Feb 27, 2014

"Property rights for some are property rights for none"

Writing about anti-Maori propaganda is exhausting. It’s not exhausting in the sense that it’s back breaking work; rather it’s intellectually – and, more importantly, emotionally - draining. I’m often writing against stereotypes that have been a century in the making. Stereotypes that are encoded in New Zealand’s colonial memory. Consider this from the Herald:

Iwi's right to stall consents raises fears 
New rule for work on cultural and heritage sites introduces process `based on race'. 
A new rule requiring homeowners and businesses to seek iwi approval to work on sites of cultural and heritage value to Maori is set to be debated by councillors today. 
Groups and politicians across the political spectrum are concerned the rule creates a dual resource consent process - one conducted by Auckland Council and the other by Maori. 
Under the council's draft Unitary Plan, applications to carry out work on 3600 sites of "value to mana whenua" must obtain a "cultural impact assessment" from one or more of 19 iwi groups. 
If iwi do not agree, applicants must apply to the council for a resource consent. 
Waitemata councillor Mike Lee said the rule is likely to mean extra costs for people and create a parallel regulatory framework based on race. 
Employers and Manufacturers chief executive Kim Campbell shares Mr Lee's view that it could lead to an unacceptable dual resource consent process. 
"As it stands, the proposed Unitary Plan's cultural impact assessments would add uncertainty, cost and time delays to the issuing of resource consents," Mr Campbell said.

Note the framing in the headline: iwi’s right to “stall” rather than iwi’s right to be consulted. In the opening sentence the mandatory quote - “based on race” – is included. But then, as a measure of insulation against accusations of scaremongering or racism, the story shifts to an issue of “process” and “cost”. These are the rhetorical parachutes I’ve written about before.

But the story is about neither process nor cost. This is about property rights. Iwi haven’t gained the right to stall development – they’ve regained a small measure of the property rights they lost to force and intrigue. This is a contest of property rights. The story doesn’t acknowledge the iwi property right – the right to a small measure of pluralism over sites of significance – but it acknowledges the title holder’s – read Pakeha’s - right to develop with no impediments.

Title holders retain the ordinary property rights, but where sites of significance are involved the ordinary property rights are subject to iwi consultation. In principle the iwi right works like a conservation easement. Except iwi don’t have the power to veto. It’s an ordinary consultation right. David Taipari gives a different example:

David Taipari, chairman of the council's Independent Maori Statutory Board, said the rule was no different from those protecting built heritage, saying it was important that people did not destroy or affect archeological or sites of significance to mana whenua.

And he’s right. But also note that this single paragraph is the only attempt at balance. The result is obvious: the title holder’s right to develop is framed as the important right while the iwi right to conserve is not framed as property right, but some sort of unearned privilege. But this isn’t a case of the council or the government creating new rights for iwi. The council is recognising a small right that has always existed.

If this story was framed as a contest of property rights it wouldn’t be as sexy. It's not even a case of race. These are sites significant to New Zealand, surely. The stereotype of iwi winning special rights is deeply embedded. Some people go off about it without thinking (it’s a reflex action). Others have more sinister motives (to sell papers, maybe). I don’t care. Maybe it’ll be less exhausting if I care less?

Feb 24, 2014

The meaning of Winston Peter's race talk

This is from Winston Peter's state of the nation speech. Don’t act surprised:

New Zealand has gone from a nation of united people to an urban collection of communities, many clinging to where they were, rather than where they are now. 
We have the Chinese community, the Pacific Islands community, the Sri Lankans, the Indians - the list is endless. All hyphenated New Zealanders… 
It’s as simple as this. Our last census had boxes for virtually every race on earth. Except one. There was no box for you to tick that you are a New Zealander… 
When people come to New Zealand, New Zealand First says they should fit in and contribute to our laws, our values, our culture, language and traditions. 
That doesn’t mean abandoning identity. The Irish, Scots, Welsh, Dalmatians never did, nor did the Dutch.

This is vintage Winston. Except the wine has turned to vinegar. Winston speaks to a New Zealand that thinks it's under ideological and demographic siege. Parse the tortuous language of “urban… communities”, “values” and “identity” and you’ll find New Zealanders who yearn for a New Zealand that never existed. Winston speaks to their imaginary past.

If Colin Craig’s “entire political movement and history is based on feelings of humiliation” then Winston Peter’s political movement is based on feelings of betrayal. It’s aimed at New Zealanders who went to sleep in one country and woke up in another: the strong state communitarianism of Kirk and the strong state conservatism of Muldoon had disappeared, the borders had become porous – for both capital and labour - and New Zealand had been “opened for business”.

If you scratch the itch you’ll find that Winston’s people are worried about economics and leadership. That’s the source of their angst, but race is its expression. Why? Because race represents their ideological losses today and their demographic irrelevance tomorrow. Immigration – and Maori bashing, of course – is the lightning rod of their unease and hostilities. But its real source is the economic transformation of the 80s and 90s.

Consider this:

But the so-called economic reformers of the past 30 years dismantled the industries and state enterprises that were the economic life blood of Maori. 
Freezing works closed, the Ministry of Works, Forest Service, Government Print and so many others. When the Forestry Service was privatised, thousands of jobs were lost and 80 per cent of those jobs had been held by Māori. 
Heartland New Zealand had the heart ripped out.
Tens of thousands of Maori were thrown on the industrial scrap heap. Along with unemployment came the twin curses of alcohol and drugs which are creating mayhem among Maori…
Along with the new age economics of selling everything and bringing in more immigrants, a new political arrangement was entered into. 
This is the politics of appeasement to radical Māori demands.

That's a straightforward description of the economic reforms of the 80s and 90s, but it's framed as a problem of Maori radicalism. Now I don't think Winston buys his own rhetoric and that makes it fundamentally dishonest. But it works. When the walls are closing in people fight to apportion blame. It’s easier to blame the other than blame your own political impotence. Communities of colour become a totem for the decline of Winston's provincialists. Don Brash fell short, but he demonstrated the electoral reward for politicians who can tap the reservoir of racism.

When you peel away the forced politeness, the urge to please everyone and suppressed anger in some parts of provincial New Zealand you’ll find a country that’s deeply scarred. If it looks to in the mirror, it's ashamed. If it looks to the future, it's afraid. If it looks to the (imaginary) past, it's at home.

Winston understands this and he uses race to channel their fears. But race isn't the source of their angst and non-racialism isn't the solution to it. Winston's failure to craft a strategic response to his voter's angst only serves to reinforce it. You can't craft a strategic response to neoliberalism off the back of a cabal of hardcore racists. They might like their imaginary past, but Winston can only give them an imaginary future.

Feb 18, 2014

Shane Taurima: political neophyte?

Patrick Gower has thrown a rat among the kiwi eggs:

3 News can reveal state broadcaster TVNZ is being used as a campaign base by Labour Party activists. 
They've even held a meeting in TVNZ's Maori and Pacific Unit aimed at fundraising for Labour. 
The unit's manager, Shane Taurima, has held ambitions to become a Labour MP and his staff have been arranging Labour Party business, using TVNZ facilities like email.
Mr Taurima has resigned following the revelation.

How did several experienced journalists miss the headlines they were creating? The use of TVNZ facilities was minor, but it should have created doubts. The stench of a story should have suffocated every journalist in the meeting room.

I stand by the claim that the use was relatively minor. But the political ineptitude isn’t. There’s a story on two levels: principled and practical. Is it ethical to remain party political while maintaining editorial control at a public broadcaster? On a practical level, does the issue speak to poor political judgement?

I think Shane checked his views at the door. His work confirms that. But perceptions demanded he resign. How could he remain objective?

Well, he remained balanced. Objectivity was a red herring. Journalism demands balance. The myth of objectivity was only a self-serving political attack. Shane didn’t sacrifice his professional skills or values. But the perception that he was tainted – a perception that’s given substance in the latest story – ran too deep.

Shane didn’t make the rod for his own back in front of the camera or in the control room - he made it in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti selection. When he revealed his political ambitions – and social democratic inclinations – he drew a target on his head. In hindsight he should have resigned permanently the moment he announced his candidacy. On a practical level he could have and did remain – I don’t think anyone can question his professionalism – but on a political level the decision to remain was stupid. Does this cast doubt on his suitability as a political candidate?

Post script: Shane has released a gracious media statement explaining his resignation. 

Feb 12, 2014

Kaupapa Maori politics: a definition

The tino rangatiratanga flag: the symbol of kaupapa Maori politics?

It’s election year. Expect to regularly encounter politicians who represent “kaupapa Maori politics”. But don’t expect a definition. No one – or no one I’m aware of - has bothered to properly explain what kaupapa Maori politics means. The definition has always been intuitive and subjective. Maybe that's why it's used only as a rhetorical tool when it should be used as an ideological claim too.

Kaupapa Maori research is well defined. But kaupapa Maori politics isn't. My take is this: kaupapa Maori politics provides a Maori account of power-relations – one underpinned by the Treaty partnership; a Maori account of the desired future - one where bicultural and multicultural pluralism is valued through mana motuhake (self-governance); and a Maori account of how politics should work – through consensus politics as exemplified in the Maori Party’s constitution.

We also know some of the governing principles - for example kotahitanga - some of the doctrines - think integration of Maori into New Zealand power structures and integration of Maori values into public policy - and some of the symbols - for example the tino rangatiratanga flag.

That’s a wordy and passive definition. It's also quite unclear and underdeveloped. I’d welcome others who have a different take or can build on what I've written to comment below. It might be useful to hammer this out before the election season proper. Kaupapa Maori politics shouldn’t be an empty rhetorical tool. It should be an ideological claim.

Feb 5, 2014

Myths of nationhood: why I'm not "celebrating" Waitangi Day

Behold, Waitangi Day Bingo:

h/t @ColeyTangerina and @Megapope

Bingo is a witty critique of Waitangi Day clichés, but it’s also something more: this is the geography of Pakeha myth-making. Each box is a false political claim. Prepare to hear each claim repeatedly and under the worn robe of “debate”.

Waitangi Day angst isn’t new. Respected columnists will declare the day “broke”, less-respected columnists might announce it’s “a day of lies” while others will broadcast accusations of reverse racism. But most will plea for unity. Yet navigate the calls for unity with caution. Underneath the plea is a denial – Maori have no right to protest their lot. This is the movement to rebrand Waitangi Day.

In 1973 the third Labour government introduced the New Zealand Day Act. Although Waitangi Day had always been acknowledged, that acknowledgment wasn't codified in a public holiday. New Zealand Day – a misnomer – was intended to become the foundation of national identity. A splendid celebration of nationhood.

Except it wasn’t. There could never be unity without equality. The betrayal of the Treaty went too deep, and the collateral effects of Treaty breaches went too far, for Maori to accept a celebration of nationhood that didn’t exist. In 1973 Nga Tamatoa occupied Waitangi with black armbands. They declared the day one of mourning for the broken promises of the Treaty including the loss of millions of hectares of Maori land.

In later years protestors stormed the grounds. Tame Iti spat at a Prime Minister. Titewhai Harawira reduced another Prime Minister to a shaking wreck. An aspiring Prime Minister ate mud. The Popata brothers had a go at the current Prime Minister. It’s easy to argue that Waitangi Day represents “grievance”. But it’s more than that. Waitangi Day is the nexus between the national story and Maori realities.

Two world views collide: the spirit of activism and the fist of oppression.

For more than a century Pakeha society had a monopoly on the national story: the Treaty was a rat-eaten relic, Maori were destined to assimilate and New Zealand had the best race relations in the world. Waitangi Day was a celebration of New Zealand exceptionalism rather than an acknowledgement of broken promises.

But the Waitangi Day of Pakeha imaginations isn’t real. Waitangi Day is where Maori pushback against the myths that society clings to: the Treaty is a living document, Maori retain their identity and New Zealand has poor race relations. The health, wealth and education gaps exist and they exist off the back of the broken promises of the Treaty. Waitangi Day is where Maori can reveal New Zealand's separate realities.

But the movement to rebrand Waitangi Day won’t acknowledge that. It’s easier to switch the conversation than acknowledge that one group is dominant over the other. This is the new assimilation – the battle for history and contemporary meaning. There is a regular plea to make Waitangi Day “our” day. The layers of meaning are clear: Waitangi Day belongs to monocultural nationhood, not multicultural pluralism. Sit down or shut up. That disrespects Maori realities. But it also misunderstands the Treaty itself: the Treaty didn't create New Zealand - that came later - the Treaty created a bicultural relationship.

I'm not going to celebrate the birth of a nation or protest the failed promise of that nation. I'll quietly honour the legacy of resistance and those who are getting it done. I'll acknowledge that colonisation isn’t a distant tragedy, but an on-going process. Maori know it because they experience it. Pakeha might not, but that’s no excuse to deny Maori their agency on Waitangi Day. Myths have many authors, but reality can expose them. That’s what Waitangi Day is about most of all.

Feb 4, 2014

Why I am standing for Te Tai Hauāuru - Jack McDonald

Ko Taranaki te Maunga
Ko Taranaki te Tangata
Ko Taranaki te Iwi
Ko te puna i heke mai ai te tangata
E kore e pau te ika unahi nui

The threads of my whakapapa from across the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate weave together to bind my identity – my Māoritanga. A product of Te Tai Hauāuru, I am ready to stand up for our whānau and our whenua. I am ready to provide a new generation of political leadership.

I pay tribute to Whaea Tariana Turia, who has served our electorate with a power and distinction that is rarely seen in the political world. She has been our MP for 12 years, and has for that time been at the forefront of the fight for mana motuhake and has set a benchmark for Māori political representation in Parliament.

No one can replace Whaea Tariana's leadership, but her retirement offers Te Tai Hauāuru a rare opportunity; the opportunity to force a generational shift in our leadership and to chart a distinct course based on new ideas and a fresh outlook.

While attending the Rātana celebrations on the 24th of January I announced that I will be seeking the Green Party candidacy for Te Tai Hauāuru and standing for the Greens’ list.


As an uri of Taranaki Iwi and Te Āti Awa, many of my tupuna embarked on the heke that travelled from one end of the electorate to the other; from Taranaki maunga to the coastlines of Kāpiti and Mana. I have lived all my life in the small coastal town of Paekākāriki and I currently serve my community as the Chair of our Community Board and as our representative at the Kāpiti Coast council table.

Green representatives at Rātana Pā 2014
I stood in this electorate for the Greens in the 2011 general elections. It was the first time the Greens had stood a candidate in this electorate, so I had some very clear objectives in mind; spreading the Green kaupapa across the rohe and strengthening the position of the Greens in Māori communities. We were successful in our objectives; tripling the Greens party vote in Te Tai Hauāuru and securing third place in the electorate vote.

I have always believed that the Greens' values are remarkably similar to our values as Māori. And because a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a core part of our party's charter, the Greens are the strongest and most principled advocates in Parliament for honouring Te Tiriti and building a strong Treaty partnership.


It’s never been more important that we have strong Green representation in Te Tai Hauāuru. With both National and Labour supporting risky deep sea oil drilling off the Taranaki coast, it’s vital we send a message that we can’t risk destroying the environment which sustains our economy and our well-being. I stand in solidarity with hapū, iwi and community groups that are standing up to the drilling interests.

The extractive industries produce few jobs, while our two biggest industries, primary production and tourism, both rely on our clean, green brand. We also know that continued reliance on a fossil-fuel based economy will lead to increased carbon emissions and a more unstable climate.

There is an unique opportunity for iwi heading into the post-settlement era to be at the forefront of innovation and the transition to a sustainable economy. Greens propose a fairer Treaty settlement process, support for Māori small business and a massive investment in research and development and clean energy.

A strong Green Party will be able to hold both major parties to account. We have proven that we can make change from across Parliament, without compromising our values and our convictions. A party vote for the Greens will ensure there is a social and environmental conscience at the heart of a new progressive government.