Originally written for and published in Elocal
In January 2004, I addressed the Orewa Rotary Club by asking:
What sort of nation do we want to build?
Is it to be a modern democratic society, embodying the essential notion of one rule for all in a single nation state?
Or is it the racially divided nation, with two sets of laws, and two standards of citizenship, that the present Labour Government is moving us steadily towards?
But the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi was expressed simply by then Lt-Gov. Hobson in February 1840. In his halting Maori, he said to each chief as he signed: He iwi tahi tatou. We are one people.
Over the last 20 years, the Treaty has been wrenched out of its 1840s context and become the plaything of those who would divide New Zealanders from one another, not unite us.
In parallel with the Treaty process and the associated grievance industry, there has been a divisive trend to embody racial distinctions into large parts of our legislation, extending recently to local body politics. In both education and healthcare, government funding is now influenced not just by need – as it should be – but also by the ethnicity of the recipient.
Since that time, most of the evidence suggests that the country has chosen to move further towards a racially divided nation, with two sets of laws, and two standards of citizenship.
Early in May, Dita De Boni, a regular writer for the National Business Review, wrote about the He Puapua report. This envisages New Zealand moving to a country where those with some Maori ancestry and those without will be governed by separate entities, with a separate health ministry, separate education ministry, etc., by the bi-centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 2040. She noted that the authors of that report
envisage Maori co-governance on anything that pertains to Maori wellbeing; they want the right to protect their own intellectual property; make Te Reo and New Zealand history compulsory in schools; have Maori wards and Maori seats in Parliament; and have their own health system. None of which, it seems to me, a reasonable person these days would object to.
I clearly don’t qualify as a reasonable person by Dita De Boni’s definition. What the authors of the He Puapua report envisage is a New Zealand version of Malaysia, where Malays have a permanently enshrined superior position to Indian Malaysians or Chinese Malaysians, even though the latter may have lived in Malaysia for many generations. We know that that ultimately leads to a very unhappy situation, with those who are not ethnic Malays being permanently second-class citizens, and frequently choosing to emigrate.
Part of the problem was illustrated in the various reactions to comments from Paul Goldsmith, who had the temerity to suggest that, on balance and despite some events which we all regret, the colonisation of New Zealand had been of net benefit to Maori New Zealanders. Astonishingly, several of Paul’s National Party colleagues tried hard to distance themselves from Paul’s comments. But colonisation ended devastating inter-tribal warfare, ended cannibalism, ended slavery, introduced to New Zealand mammals which had never been known here previously (horses, cows, and sheep to name just three), introduced a written language, and introduced metal tools and the wheel – all of which enabled an enormous improvement in the living standards and life expectancy of most Maori. To disagree with Paul’s contention is to reveal the utmost ignorance of New Zealand history.
One of the gifts the colonists brought to New Zealand was the English language. Not so fast, Maori radicals might reply. The introduction of English resulted in the near-destruction of the Maori language. That is true, not least because a great many Maori in the 19th century recognised that English was the door-way to the future, and insisted that their children were taught it at school.
I have always thought it reasonable for taxpayers to support the teaching of Maori to those who wish to learn it, and to support the score of Maori-language radio stations and Maori TV. The Maori language is primarily spoken in New Zealand and for some New Zealanders its preservation is important. But I utterly oppose the current fashion of encouraging all children to learn Maori since it has no practical value for most New Zealand children.
And of course teaching Maori to all children – which is now official policy – is costly not only in dollar terms but more seriously because it absorbs time and teacher resources which are desperately needed for more immediately useful subjects. It is hard to think of a single job which requires the job applicant to be able to read or write Maori, though perhaps there are a few in the tourism sector. And there is not a single job which does not require an ability to read and write in English.
Sadly, far too many kids come out of school unable to read and write English. And that includes far too many Maori kids. One of the reasons why unemployment is disproportionately high among Maori young people is that too many can’t read English well enough to hold down a job. I have often told the story of meeting the manager of a small company in Hawke’s Bay years ago who told me that far too many of the job applicants to drive a forklift truck couldn’t read well enough to get the job – they couldn’t read the pallet labels and they couldn’t read the safety instructions. Too many of those unsuccessful applicants were Maori.
There appears to be evidence that learning a second language in early childhood assists in the development of the brain, and Nikki Kaye’s private member’s Bill, which would have introduced a policy to allow schools to offer any of up to 10 different languages, including Te Reo, had merit. But unfortunately the Bill was killed in Select Committee by the Labour majority because “they were concerned that the bill might undermine the status of te reo Maori because schools would be able to choose a priority language that was not te reo Maori”.
What an utterly appalling decision – we take away the option of learning a language which might be useful to many students – like Spanish or Mandarin – to protect the teaching of a language which will be of small benefit to a small minority and of absolutely no benefit to the great majority.
Government departments and other government agencies are increasingly demonstrating their wokeness by scattering Maori words into their official documents, thus making them less comprehensible to the great majority of their readers. And almost every official meeting, or even semi-official meeting, is expected to begin with several sentences in Maori, incomprehensible to all, or at most a tiny minority, of those attending. I’m looking forward to the day when somebody has the courage to interject, politely, at the conclusion of that Maori introduction, “Madame Chair, I’m sure that what has just been said is important. Could we have a translation please?”
And don’t get me started on the arrogance of the officially-sanctioned effort to change the name of our country – it’s now far too often Aotearoa New Zealand, or simply Aotearoa. I haven’t read the final version of the report of the Climate Change Commission, but in the 180 pages of the Commission’s draft report the words “New Zealand” do not appear – it is “Aotearoa” throughout. This is despite the fact that Aotearoa was not recorded anywhere prior to the late 19th century, and was certainly not used in the Maori-language version of the Treaty of Waitangi.
With an increasing number of voices calling for a “partnership” between Maori New Zealanders and the rest of us, with self-described “recovering racist” Andrew Judd saying that having Maori wards on local councils is simply a step towards a 50-50 power sharing between Maori New Zealanders and the rest of us, with the implementation of He Puapua being high on the Government’s agenda, it appears that we are well down the track of becoming “the racially divided nation, with two sets of laws, and two standards of citizenship” that scared me in January 2004.