Abolish the Waitangi Tribunal

Time to abolish the unacceptably partisan Waitangi Tribunal

To Chris Finlayson, Minister of Treaty Negotiations:

I have just finished researching and writing the first draft of an article looking at the chequered history of the Waitangi Tribunal and its damaging involvement in the New Zealand political scene since its controversial inception.

Far from being an impartial objective, judicial body, the tribunal has included over the years activist part-Maori (part-Maori only, given that all Maori now apparently have an additional genetic background), some of whom have actually had an involvement with the tribes whose claims they are meant to impartially assess when making recommendations to government!

My conclusion, having discovered some quite staggering facts, is that it is high time to the Waitangi Tribunal to be disbanded, and for the legitimacy of activist, neo-tribal, part-Maori claims to be decided by the courts.

It is quite shocking that a number of the  settlements promoted  by the tribunal have apparently been either elasticized, exaggerated, reinvented – or in fact seemingly historically spurious. Moreover, it appears to have been as problematic in its modus operandi as those who with good reason foretold from the beginning – opposing its establishment.

I do not say this lightly. In a number of cases, evidence disregarded by the tribunal, which is widely and justifiably perceived as having been partisan in some of its recommendations, has pointed to quite different conclusions from its findings. As respected commentator Brian Priestly noted in relation to the third supposedly full and final Ngai Tahu settlement, he had never seen a body less designed to get to the truth of things.

This is not good enough. Moreover, today’s arguably intemperate demand by the tribunal is quite outrageous. It has apparently released “a scathing assessment”  of the Crown’s “obligation” with regard to te reo Maori in the last 25 years. Led by Justice Joe Williams, it is accusing the government of failing to protect the Maori language

The tribunal needs a reality check. At a time of severe economic stringency affecting many New Zealanders, Maori language funding received $260 million last year.  This was at a time when our hospitals are now short of beds and funding, hard pressed to retain specialists; when medical laboratories are having to shed staff; when cancer patients are having to travel to Australia for treatment;  and when newborn babies are being transferred around the country because of the pressure on neonatal units. New Zealanders are losing their jobs – and hope  – and fleeing to Australia for a better chance of economic survival. Given what is happening in the real world,  the Waitangi Tribunal’s unacceptable demand for even more millions of dollars to be poured into promotion of a language with very limited application is arguably selfish,  and partisan.

At a time when the economy is beleaguered and New Zealanders in unprecedented numbers have lost their savings in collapsed finance companies,  every when other sector of the community has had to tighten its belt,  radicalized Maoridom (by no means majority part-Maori, but the sectors which have organized themselves for political and economic advantage)  continually demands more and more from all other New Zealanders with what can be described as self-serving opportunism.

The ongoing haemorrhaging of taxpayer dollars  and what amount to  racist enterprises, i.e. racially-targeted funding,  have caused great divisiveness in this country, as many New Zealanders know very well that they are financing a still-ongoing gravy train with understandably reluctant payments from their own pockets.

It is time all this stopped, and that the government stood up to the destructive demands from activist part-Maori – demands that invariably are made, in a hands-out mode, for continually increased funding and attention. Being part-Maori seems to have now become a full-time profession or trade in itself – except that it offers such arguably myopic New Zealanders little of the benefits that those working in real trades or professions supply to the community at large.

Regardless of the court’s findings, there should be no obligation at all on the majority of New Zealanders to pay for  part-Maori to learn the Maori language. It was Maori elders themselves who came to Wellington to petition the government in the 1930s to ask for  Maori children to be prevented from speaking their language at school so that they would achieve parity with European children in speaking English. They undertook in return that they would teach Maori to their own children.

Those who have not done so have no right to make demands on the public purse for anybody else to pay for this.

Nobody from any other ethnic background expects the taxpayers of New Zealand to pay for specially funded teaching for their children to be taught in an immersion schooling in their inherited language.  Nowhere did the Treaty of Waitangi lay down this requirement.  Maori were guaranteed the right of ownership of their own resources – and these were long recognized as meaning tangible resources involving property and actual physical possessions.

It has been a very convenient and lucrative argument that taonga meant other than tangible possessions  –  the right of their legitimate ownership of which was guaranteed to Maori.  Most New Zealanders will at least secretly consider that there is no evidence whatsoever in the treaty that those of European descent should be required continually to pay to preserve a language which was not part of their own inheritance, but which one can reasonably regard Maori themselves to be required to care for, for its survival.

Arguably, compelling part-Maori children to attend te reo schools may well discriminate against their opportunity to acquire a far broader education with much more relevance and application to New Zealand’s and their own future place in the world. It has also helped promote an expectation of special entitlement – if not actual superiority among some young part-Maori – neither of which attitudes has been conducive to racial harmony and integration.

It is in fact time for those who wish their children to learn Maori to put their hands into their own pockets and pay for this. However, what these children are learning is not genuine Maori – older Maori will tell you they simply cannot understand it.  Since the 1980s, many thousands of new words have been deliberately coined as Maori to cope with the complexity of a world which the original, genuine Maori language simply cannot accommodate. Many part-Maori parents are well aware of this, and the tribunal has no justification for complaining about those of their own people who prefer their children, with good reason, to opt for  mainstream schooling.

The Maori economy is now reckoned to be estimated to be worth about $18 billion.  The now extremely wealthy Maori tribes are quite capable of affording their own Maori teaching to those part-Maori who wish to take advantage of this.  Moreover, radicalized Maori have in some instances been persuading part-Maori parents to opt for te reo teaching, not necessarily with any supposed to benefit to the children in mind, but because propagandized children are more amenable to being enlisted in support of activist tribal activities, which usually involve propositioning government for more benefits targeted to themselves – inevitably to the disadvantage of all other New Zealanders.

In the perception of many, a massive rort has been ongoing for some time. It is time for this National government, which has done a complete about-face in relation to what it promised with regard to abolishing the Maori seats to help achieve the greater integration of Maori and non-Maori New Zealanders, to put an end to its vote-buying compromises with radicalized Maoridom – represented by the tiny minority Maori Party. The latter by no means speaks for the majority of part-Maori.

Moreover, a good case can be made for the academic and educational advantages that learning Latin would give both Maori and non-Maori New Zealanders. In England a resurgence of Latin teaching in schools is endorsed by a group of distinguished writers and public figures – as well as by primary teachers from some of London’s inner-city schools. They explain that learning Latin helps with written and spoken English – at a low standard at present throughout New Zealand schools,  including among Maori children – and with foreign languages.

The new Iris Project explains that “Latin improves the skills needed for maths and other subjects; it helps to overcome social disadvantage, and it provides the cultural background needed to understand the literary and historical heritage neglected by the dumbed down curriculum of today’s schools.”  Those calling for total immersion in Maori-language only schooling seem to have forgotten that all today’s part-Maori children have another exciting and far-reaching intellectual heritage which is almost completely withheld from them, but to which they have as much right as all other New Zealanders.

Detailed research from the US bears out statistically that the academic standards of pupils learning Latin are higher than for those who do not – “that in particular it improves standards in reading, comprehension and vocabulary, improves maths and logical thinking.”

The importunate demands of the Waitangi Tribunal should be disregarded. It is useless to try to apply government compulsion ,and to unfairly and unrealistically demand more and more financial support from already overburdened New Zealanders to attempt, in a low-wage economy, to compel the preservation of a now very much newly-minted language.

Maori will survive if enough part-Maori take care to see it does so among its own people – as has been the way of the world historically with other minority languages. It can be regarded as ethnic bullying for partisan bodies like the Waitangi  Tribunal to demand still more millions of dollars from all other New Zealanders – because of their own partisan expectations.

Amy Brooke.