This column was originally published in Elocal, January 2021
We’ve gone mad. Not only with the widespread push to create local government wards based on race; with the increasing use of the Maori language in situations where almost nobody understands it; and with the rather ridiculous assertion that in 1840 Maori Chiefs didn’t really surrender sovereignty to the British Crown – despite the clear wording of the Treaty – but rather entered into a “partnership” with the Crown.
Now the Ardern Government has confirmed my view that we’ve totally lost the plot by agreeing to buy land at Ihumatao from Fletcher Building, and undertaking to hold that land in trust pending a process “to describe the occupation status of parties who claim connection to the land.” The land had been purchased by Fletcher Building from the tribe which had been granted ownership of the land in the Treaty settlement in 2015.
But a few years ago some members of the tribe disagreed with what tribal elders had done in selling the land to Fletchers, and decided to overturn the sale by simply occupying the land. Of course, what should have happened is that the Police should have cleared the protestors from what was then private land.
The Prime Minister foolishly promised that none of the 480 houses which Fletchers had promised to build on the land would get built until she sorted out the dispute.
And suddenly, the whole Treaty settlement process was thrown into chaos. Far from Treaty settlements being “full and final” – as the public had been promised - we now had a situation where any disgruntled members of a tribe could re-open a solemn agreement between the Crown and a tribe.
Right now there is a similar dispute beginning in Shelly Bay in Wellington – a tribe received a settlement, tribal elders agreed to sell some of the land at Shelly Bay which was part of that settlement, the Wellington City Council approved the development proposed for the land, and then a group of tribal dissidents decided that they didn’t like what the tribal elders had agreed and decided to occupy the site.
It has been suggested that the tribal elders who agreed to sell the land at Shelly Bay did not have the full agreement of their tribe in agreeing to sell. But that should be a matter for the members of the tribe to sort out amongst themselves. It should not entitle dissident members to take matters into their own hands by occupying land which has been legally sold.
The Government’s willingness to surrender to protestors spells more serious trouble ahead.