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DON BRASH: The new government has one helluva a task in front of it: Compulsory indoctrination is unworthy of professional bodies

The other day, I became aware of another example of the way in which the last Government tried to embed its own narrow interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi into every aspect of New Zealand life.


This one involves the Real Estate Authority.  Like many similar bodies, it encourages its authorized agents to get regular updates about the laws and regulations affecting their profession.  In this case, real estate agents are required to do 10 hours of study on a variety of issues, theoretically relevant to the real estate industry. 


I say “theoretically relevant” because in 2023 15% of the 10 hours of courses – or 1.5 hours – was required to be about Maori culture and language, and indoctrination of the view that what the Treaty of Waitangi really provided was not the cession of sovereignty to the Crown (the majority consensus for most of our history) but rather a partnership between Maori chiefs and Governor Hobson.  This 1.5 hour programme was to be provided and the agents assessed by a politically-motivated Maori group from the Bay of Plenty area.


A distant cousin of mine objected to this political indoctrination.  She has been a real estate agent for several decades, operating in recent years in some of the eastern suburbs of Auckland.  She grew up among Maori and for some years taught in a predominantly Maori school.  She has some ability in te reo having studied for and passed School Certificate Maori and expanded upon her knowledge since.   She considers many Maori individuals to be both friends and inspiration and is generally supportive of Maori culture.


But she strongly objected to having to be indoctrinated in a narrow – and, she and I both believe, a fundamentally incorrect – view of what the Treaty of Waitangi provided. Parts of the course were also in complete conflict with her ethical and religious convictions, so she sought an exemption on conscientious grounds from having to undertake that part of the programme.  That exemption has been denied for no obvious reason, and with effect from 1 January 2024 her licence to practise as a real estate agent will be cancelled – and be unable to be renewed for five years – unless her appeal against this ruling is upheld.  And this despite the fact that the Treaty of Waitangi programme will no longer be mandatory from 1 January 2024.


Since having this issue drawn to my attention, I have watched an interview on the Platform between Sean Plunket and David Seymour discussing exactly this kind of indoctrination, now very widespread across a great many professions and occupations.  As David Seymour remarked in that March 2023 interview, this not only involves a great deal of time and bureaucracy, with lots of people bogged down in doing “studies” which have absolutely minimal or no relevance to their occupation, it also inculcates an interpretation of the Treaty which is totally inconsistent with any concept of democracy where all citizens are equal before the law.


It is outrageous stuff, and all New Zealanders who want our society to be a democracy need to push the Government to stomp on it without delay.


Don Brash

27 December 2023


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