Opinion: Democracy under threat

In a speech in November 2000, the former Labour Party Prime Minister David Lange warned that if governments attempted to accommodate the increasingly audacious demands for sovereignty by the Maori tribal elite, they would end up threatening democracy itself. 

“Democratic government can accommodate Maori political aspiration in many ways. It can allocate resources in ways which reflect the particular interests of Maori people. It can delegate authority, and allow the exercise of degrees of Maori autonomy. What it cannot do is acknowledge the existence of a separate sovereignty. As soon as it does that, it isn’t a democracy. We can have a democratic form of government or we can have indigenous sovereignty. They can’t coexist and we can’t have them both.”

Lange explained that the Treaty of Waitangi was a contract between the Crown and Maori, not a ‘partnership’. He said treating it as a partnership was not only “absurd”, but doing so would result in the introduction of profoundly “undemocratic” rights and entitlements.

Yet ever since Jacinda Ardern and her colleagues were appointed to office by New Zealand First ‘kingmaker’ Winston Peters after the 2017 General Election, progressing the Treaty ‘partnership’ agenda has been a key priority. As a result, the rights of those who identify as Maori are being elevated above those of all other New Zealanders, undermining unity and the concept of equal rights upon which our democracy is based.

Emboldened by their success in achieving the demands made of the Labour Government, some iwi leaders no longer appear satisfied being ‘partners’ with the Crown, they want supremacy instead.

This was evident during the level 4 lockdown, when Maori separatists chose to break the law by establishing illegal blockades on public roads to secure their tribal boundaries. At a time when the public were being prosecuted for transgressing the lockdown requirements, the Prime Minister and her Government turned a blind eye to the flagrant law breaking of tribal bullies and gang members. Even though they were intimidating and obstructing members of the public, those at the highest level of our government chose to do nothing.

This week’s NZCPR guest commentator, freelance writer Michael Coote, believes an independent inquiry is needed into the roadblocks and those who condoned them:

“Independent investigations of what happened over the Maori tribal roadblocks have become imperative. Maori tribal rahui roadblocks instigated across New Zealand under Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown and continued under level 3 and even level 2 are illegal. Police and other organs of government colluding and conspiring with perpetuation of lawlessness should never willingly be condoned or tolerated in New Zealand.

“Apart from Maori racial supremacists, potentially culpable facilitating parties who must be held to public account include Government ministers and MPs, senior New Zealand Police officers, and local government officials, along with me-too elements such as the New Zealand Human Rights Commission aiding and abetting after the fact.”

Even after the lockdown restrictions were relaxed, not all of the blockades were removed – as National’s Northland MP Matt King found out when he tried to visit Cape Reinga with his wife and parents. Members of the Ngati Kuri iwi who were manning a barricade across State Highway 1 to ‘protect’ the Cape threatened to “knock him out” if he tried to get past their roadblock.

They claimed to have erected the barrier because the area needed to be blessed and cleansed due to Covid-19. But that has been rubbished by New Zealand First MP Shane Jones, who described such separatist posturing as “cultural mumbo jumbo”.

The free pass given by Ardern’s Government to those blocking roads is similar to their response to the activists protesting at Ihumatao in South Auckland, where for the last year, they have illegally prevented the lawful owners of private land from constructing the homes they have Council approval and local iwi support to build.

So why is Ardern’s Government failing to uphold the rule of law by turning a blind eye and refusing to deal to these tribal lawbreakers?

The answer, of course, is politics. The Prime Minister is so desperate to hold onto the Maori seats that she will do anything to try to keep iwi leaders happy, even if it means allowing them to break the law.

In 2017, Labour won all seven Maori seats and ousted the Maori Party from Parliament. These seven seats were instrumental in the Party having the numbers to form a Government and Ardern does not want to do anything that might jeopardise Labour’s hold on those seats.

Iwi leaders know this and they are not afraid to threaten Labour – that if they don’t agree to their demands they may shift their support to the Maori Party.

As recently as February, two prominent Maori leaders, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait the Whanau Ora Commissioning agency chair for the North Island and Sir Mark Solomon the chair for the South Island, warned “Labour is not living up to its promises for Maori and could be at risk of losing Maori seats at the upcoming election”.

Whether such threats were instrumental in the flood of special race-based funding that followed soon after is not clear, although it appears likely.

In March, the government announced a funding package of $56 million to support Maori to  cope with the pandemic – including $15 million for Whanau Ora, no doubt to keep Merepeka Raukawa-Tait and Mark Solomon happy.

At the time political editor Barry Soper described ‘the naked politics being played in the Beehive’: “Ardern proudly told us the $56 million laid aside last week to Maori to fight Covid 19 has already been allocated… The money will also help kaumatua get priority testing for Covid 19 and will provide food and clothing for the vulnerable and assist them to get into isolation accommodation, all of which the rest of us have to pay and wait for. It’s difficult to find why Maori would be harder hit than the rest of us with this virus. But it’s not difficult to deduce that Labour, with the seven Maori seats now back on its ballot, is determined to keep them there.”

And of course, just a few weeks later, the Government opened its Budget 2020 floodgates by allocating almost $1 billion in race-based funding to Maori – including a further $136 million to the Whanau Ora slush fund.

Yet even though the budget has delivered billions of dollars in support for businesses through general wage subsidies and loans, some Maori Business Advisors are saying the additional $6.5 million allocated in support of the Maori economy is “not enough”. They say Maori businesses have “unique needs” and the present system is biased against them, since “decision makers don’t have a Maori lens”. They are calling for more funding.

The Government’s response was almost immediate – Nania Mahuta, the Minister of Maori Development, claimed they are working on a plan and more money will be available to stimulate the Maori economy in June.

While the amount of taxpayer funding being splashed around Maori communities is extraordinary, some of the policy changes that are now emerging reveal the undemocratic rights and entitlements that Lange warned about.

One of the first initiatives undertaken by the Ardern Government was the establishment of a new government agency to progress their Treaty partnership agenda. Veteran activist Titewhai Harawira was a member of the advisory group convened to assist. When the new unit’s name was revealed as the Office for Crown Maori Relations, there was such an outcry over the fact that ‘Maori’ was second behind ‘Crown’ that it had to be changed to the Office for Maori Crown Relations, Te Arawhiti.

This new agency with over 140 staff on an average salary of $100,000, not only deals with Treaty of Waitangi settlements and Crown engagement claims under the Marine and Coastal Area Act, but is also tasked with ensuring the Crown becomes ‘a better Treaty partner’. Their plan was to appoint specialist Maori advisors into key Government positions to ensure their separatist ‘Maori world view’ (or “cultural mumbo jumbo” as Shane Jones describes it) is embedded across the state sector, with state servants ‘trained’ in issues like ‘unconscious bias’, ‘cultural competency’, and ‘institutional racism’.

Te Arawhiti was also to be consulted on all law change proposals to ensure they would benefit Maori. To that end, a high powered Maori Crown Relations Cabinet Committee was set up with 13 members including the Minister Kelvin Davis as chairman, along with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney General, Minister of Finance, and Minister of Justice.

The “Maori world view” has, of course, already been well entrenched into the education system. Young minds are indoctrinated with Treaty partnership propaganda almost from the time they first enter pre-school, and teachers are required to undergo cultural competency training as a condition of their employment.

The “Maori world view” is also alive and well in local government, where the undermining of democracy is plain to see in many parts of the country. There, weak councillors have caved in to the demands of iwi leaders who want their unelected representatives appointed onto council committees with voting rights. Once there, they engineer greater influence – as can be seen in the Otago Regional Council where two iwi representatives are in the process of upgrading their status from advisors to “partners”; and in Whangarei, where an unelected Maori advisory group is attempting to become a full council committee with voting rights.

In the health system, while the “Maori World view” has already been adopted through cultural competency and cultural safety requirements for workers, changes are now underway to give Maori priority health treatment – in effect enabling them to jump to the front of the queue on the basis of ethnic background instead of clinical urgency.

Such shocking racism should be condemned as an outrage. The fact that it isn’t, exposes the gravity of the situation – that racial privilege in New Zealand is now being normalised.

With some generic health funding already skewed towards patient ethnicity, the Auckland District Health Board Chairman Pat Snedden, a former Treaty of Waitangi claims negotiator, wants to take it further. He says that the disruption from Covid-19 represents a “Big Bang” opportunity to “reset” a health system, that he claims is riddled with institutional racism. He wants Maori and Pacific patients prioritised for elective surgery.

With Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs putting forward similar proposals, it seems that race-based health care is Labour’s new policy direction.

Furthermore, journalist Bob Edlin has revealed how the Government is now using race to classify age. Their health funding unit, the Health Promotions Agency, is defining ‘older’ people as being over 70 years old – except if you are Maori or a Pacific Islander, in which case it is over 50. Whether this signals that the Government intends lowering the pension age for Maori remains to be seen.

Unfortunately ‘cultural mumbo jumbo’ is now endemic in many state agencies including the Family Violence Death Review Committee, which in the forward to its most recent report, blames family violence on “the historical and ongoing impact of colonisation”.

Claiming colonisation is to blame for Maori men beating up their women and children, shows how captured and absurd our government agencies have become. The “Maori World View” is now distorting reality itself. 

The fact that this Government is allowing itself to be blackmailed over the Maori seats – to introduce divisive policies that are fracturing society and undermining democracy – shows not only how dangerous these race-based seats have become, but how imperative it is that they are abolished.

Now that the National Party has a new leadership team, New Zealand needs to know whether they will take a stand on these issues. In other words, will they following Labour down this race-based path, or will they support equal rights, democracy and the rule of law.


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