Rebirth of Reason


The Maori Party of New Zealand
by Rick Giles

Two hundred years ago, superstition and violence ruled.
It was a time of darkness. It was a world of fear.
It was the land of Maori tribalism. The New Zealand stone age.

Their idea of food science back then was leaving their corn to rot into a bubonic paste with an odor to strip the paint off the walls (not that they had any walls quite as we know them). Their idea of fast food was another Maori running away! And then the rest of the world started taking an interest in New Zealand.

By the time Charles Darwin passed through aboard The Beagle it was 'The Hellhole Of The Pacific.' As tribal warfare continued, rough seamen, whalers, convicts, missionaries, and other riff-raff were conning, and being conned by, the indigenous locals. The Maori quickly got over their culture-shock and conceived of a new and better world, but one in which they could not match violence for violence. Especially not when newly introduced European diseases were killing them at the same time. The British Colonial office was indifferent to this humanitarian disaster zone -- until petitioned by a number of Maori chiefs with their heads screwed on. Far better to ask for the privilege of pax Britannia than be rubbed out by anarchy, or worse, by the French, who considered Maori part of the flora and fauna. So, they asked.

And their plea was answered. Captain William Hobson (you may have seen his grave under Grafton Bridge in Auckland) came to New Zealand to make all who would cede sovereignty to Queen Victoria full British Citizens. Hobson's orders were to establish a consensus between the chiefs and the Queen. He failed.

In 1840, when Hobson arrived and sent the Treaty Of Waitangi around for signing, he only had two years to live. In poor health, he attempted to carry out his mission, but could not travel around with the Treaty, being too busy at the time (what with dying and all). His mission was, as I say, to obtain cession of sovereignty and then stick around to protect the new British citizens. Treaty Article II -- dealing with possession of lands -- had been explicitly scrapped back in 1839. The Crown did not sign up to Article II, yet the green-gilled Captain contravened his orders and put it in anyway, soon before his death.

Hobson had failed in his mission; The Treaty was not an agreement between the Crown and the Chiefs. When Maori tried to sell more land via the Crown, as Article II requires, the Crown made no money available to buy it -- why should it? The Crown had made no such agreement. Both parties had never come to terms -- there was no contract. In 1877, The Chief Justice made it clear -- the Treaty Of Waitangi is a simple nullity.

For a very long time that's the way it stayed. Even when the Maori activism of the seventies broke out of the underground, Maori separatists had long accepted the Treaty as a simple nullity. Actually, they cursed the day they'd been defrauded by it. And then one day, someone came up with an even better idea: reinterpret the Treaty, revive Article II, and use The Treaty as a meal ticket on the government gravy train.

The Treaty went from being the fraud symbol of disenfranchised Maori separatism to the birth certificate of it.

2004, cometh the Maori Party of New Zealand. A political party that embraces The Treaty, not as a rouge captain's deathbed nullity, but as a "living document." Born out of Tariana Turia's defection from the Government over the foreshore and seabeds issue last year, The Maori Party is now lining itself up to make separatism characterise our next parliament.

Who is standing up to stop them and sort out this mess, this re-writing of history?

Well, according to the Christchurch Press it was Business Round Table Exec Roger Kerr who came up with the line "we are one people," which opposition leader Don Brash used to great effect in his Orewa speech on race relations. Not quite true. Captain Hobson, as he took the signatures at Waitangi, shook the hand of each Chief to the words, "We are now one people."

I hope we are, and that our players can keep it that way in the face of what the next couple of long weeks have in store for New Zealand politics.

This article spliced from NZB3 Libcast 04 
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