This is a post that I initially wrote a few years ago. As part of a renewed writing effort, I will be updating some of my favourite articles from the past three years of writing on this site. Enjoy!
Nothing is more divisive in Aotearoa / New Zealand than Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the place of Māori within our society. It is an issue I have previously addressed in my short essay on the concept of race and nationality. As I renew my focus on Ka Tōnuitanga, I want to delve a bit deeper into some broader areas of public policy that are important to the future of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Today, I begin by looking at how we can go about reconciling the need to resolve the historical grievances of the past with the task at hand of building an inclusive society.
With an election looming large we can expect to see a renewed national focus on the state of race relations in New Zealand which feeds into the ongoing debate about the place of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in contemporary New Zealand. Most readers will know how it is we came to be where we are today so my intention is not to rehash the events at Waitangi in 1840 and the subsequent revolution which rendered Māori rights under Te Tiriti effectively null in the eyes of the Settler Government.
However, 174 years later, New Zealand would be unrecognisable to those Rangatira who signed Te Tiriti. No longer the dominant people, Māori watched and wept as boatloads of settlers from Europe arrived on our shores and proceeded to overwhelm the indigenous population and suppress their rights. Today, dozens upon dozens of diverse ethnic groups call New Zealand home, many of them with long ties to the land. Further still, many Pākehā are recent immigrants to New Zealand with either them or their whānau moving here long after the most heinous of Government action against Māori had come and gone.
The issue we face today is thus: How do we reconcile the genuine Māori grievances of the past while building an inclusive society into the future? To what extent (if any) are Pākehā, especially recent arrivals, responsible for the actions of the British colonisers in the 1800s? And how do we, as a nation, balance the often competing rights and interests of Māori and Pākehā?
In analysing the issues I suggest the following tripartite analysis of the issue as defined above. The first part is an ex post analysis of the best approach to take in order to resolve the grievances of the past. The second part is an ex ante analysis of the best approach to take us into the future. The third, and final, part is to consider the issue from behind the veil of ignorance and ask what is the best way to build an inclusive society according to the Ka Tōnuitanga kaupapa with the assumption that in this new society I could either be Māori or Pākehā.
The ex post Analysis
In considering the best approach to resolve the grievances of the past, my initial thoughts are that the system we have in place is proving to be rather effective at the macro level. The Waitangi Tribunal and Settlement Negotiation process allows for hapū and iwi to have their historical grievances addressed and reparation made. Yes, there are flaws in the system, and there may be better ways of doing things. But, positively, there are a large number of people working to ensure that these processes work. Nothing will ever fully compensate Māori for what has been taken from us, and you cannot reverse 150 years of economic deprivation in a few decades. However, the settlements that have been reached to date have allowed those hapū and iwi to heal, and build a strong relationship with the Government. From a Kaupapa Māori perspective, the process conforms with the idea of utu (redress, restoration, and rebalancing) and seeks to restore the mana of the Government and the Hapū or Iwi.
The ex ante Analysis
This is where things starts to get complicated: What approach will provide the best outcomes in the future? And to be honest, I am not entirely sure. I would like to see Te Tiriti officially incorporated as a founding/constitutional document of New Zealand, potentially alongside the Bill of Rights Act 1990. The property rights guarantee in Article 2 needs to be recognised in legislation and the land and resources remaining in Māori ownership should be free from interference from the Government. Legislative provisions ensuring that the Government acts in accordance with the principles of The Treaty of Waitangi provide adequate protection of Māori rights guaranteed under Te Tiriti, although to some this is affording special treatment to Māori and should not be allowed. I do not disagree that such clauses do provide special recognition of Māori rights and interests. However, I am a firm believer that such special recognition is justified by Article 2 of Te Tiriti.
What I am sure of is that there is currently a huge disconnect between Māori and Pākehā on issues of Te Tiriti and Māori rights. The future of New Zealand depends on a strong relationship not only between Māori and Pākehā, but also between all the diverse groups of people who call New Zealand home.
From Behind the Veil of Ignorance
Consider yourself as a child who is about to be born in New Zealand. You, and you alone, have been given the responsibility for designing what New Zealand would look like: issues such as the recognition and statutory incorporation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the position of Māori and other minority groups within our representative system, and the manner in which democracy is conducted in a colonised nation. The only catch is this: you do not know whether you will be born as a Māori or as a Pākehā.
In such a situation, you would want to design a society which upholds the importance of democracy, equality and the rule of law; while at the same time recognising Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding constitutional document of New Zealand with tangible rights and obligations. When you realise that who you are, where you are born, and what ethnicity you are is entirely a matter of chance you will begin to see the world in an entirely different light.
How would you approach the above tripartite analysis? Let me know in the comments below. I want to know how you would respond to the three questions as posed as we work together to build an inclusive, forward-looking society.