Feb 26, 2013

Property rights and racism as a political ideology

DPF blogs (quoting from Stuff.co.nz):

The Taupo Ironman event is to go ahead after local iwi and organisers agreed to a confidential settlement.
Discussions were held all week after Lake Taupo owners Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board sought to charge a levy for Ironman New Zealand competitors to use the lake for the swim leg of the international triathlon, to be held next weekend.
The trust board was reported to be seeking a $40 levy for each entrant, which would have netted about $58,000.
Taupo Mayor Rick Cooper said he was sickened and saddened by yesterday’s announcement. “If a charge has been set for the use of the lake I would be extremely sad; in fact, I feel sick to hear it. …
Ngati Tuwharetoa, under a revised deed of settlement signed with the Crown in 2007, are considered legal owners of the lake bed and air space above it, and have the right to license commercial users of the lake.

I’m pretty appalled myself.

I can understand the agreement Labour made in 2007 as part of a settlement that commercial users may have to pay a fee. To my mind that was intended for activities which are primarily about making a profit – say a jet ski hire operation.

But sporting events should not be treated in the same way. Charging $40 a person for swimming in the lake just goes against the grain.

If any future agreements include use of lakes, it would be highly desirable for commercial use to exclude sporting events.

An infuriating part of this, for me at least, is that this sentiment isn't confined to the right. I've heard a handful of lefties claim that they’re “uncomfortable” with Maori exercising their property rights over Lake Taupo.

Property rights are always sanctified when possessed and exercised by the right sort of people – read non-Maori. Where Maori are attempting to protect and exercise their property rights the goal posts are shifted. Property rights are great, but you Maori must make exceptions for sporting events, fishing competitions and anything else we decide. Apparently, property rights enjoy a shifting definition.

In principle, I can see no reason Ngati Tuwharetoa can’t and shouldn’t charge for the commercial use of their property. After all, Ironman is run on a commercial basis. We wouldn’t expect a farm owner or estate owner to provide free access for the commercial use of their property. Why do we expect that of Maori?

The answer – and we can all see this coming – is racism. Racism not only as a kneejerk reaction against Maori or an expression of stupidity, but racism as a political ideology.* Racism designed to lessen Maori rights and maintain Pakeha political hegemony. Racism as a political ideology was adopted and practiced across the colonial world and survives today. The ideology is couched in the language of economics** and, in New Zealand’s case, increasingly in the language of “Maori privilege” and “one law for all”. It’s a shameless argument - Maori are on the bottom on the heap on every measure and the needle isn’t moving – but the language and the implicit ideas appeal to the base fear of the others and the threat they pose to Pakeha political and economic hegemony.

These attitudes reveal that we’re nowhere near a post-racial New Zealand (which is a stupid idea anyway) and that Treaty settlements have not corrected Pakeha prejudice. Then again, that was never the point and dreaming about correcting Pakeha prejudice is about as silly as imagining a post-racial Aotearoa.

*Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic provides an easy to understand explanation of racism as a political ideology. Arnold Hirsch developed the concept is his book Making the Second Ghetto.

**Former Republican National Committee Chairperson, Harvey “Lee” Atwater, captures it well in this damning quote: “You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."


  1. On the contrary, Morgan. Because I do believe in one law for all, I agree with you on this specific point and I'm surprised my fellow right-wingers don't see the issue here.

    If Ngati Tuwharetoa have a property right here - I have no idea whether rights to the lake bed and air above it entail rights to the surface of the lake and don't know the details of the settlement - they are as entitled to charge for the lake's use as I would be to charge someone who wanted to pick lemons off my lemon tree.

    Ironman NZ should have negotiated with Ngati Tuwharetoa just as they would have with any farmer whose property they wished to run across.

    Kiwi Dave

    1. I'm glad to know that, Kiwi Dave.

    2. Lets face it, The Tuwharetoa Trust Board is a corporation and do not represent the true owners of the lake. They gain their ownership through a dodgy Treaty Settlement done in secret with the OTS. It is only since 2007 that they are recognised as owners when infact it should be the hapu and whanau of all the tribes around the lake. This board has been set up to extinguish rights, and allow for the privatisation of water in the Waikato Co- Management deal which will ultimately end up in private hands offshore under free trade deals such as the TTPA.



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