late Sir Robert Muldoon at least paid the Maori nationalists of his day the compliment of taking them seriously. He understood the very real challenge they posed to the integrity of the New Zealand state – and acted accordingly. John Key is willing to endure the insults, and even the roughings-up, because he’s firmly convinced that it represents nothing of genuine political significance: that it’s all just theatre.

He’s wrong, of course. States that decline to defend their constitutional integrity place themselves – and their political representatives – in mortal danger.

If he had listened carefully to what Pita Sharples said in his State of the Nation address, delivered last Saturday evening, Mr Key would have heard him describe the steady evolution of a political-economic entity known as the Iwi Leaders Group (ILG).

The ILG now negotiates with the New Zealand State in much the same way as the great feudal magnates of medieval England negotiated with their King. And what Mr Sharples speech made very clear is that the ILG will use the forthcoming constitutional review to secure for the leaders of the Maori tribes, the same sort of "Magna Carta" of aristocratic rights and privileges that the barons extracted from King John at Runnymede in 1215.

Like the new legislation regulating the ownership of the foreshore and seabed, the growing power and influence of the ILG is but the latest instance of the re-modelling of New Zealand’s constitutional conventions which has been going on for nearly 30 years. The citizens of this country have never been seriously consulted about these changes. If put to a referendum, I strongly suspect Pita Sharples plans for New Zealand would be decisively defeated. But, as the anonymous leader-writer for The New Zealand Herald blithely expressed the new orthodoxy among this country’s elite:

"Progress in the nation’s central social partnership does not come in sudden breakthroughs or even visible steps. It is a gradual acceptance that a post-colonial state cannot be governed simply by majority rule."

Does John Key subscribe to these sentiments? I’d like to think not. Even so, I doubt if he appreciated the true irony of his "welcome" to Waitangi. That the young firebrand, Wikitana Popata’s, angry declaration: "The enemy is amongst us! He is the one responsible for stealing our lands!" Could now just as easily have come from a conservative Pakeha as a radical Maori.

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 8 February 2011.


Olwyn said...

Correct me if I'm wrong about this Chris: I grew up in Australia and furthermore I am not a historian as you are. But when I watched a TV film on Sunday night about the treaty it struck me as an agreement that assumed a "top down" approach from the outset. Weren't people persuaded to sign it partly on the grounds that British law would offer them protection from the English-speaking hoi-poloi who had drifted over here? I could not help but speculate that the handful of new pakeha land owners themselves probably also wanted a government that could restrain these hoi poloi, for their own reasons, not to mention a government that could cement in their gains with the concept of property rights,etc.

It struck me that this top-down approach forms a default setting, and that the poor and struggling, both brown and white, are only audible at those times when they are moved to shout very loudly.

Anonymous said...

John Key want to sell Aotearoa New Zealand to foreign corporates and money traders, I think Tuhoe and Maori in general have been very polite all things considered.

The Northland mayor Wayne Brown (aka Wayne Brownlee) has been quite inflammatory in some of his statements, not quiet on a Laws or Brash scale, but inflammatory none the less.

National wants to do deep sea oil drilling off the East Coast despite having not consulted Iwi, in the same way a lot of the seabed and foreshore is actually about seabed mining, which the crown has offered to sell to foreign mining giants.

http://www.nznotforsale.org/ Has info about how this selling off of New Zealand soveringty will effect all New Zealander's. For example re undemocratic Free Trade and privatisation sell offs:

In November last year,Prime Minister John Key described as “far-fetched” the idea that investors could sue the New Zealand government directly in a secret international tribunal to enforce rules in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

This week, US trade negotiator Barbara Wiesel said that was no longer New Zealand’s position, according to TPPA critic Professor Jane Kelsey: http://www.nznotforsale.org/2011/02/06/key-backtracks/

A lot more people should stand up to Key and his selling out New Zealand, and sell it off to the highest bidder.

John Key in that sense if the enemy amongst us.

Gerrit said...

With the changing population demographic this indifference towards Maori "problems" will grow as more and more Asians, Indians, Pacific, etc people arrive here.

White guilt is replaced now with indiffence not just by new brown immigrants but by the Pakeha community as well.

We just dont care anymore. Maori activism is mere background noise.

Racism, guess so but who is bothered?

Maori protestors will have to pull bigger and bigger stunts to gain attention hence the farce that is now Waitangi Day at the treaty grounds.

Noticed how many new brown immigrants were there?

Therein lies the Maori conundrum, Pakeha interest is waned and decreasing as the unsettleable issues that is the Maori grievance industry drags on.

The new (and not so new) brown immigrants simply dont give Maori grievances or treaty issues a thought, it is just not important to them.

The Maori independence movement will be all gone in fifty or so years due to poulation demographics.

Loz said...

..."a post-colonial state cannot be governed simply by majority rule".

How incredibly sad that democracy is described as a colonial construct instead of an assertion of the equality of all people. Its even sadder that not one political leader is advocating the principles of democracy or the inalienable equality the all New Zealand people.

Thirty years of "positive" discrimination is threatening to institutionalise perpetual inequality on the basis of birth. The silence of the left only increases the risk or a fascist response against the resulting rancor.

peterquixote said...

Always beneficial to read the real news, fast changes coming, everything changing thanks Hone,
and I thank Chris for delivering,

SPC said...

Gerrit, I think you will find the proportion of the population who are Maori is increasing, not declining. And there is no projection for this to come to an end in the next 40 years.

Partly it is the size of the next Maori generation and partly it is the habit of inter-marriage that leaves more and more people with Maori ancestry.

As to supposed ambitions of the ILG, ultimately a constitution requires the consent of the majority to be estabalished and if brought in by stealth and deceit, still requires the tolerance of the majority to prevent them having the change reviewed.

peterquixote said...

Everybody read Trotter's upcoming article on Waitangi.
This is dynamite.

Gerrit said...


Not according to these stats


By 2021 (only 10 years away!!) 29% increase in Maori population, 145% Asian, 58% Pacific and 5% Pakeha.

Another factor in the decline in interest in the Treaty of Waitangi will be the growth of the Maori middle classes. They will celebrate their culture but not be as adherent to the bindings and restrictions that is the treaty.

They will thrive and grow without referencing it. As witnessed by the strong Maori communities in Australia.

The Maori population will be split (as will ALL other ethnic communities) between the fundamentalist and the progressives.

Education will be a key factor in this. As people achieve higher eduction, their move towards "middle" class will results in a less fundamantal and restrictive outlook on life.

SPC said...

Gerrit, the statistics you provide don't actually sustain your position. In ten years time there will be an increase in the proportion of the population who are Maori. That Asian and Polynesian rates are increasing faster, is not the relevant factor. But I suspect you know that and would rather try and obscure this fact than acknowledge it.

Gerrit said...


You read the stats different then I do. There will be a decrease in the Maori PROPORTION of the New Zealand population, there will a greater decrease in the Pakeha proportion of the population, there will greater increases in the Asian, Indian and Pacific proportions of the population. Study the graphs.

I dont need to obscure the facts that the population statisctics will see an increasing brown skinned NZL population based on Asian, Indian and Pacific higher birth rates plus immigration.

Maori only have birth rates to increase their population proportion.

My arguments is that the people who are proportionally growing the population do not care much about the treaty.

Especially if the population trends continue over the next 50 years.

The growth of the Maori middle class (after all that is what is the KPI measure that shows Maori is rising out of poverty) will in my view also diminish the treaty issue.

Chris Trotter left out a very large and growing proportion of the New Zealand population when he said

"The enemy is amongst us! He is the one responsible for stealing our lands!" Could now just as easily have come from a conservative Pakeha as a radical Maori.

This call will come increasingly from the Asian, Indian and Pacific people as well.

SPC said...

Gerrit, obviously you don't understand statistics. The total population is only forecast to increase by 18% by 2021, but the Maori population is forecast to increase by 29%. That means a higher proportion will be Maori by 2021.

That trend will continue beyond 2021. And the more who are Maori the more Maori inter-marry and thus even more people with Maori ancestry.

That besides Maori, more of the population will be Asian and Polynesian (off a lower base), does not change this fact.

That the majority of the population - the Pakeha is showing only a 5% increase, explains where the decline is occuring.

3 groups are increasing as a proportion of the population and will continue to do so.

Middle class and underclass Maori have common cause in the Treaty. Divide and conquer cannot negate their Treaty position.

Gerrit said...

Perhaps this will persuade you that the Asian plus Pacific population will be larger then Maori in 2026.

26% Asian and Pacific, 16% Maori.


What I'm really interested in how commentators like Chris Trotter and others see the influence of the non-European or Maori populations on the treaty.

SPC said...

Gerrit, the report you cite itself says the "Asian, Pacific and Māori ethnic groups are growing faster and will increase their share of the New Zealand population".

Personally I doubt its assumptions about continuing immigration rates, but even with them the proportion of the population who are Maori is going to increase.

It's also irrelevant what the composition of the non Maori portion of the public is - the Treaty is about the relationship between Maori and subsequent migrants.