This article was first published at Breaking Views
New Zealand is a country of immigrants. Although it was the last country on earth to be occupied by humans, we have made up for lost time with successive waves of arrivals.
The Polynesian people from our local region arrived first, followed by the British from half a world away. Then people came from other European countries and – in the last half-century – from all the Asian/Pacific countries. The 2013 census noted that we now have more ethnicities (213) than the UN has countries (196).
The glue that holds this polyglot of peoples together is not a common culture, but a shared national idea of what it means to be a “Kiwi”.
This vision of our nation isn’t built upon some theoretical melting-pot of brown, almond-eyed poms who can all play footy and do a haka. Instead, it relies upon a mosaic of multiple cultures continuously living and working together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and affection.
The very idea is challenging. It defies the parable of the Tower of Babel.
In 2010, Angela Merkel famously confessed that “multiculturism has failed utterly” in Europe. The US took in ‘huddled masses’ for three centuries, and prided itself on achieving the ‘American Dream’ – yet it is today racked by racial tensions.
So, are we being too ambitious? I don’t think so. But we can only succeed by putting the goal of ‘National Unity’ up in lights, and never allowing those lights to be dimmed.
We have certain advantages. We are remote from the centuries-old ethnic and religious conflicts of the Northern hemisphere. Consequently, Kiwis have long been the world’s most avid international travellers – delighting in the discovery of unfamiliar customs and cuisines around the world.
It is often said that New Zealanders have a streak of egalitarianism. This no doubt derives from the determination of its early settlers to avoid the class-consciousness which then pervaded Britain. And the opportunity that colonisation gave for ordinary Maori to shake off their centuries-long oppression by their Rangatira class. And the Hindus to escape their caste system, Chinese to avoid the stratification of Communism, etc, etc.
For many, New Zealand is a brave new world – freed from the divisive shackles of what has become known as ‘identity politics’. While the destructive Critical Race Theory has arrived on our shores, it has failed to take root. Intersectionalism is unknown outside of certain faculties in our ivory towers. We have nurtured our colour-blindness and are no longer impressed by ethnic or class bloodlines.
In the words of Martin Luther King, we don’t judge people “by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”. We don’t care who your grandfather was, we care who you are!
But is all this now being put at risk? Are politicians being tempted by the old Machiavellian injunction to “divide and conquer”? Just recently, the new leader of the National Party, Christopher Luxon, has levelled some harsh accusations:
“The Prime Minister … leads the most divisive Government in recent memory. Renters versus landlords. Business owners versus workers. Farmers versus cities. Kiwis at home versus those stuck abroad. The vaccinated versus the unvaccinated.”
Mr Luxon has struck a chord that will resonate with a great many voters. But for the life of me I cannot understand how he can possibly broach the subject of national divisiveness without even noticing that the Labour Government has launched a separatist ethnocentric revolution, using He Puapua as its blueprint.
The Race-Based State
It beggars belief that Mr Luxon could be unaware of the veto power in the new Iwi Health Authority; or the legislated ban on voting against the creation of new Maori Seats on Councils.
Did he miss the proposed Tribal takeover of “Three Waters”; or our Conservation Estate; or the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park; or the foreshore and seabed, in so many regions?
Has nobody told him about the new history curriculum in schools; or the replacement of modern science by stone-age Maori Knowledge; or mandatory ethnic preferences in Government procurement policies; or the development of a new Tikanga common law by the Courts; or even the renaming of the country as “Aotearoa New Zealand”?
If the greenhorn Mr Luxon does eventually become aware of this Tribal-revivalist programme, will he realise that it spells the end of any hope for National Unity? That it kills the shared ideal of the tolerant colour-blind Kiwi? That our multiculturism project will be dead in the water?
Does Mr Luxon and the National Party not recognise that a separatist race policy is bound to spark decades of ongoing inter-racial (and inter-tribal) conflicts – and that the Tribes must eventually lose?
Does the National Party think there is widespread public support for Tribal chauvinism? Has it thought long and hard about the Labour Party’s reasons for keeping He Puapua secret for so long?
Does Mr Luxon really believe that New Zealand voters will passively accept a zero-consideration transfer of their long-held sovereignty to a faceless and unaccountable group of Tribal politicians and/or untaxed corporations?
The rationale for transferring national assets and power from all citizens (in a fully-accountable system) to a small subset of citizens (in an opaque system) is very hard to understand. It has never been explained.
The mainstream media are bound to support it, having accepted the Government’s shilling under the Public Interest Journalism Fund. Whether or not the PBJ is the reason, neither print nor broadcast media will ever investigate, debate or analyse the He Puapua programme.
Like Mr Luxon, they tiptoe around the outrageous confiscation of property envisaged in the Three Waters project. They implausibly plead that it is “racist” to even mention such taboo topics. Of course, they don’t really believe that and nor does anybody else.
So much for speaking truth to power.
Sometimes it is suggested that co-governance might actually be some form of affirmative action (positive discrimination) to compensate lower socio-economic Maori for being over-represented in dismal statistics such as imprisonment and unemployment. This is nonsense.
If that were the aim it would be the worst-targeted policy in history. The power and money goes to upper socio-economic Maori and there is precious little trickle-down to the under-privileged. Five minutes thought would produce policies that are much more efficient in delivering hand-ups to the aspirational or hand-outs to the needy.
Such a policy would also create very perverse incentives – more money for more crimes?
Another argument I once heard – from a teenager – was that the forefathers of “white people” (not Pasifica or Asians) had stolen the whole country from the forefathers of Maori people, so the current generations now have a moral obligation to give it all back. Words fail me!
A common trick to avoid a grown-up discussion is a weighty pronouncement that “the Treaty was (or is) a Partnership”. Well, in the first place, it clearly wasn’t. Even if you want to believe that, calling the relationship a partnership means exactly nothing.
The word games continue, with Government Departments now publicly claiming that there is something hidden in the penumbra of the word “partnership” which somehow requires by law that chunks of New Zealand sovereignty be handed over to some or all Tribes. As that is an official contention, I will have to give it closer attention in a separate article. [Link]
It now seems inescapable that this single-party Government is determined to convert New Zealand from one of the most successful multicultural societies on Earth into a bicultural experiment comprising “Maori” and “others”. And even the word “Maori” is actually code for a small and self-appointed Tribal elite who claim to speak for every Kiwi who has any Maori person amongst their ancestors.
Is this what Maori want? When were we asked? At a hui or two? A Maori referendum should be an obvious prerequisite to a devolution of power, just as it was in the case of Scotland and Wales.
And is this what “others” want? The government has gone out of its way to avoid seeking an electoral mandate for its He Puapua programme. It arrogantly assumes that a Wellington echo chamber within the chattering classes (mainly in academia and the media) know what is best for us all.
And the National party didn’t even notice.
Barry Brill OBE JP LL.M(Hons) M.ComLaw is a former MP and Minister of Energy, Petrocorp director, and chair of the Gas Council, Power NZ, ESANZ, and EMCO. He is presently the Chairman of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.