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LINDSAY MITCHELL: The danger of the Treaty debate wearing us down

Screeds have been written about the Treaty of Waitangi. And there's more to come as division over race and rights ramps up.

Its content and meaning are getting lost in the crossfire and the danger of 'contestants' talking past each other looms, if not already happening.

When matters get murky, and misunderstandings abound, there is also a danger of observers getting worn down and disengaging. To avoid this happening personally, I made a mental list of what really aggravates me. In no particular order:

1/ Maori spiritual and religious belief being embraced and promoted by a formerly secular public service.

2/ A separate health system 'by Maori for Maori' that's a duplication and indulgence. Every individual that interacts with the health system now faces nurses and doctors etc of various ethnicity and birthplaces.

3/ A child who cannot be cared for by its natural parents having a substitute picked primarily by race.

4/ Cultural reports that use colonisation to excuse criminal behaviour and result in sentence discounts.

5/ The cultural practice of 'rahui' which block public access to public property.

That's not a long list. But each of these concrete bones of contention has arisen from Treaty 'creep', one way or the other. For instance, regarding item 1, the practice of reciting karakia (Maori prayers) is defended by the public service as "cultural acknowledgement" adding:

"The Public Service is committed to building and maintaining capability within organisations to engage with Māori and understand Māori perspectives. The Public Service Act 2020 (the Act) section 14 recognises the role of the Public Service to support the Crown in its relationships with Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi | the Treaty of Waitangi. To this end, the new Act includes provisions that put explicit responsibilities on the Public Service Commissioner, when developing and implementing the public service leadership strategy, to recognise the aims, aspirations and employment requirements of Māori, and the need for greater involvement of Māori in the Public Service."1

Obligations under the Treaty must flow one way. No other prayers are required or permitted at the commencement of public service meetings.

Back to my list. Wanting an end to each of the above can, in no way, be described as racist, or hysterically, 'white supremacist'. An end to these practices would be consistent with an end to racism. Not the reverse.

Individually we each have our own objections to what has developed. Not just over the past six years, but decades. There can be no doubt that over the coming months and years the debate will intensify. It may be far more effective to list and talk about practical concerns than argue the original- versus- evolved meaning and intent of the Treaty. The latter course is rapidly descending into the realms of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. By all means a redefinition of the articles or replacement with a constitution should be an option. But if that relies initially on a referendum then the arguments that persuade will be much closer to home - through letters-to-the-editor, talkback, social media, around the dinner table and at the pub.

I noticed a neighbour is flying the national Maori flag. I am assuming as a show of support for Maori. But what does that mean? They agree with John Campbell? They are virtue-signalling their 'non-racist' credentials?

I support Maori. I support them to look forward instead of back - which most do. I support them to get a decent crack at the cherry like everyone else. To get equal opportunity but understand that doesn't guarantee equal outcomes.

But above all I support a set of rules we can all live with free from fear or favour. None of the items on my short list would pass the test.

Lindsay Mitchell blogs here

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A certain High School, which shall be unnamed, was my alma mater. It was my four kids alma mater, resulting in learning that lead to seven university qualifications and jobs at extremely high levels in the NZ economic scene and the establishment of a series of businesses to do with the RMA and it's implications for conservation. I was on the Board of this school for 9 years back in the Noughties.

Recently the High School combined with the local Intermediate and decided it was time for a name change.

The local Iwi, not slow to see an opportunity for self promotion, "gifted" yes, "gifted," a name in their language they thought was perfect for the school.

Question" You are…


I am writing a comment - it's just a comment, just a thought about a thing I saw recently.

A painting of two Maori, though I don't think they knew themselves as Maori at the time, pre-1840) coming from separate hapu. They were standing alongside a missionary. I think they were Hongi Hika and Waka Nene - can't remember the missionary's name - anyway, what two fine-looking confident men they were standing tall next to some little European weasely, undershot jawed, shifty-eyed, bent-backed example of humanity.

The two "savage" chieftains dressed in their finery with huia feathers adorning their crowns standing heads and shoulders above said missionary, with beautifully shaped bodies, displaying muscular legs - a picture (painting) of health,…


Like Lindsay I support Maori to look forward and not backwards, I support all Maori who try their best to use and moderate the laws and regulations systems in NZ. I also agree that that some are not fit for purpose for all of us living here to achieve far better results.

I also support and encourage Maori to organise Maori into areas of service for health, financial and housing etc they so desperately claim they need. The Maori economy is reportly worth around 1 billion dollars so they have the resouces. If they want Maori health systems build them, if the want manageable home loans they can offer them, They have the opportunities to show all non Maori how…


Jan 25

You support Māori to get equal opportunity.

Do you think Māori have been getting equal opportunities in all areas of New Zealand life?

Replying to

Exactly. It's nothing to do with race and everything to do with family values.


I've eleventy tenths of Maori, Irish and pom in me to make me who I am.

A bloody new Zealander.

And the treaty?.fuck it off right now. A founding document???

My arse. Their is one founding reason we make this country our own, and I sure as shit know that to be the truth.

We all live here. We collectively made this country special as one., because.......

We are one.

I'm not letting a peice of paper rule my life anymore.

No way.

Aaron Shanahan.

Replying to

Especially one that was out of date by 1880.

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