Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Free speech has been strengthened at Massey
The attempt by the head of Massey University to ban Don Brash from speaking on campus last month has entirely backfired. Instead of Brash being undermined by her actions, it now looks like Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas is in danger of losing her position.
What’s more, her actions have ended up reinforcing academic freedoms on campus.
Certainly, we now know that Massey University academic staff have been fighting back against their boss, with the view that she has brought their institution into disrepute. Peter Lineham, a professor of history at Massey has been leading the charge, and he put forward a motion to the University’s Academic Council yesterday to censure the Vice Chancellor.
He explained why today in an interview with Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking, saying “I think it is a big, big blunder… this has put the university in a very bad light” and in terms of the university staff, “I think most people are uneasy about the decision” – see the three-minute interview: ‘It was a big blunder’ – Massey Uni board speak out.
Lineham explained how the Academic Council met yesterday and “grilled” their boss. He gives an idea of how Massey staff feel, saying there was “intense discussion at Academic Board, because she seemed to have started off being very determined to find some way or other to stop Don Brash’s visit, and then retreated from it, and then up came the safety issue, which I think had it been looked at in the cold and hard light of day didn’t really amount to much.”
Perhaps Lineham’s most important point in the interview is about how campus free speech has actually been strengthened as a result of the Brash-ban debacle: “I think we have recovered free speech a bit because this controversy has strongly marked the New Zealand campuses by the fact that vice chancellors – and this is happening throughout the world – cannot play nanny to the students. That’s a ridiculous role. The students can choose who they want to listen to, and can have whatever views they want. And I think this particular incident has made every vice chancellor realise that they need to keep their hands out of deciding what students should listen to.”
The latest revelations
The issue has reared its head again because Thomas’ emails relating to the whole saga have been revealed by blogger David Farrar, who obtained them via an Official Information Act request. The nature of the communications suggest that Thomas was determined to stop Brash from speaking, and spent weeks trying to find a way to do this, before finally cancelling the event due to “security threats”. To read all of the communications, see the blog post: Massey lying over cancellation of Brash speech.
The Vice Chancellor believed that Brash has been involved in “racist behaviour” and this conflicted with Massey as “a Te Tiriti-led university”. Therefore, in dealing with the prospect of Brash speaking on campus she thought it “would be good if we can cut off at the pass some how”.
The response to the revelations has been strong. The No Right Turn blogger says the communications show “that the cancellation wasn’t really about security, but about Thomas simply not liking Brash’s views” and “as a government institution, Massey is bound by the Bill of Rights Act and its affirmation of freedom of speech. It simply can not behave like this” – see: An open and shut case.
He calls for staff to take action: “Massey academic staff may wish to consider whether someone with such views is really appropriate to head an institution supposedly dedicated to free academic debate.”
Brash has also announced that he’s been invited back to speak next month – on 17 October – by the Politics Society students, and so far it seems that the University is going to let him appear, which is surely some sort of victory for free speech.
National Party leader Simon Bridges is also reported in this article saying “I think Jan Thomas has to go… She has been dishonest, and more than that she has tried to tort free speech and that is just not good enough anywhere in New Zealand and certainly not on university campuses”. Furthermore, he says “We don’t want to go down some American style culture war where we see this sort of issue and people shouting down different views to them.”
An editorial ran in Stuff newspapers today, responding to the latest revelations, sympathising with Massey University staff, who “will have every reason to feel decidedly unimpressed by news that they and the public have been misled” – see Philip Matthews’ Massey must come clean about Brash ban.
The editorial criticises the VC, pointing out that “It should be possible to both disagree with Brash’s problematic views of Māori culture and allow those views to be aired in a university setting.”
There is another interpretation, however, about what Thomas’ emails reveal. Otago University law professor, Andrew Geddis (@acgeddis), believes that there’s no reason to necessarily believe that the VC has lied in her public account of banning Brash: “My reading is that Thomas was keen to ban Brash on ‘he’s a bad man with dangerous ideas’ grounds, but was told that she couldn’t. Then the *threats* came in, and she adjudged these to be serious enough to be grounds themselves for banning him.”
Pressure on the Massey Vice Chancellor
University staff are now openly signalling their unhappiness with the Vice Chancellor (who is akin to a chief executive). Deputy pro-vice chancellor Chris Gallavin has been speaking publicly about staff feelings. Appearing on RNZ yesterday he said: “There is significant worry, and perhaps even distrust if not anger in the minds of many Massey University staff, that they may have been told an untruth or at very least not the whole story” – see: Don Brash cancellation: Censure motions against vice chancellor.
Gallavin explains the motions that academic staff are considering against Thomas, which will be voted on next month. The RNZ article reports: “Professor Gallavin said he had never heard of a board passing a censure motion against a vice-chancellor and it would send ‘a strong message’ to the Council about the staff’s ‘disappointment’.” He is quoted saying, “Whether she should resign really revolves around that question as to whether she still has the trust and confidence of the staff”.
Others are also issuing challenges to university bosses. RNZ reports that student leaders are outraged that Massey University appears to have considered cutting funding to the Massey University Student Association. Hence, the association has issued a statement of “no confidence” in Thomas. And the president of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, Jonathan Gee, has expressed his worry: “Students associations, not just at Massey but across the country, are really concerned around the silencing effect that she’s suggested here and whether other vice-chancellors might follow suit” – see: Student leader fears ‘silencing effect’.
Finally, Mike Hosking has joined the calls for Jan Thomas to resign, and he’s also asked what has happened to New Zealand universities: “The campus, the university, the home of free speech, the exchange of ideas, the heated debate, the ability to learn through diversity, the welcoming of diversity, the open arms approach to expression. Well, that’s all been made a joke” – see: It’s simple – Massey’s Jan Thomas has got to go.
Māori language week was celebrated last week and the key issue in the media was a debate on whether Te Reo Māori should be made compulsory in New Zealand schools. Mike Mohr of Asia Pacific Journalism reports.
Amid the debate over the issue of compulsory Te Reo Māori lessons in New Zealand schools that intensified last week, many arguments and opinions for and against were voiced.
Many New Zealanders support the idea of te reo being introduced more widely into schools, with overwhelming media coverage in support for compulsory Te Reo be implemented into the New Zealand core school curriculum by 2025.
But the question that has not yet been answered is whether it is possible or realistic, and the views of some who do not agree with the notion of compulsion have not yet been fully voiced.
It is an ongoing debate that has divided many New Zealanders in support of its implementation and those opposed to Te Reo being made compulsory.
Figures in 2013 showcased a drop in the numbers of Te Reo speakers in New Zealand by 4 percent in 17 years.
Among those opposing compulsory Te Reo is Renata, a student teacher in her final year of study of bilingual primary teaching (Māori and mainstream). She believes that implementation will be complex.
Not enough teachers specialising in the subject area is her concern.
‘Lack of teachers’ “There is already a lack of teachers, where are we going to find the teachers,” she says.
She adds that there is a need to focus more on supporting current speakers and teachers in the subject instead on using compulsion because currently there is such a shortage in the number of teachers.
There are many challenges ahead if it is made compulsory, she believes.
“What’s stopping us implementing Te Reo without it becoming compulsory? Do we need to force Te reo upon people to make them understand the importance or is it already becoming a choice of importance at people’s own free will.”
Tapa, a student of Māori law studies, is opposed to the idea of compulsory te reo in New Zealand.
“I think te reo should not be made compulsory, I do not like the term compulsory,” says Tapa, citing the “immense resources” that will be needed.
“Kura (School) are not always producing high level reo users, most rangatahi (young people) won’t even reply in reo. I think spend the money improving existing structures to a higher level,” he says.
To roll out nationwide implementation of Te reo into the New Zealand school system would cost a lot of time, money and resources, training and maintenance where there is already a struggling system to deliver basic modalities.
More support “I think, and my reasons are influenced by Dr Tīmoti Kāretu that existing speakers of Reo should be supported to improve what they know and brought up to a higher level.”
There is not a set dollar amount for how much the government spends each year on te reo, but the general conservative figure is more than $100 million a year.
“That funding and resources should be spent in avenues where reo is already active to get it to a higher level and used consistently instead of mass production of mediocre speakers.”
Tapa has a suggestion for those wanting to learn Te Reo: “I think if you want your kids to learn Te Reo, send them to kohanga, and enrol yourself in Reo courses, and embrace te ao Māori (Māori world)”.
Concern for the quality of teaching and for potential students not being provided the full philosophy of the Māori view point and cultural emulsification into te reo will not be achieved by just providing teachers that know the language.
“If any random teacher was given just the language to speed up the process of teaching children, then it has no wairua (spiritual connection) attached to it.”
Māori culture Te reo Māori does not come alone, it comes with te ao māori (Māori world), whakaaro Māori, tikanga, kawa and many other aspects unique to Māori culture, language and beliefs.
All these will have an effect on each and every single one of these Te Reo meōna tikanga (Competence in speaking, writing, comprehension, structure and the application of Te Reo Māori me ona tikanga) is integrate to have reo, substance and identity.
“We don’t give that just to anyone, especially if it against their will and do not have respect for the culture let alone the language,” he says.
There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel as more and more people throughout the country are willing to make the effort to learn Te Reo.
“Statistics are showing that there has been a major influx of people all over New Zealand wanting to learn Te Reo Māori,” says Renata.
She believes that more resources and funding is needed to support current speakers and to support people who are passionate about wanting to learn Te Reo.
Importance realised “People who want to learn and are now learning to recognise the reality of its importance,” she says.
Renata understands the amount of work that will be needed for it to be implemented is a huge up taking and everyone needs to do their part to preserve the language.
But, people need to choose for themselves and those who are passionate about learning Te reo need to be supported and encouraged with the proper resources made available to facilitate learning.
“It is up to us as an individual, as a whānau, and as an iwi to maintain that as tangata whenua, it is not the responsibility of others to bring back something that we as a collective need to learn ourselves and pursue,” Renata says.
Current arguments fall to the need for New Zealanders to learn more about Māori point of views and learning a second language will support cognitive development in young children in their development.
There seems to be a lot of agreement that having a second language should be promoted and encouraged for school children.
Fear over choice A lot of the fear of many parents is not being able to be given a choice on the second language their young one will learn.
Not many people are denying the importance of Māori culture and language in New Zealand, and is the duty of New Zealanders under the treaty to treasure and maintain the language for future generations, say advocates.
But a realistic discussion and debate on how to implement it will be beneficial for all.
While there seems to be a lot of emotion when the topic is discussed, no real attempt is being made to justify to the wider public the need for Te Reo to be compulsory without logical arguments to appease the fear of wider New Zealand.
Mike Maatulimanu Mohr is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.
Eden created an online series for Te Karere voicing the political views of youth.Video: AUT
By Michael Neilson, Māori affairs reporter of the New Zealand Herald
Advocates for boosting te reo levels in Aotearoa say it provides a gateway to greater cultural, historical and racial understanding.
Minister for Crown/Māori Relations Kelvin Davis says he would love to see all New Zealanders feeling comfortable in Māori spaces, with te reo Māori being the key.
“To go on marae and feel comfortable, engage in things like Waitangi Day, Kororneihana, and Rātana. It is only daunting when there is ignorance and lack of understanding about what is going on.”
Davis says Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a “bridge” connecting te ao Māori and Pākehā, with language, customs and culture on each side.
“Since 1840 who has crossed that bridge? Māori have crossed over, how many have come back the other way? Some people have, and we are really grateful for that, but it has been one-way traffic mainly.”
Due to that one-way traffic, and consequent ignorance of Māori language and culture, there is often tension. Learning te reo would help reduce the ignorance about Māori issues, and what it is to be Māori, Davis says.
Growing up in a monolingual household, Davis, of Ngāti Manu descent, said he felt “something was missing”.
‘Felt embarrassed’ “I felt embarrassed going on to our marae, not knowing what was being said.”
He took it up at high school, maintaining it through his adult life. He said he was about a “7.5 out of 10” in terms of fluency.
Speaking Māori gives confidence in who you are as Māori New Zealander, and leads on to other understanding of whakapapa, and history, Davis said.
“It is hard to engage in te ao Māori without knowing the language. You can know tikanga, customs, attitudes, but the cream on top is te reo.”
Head of Auckland University of Technology’s School of Language and Culture, Associate Professor Sharon Harvey, says learning a second language helps people understand different points of view.
“If New Zealand had embraced Māori earlier on we would be seeing the benefits of seeing things from different perspectives. Our determined rejection has not helped.”
Te reo Māori is closely linked to other Pacific languages.
Pacific access “It gives access to Pacific languages like Tahitian, Cook Island Māori, and a little more distant to Tongan and Samoan.”
While New Zealand promotes itself as being bicultural, it has never extended that ambition to being bilingual, Dr Harvey says.
“I think Māori would say the intent of the Treaty was never for the language of this land to be lost, and replaced with a language from the other side of the world. We really can’t be bicultural unless we are bilingual.”
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson says her grandmother had te reo “beaten” out of her. Image: Michael Craig/ New Zealand Herald
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson says te reo is a “core” part of the future of race relations in Aotearoa.
Davidson’s grandmother had literally had the language beaten out of her, and it had taken three generations to get over the trauma.
“Her children didn’t learn, and neither did we, and now it has taken our children to finally reclaim it.
“Te reo is core to healing, core to the future of our race relations. It gives us something unique, to be proud of, together.”
Adult learning Davidson (Ngāti Porou, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi) started learning te reo properly as an adult, and even made a decision to only speak te reo to one of her daughters – now 10 – since birth.
Te reo offers an insight to the Māori worldview, offering different perspectives, Davidson says.
“Things like there being no gender pronouns in te reo, in itself says something profound about accepting or rejecting narrow sexual identities.
“Another example is mokopuna, which literally means wellspring of descendants. Te reo offers the opportunity to understand those things.”
National’s Māori development spokesman Nuk Korako says te reo is like the country’s “flora and fauna”.
“It is like the kauri – it is unique, rooted in this country’s fabric. Why wouldn’t we want to learn te reo?”
Korako, of Ngai Tahu descent, grew up in a monolingual household, with parents part of the generation “not allowed to speak Māori”.
Te reo compulsory He learned his reo at St Stephen’s College in Bombay, south of Auckland, where te reo was a compulsory subject.
“I remember on my first day there were guys from Tūhoe having a conversation in te reo. I had heard it on the marae growing up, but it was fascinating to hear it in a daily context.”
He says increasing cultural and history understanding would foster interest in te reo.
“One of the most important things with rangatahi in New Zealand, is that they have a really good understanding and grounding of Māori culture and history, because it then gives them that appreciation to the language of the culture.”
Te Taura Whiri (Māori Language Commission) chairwoman Professor Rawinia Higgins says learning te reo would give Kiwis a better understanding of who we are as a nation.
“It is our first language, so helps define who we are. It is also a defining feature of who we are in a global context.
“A significant feature of our national game is the haka, and that is in te reo. On the international stage people are interested in it for that unique element.”
Higgins, who is also Victoria University of Wellington’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori), says language and culture go hand in hand.
“With te reo, Te Tiriti comes into it as well. It helps open up a different perspective over some of our historical encounters, and move forward overall.”
This article is republished from the New Zealand Herald with permission.
A new app developed by Spark and Google in conjunction with the Research Team of the Te Aka Māori – English, English – Māori Dictionary in Te Ipukarea ~The National Māori Language Institute, has taken New Zealand by storm this Māori Language Week, reports AUT News.
Kupu – an app that allows users to scan their surroundings, take photos of everyday objects and offers the te reo translation – has landed extensive media coverage since its launch on Monday and has been downloaded thousands of times.
Te Ipukarea director Professor Tania Ka’ai of Auckland University of Technology served as project lead and worked closely with Spark and Colenso BBDO, Spark’s Creative Team, to develop the resource from the time they requested to embed Te Aka in the app to its completion.
For Professor Ka’ai, Kupu symbolises the legacy of her colleague, mentor and friend Professor John Moorfield, who died in March.
“Spark first approached John late last year,” Tania explained. “They needed a solid, reliable and comprehensive set of Māori words to integrate into the app – and saw John’s Te Aka Māori -English, English- Māori Dictionary as the best tool for the job.”
The team at Te Ipukarea sourced and provided a set of nouns and adjectives that underpin the app’s te reo lexicon. They also provided the audio versions of these words to ensure that Kupu users can hear the correct pronunciation.
“The team and I worked hard to get the best possible collection of words and phrases together in time for the app’s launch,” Professor Ka’ai said.
“One of John’s final projects was a Dictionary update and to help finish that off in time for the Kupu launch we spent five days in a recording studio with a native te reo speaker and recorded a further 6,500 new words. It was an exhausting, but necessary process.”
Now that Kupu is in the public sphere, Professor Ka’ai and her team are involved with reviewing feedback and fine-tuning any niggling issues.
“We’ve received so much positive feedback already,” Professor Ka’ai said. “Its incredibly gratifying to know that it has made people happy. Kupu really is for all New Zealanders – not just Māori – and I’m glad that the app is another step in normalising te reo in this country.”
And since the official launch at the start of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori / Māori Language Week Tania has been proud of the team’s efforts.
“It really is a proud moment for us, and I think John would have been proud of the final product too.”
Tui O’Sullivan (right) with Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop at the Pacific Media Centre recently when retiring. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
PROFILE:By Leilani Sitagata
Educator and kuia Tui O’Sullivan has recently retired from Auckland University of Technology after close to 40 years of service.
Born and breed up North in the heart of Ahipara, she says choosing to do tertiary study was the right choice for her.
“Growing up as a young girl you were told to pick from three directions – academic, commercial or homecraft,” O’Sullivan says.
“I never had a burning desire to become a teacher, but it just seemed like the best fit for me to follow that path.”
Over the years, O’Sullivan (Te Rarawa and Ngati Kahu) gained a Bachelor of Arts, Master’s in Education (Māori), a Diploma in Ethics and a Diploma in Teaching.
“Coming from a town where you didn’t know names, but everyone was Aunty or Uncle, Auckland was by far a change of scenery.”
O’Sullivan was appointed as the first Māori academic at AUT, then AIT.
Tui O’Sullivan at her recent Auckland University of Technology farewell on Ngā Wai o Horotiu marae. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
Evening classes She says she taught evening classes on literacy twice a week and had many people from the Pacific wanting to improve their written and oral skills.
“A number of them were members of church groups who wanted to polish up for competitions involving writing and speaking.”
Alongside the night classes, O’Sullivan was involved in the formation of the newspaper Password.
“We formed a newspaper which explained certain things about living in New Zealand, among other things like the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori culture.”
O’Sullivan says there was an increasing number of immigrants to her English classes and Password helped with their immersion into a new culture.
While working in general studies, she says she helped teach communications English and basic skills to full time students, predominantly young men.
However, women started to come along to O’Sullivan’s teaching and the numbers slowly grew.
Tui O’Sullivan (right) with fellow foundation Pacific Media Centre advisory board member Isabella Rasch. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
First women’s group O’Sullivan was part of the creation of the very first women’s group on campus.
“A senior lecturer approached a couple of us women staff asking if we could keep an eye out for the young women and be an ear should they need that.
“From there Women on Campus developed which looked after the interests of women students and staff members.”
She said they switched the name of the group over the years because what they originally chose didn’t have a ring to it.
“We were called Women’s Action Group for a while, but WAG didn’t sound too good.”
Another first for the university was the establishment of the Ngā Wai o Horotiu marae in 1997 which Tui said she’ll forever remember.
When the marae was officially opened more than 1000 people turned up to celebrate the momentous occasion.
Students and staff at the Pacific Media Centre’s farewell for Tui O’Sullivan. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
Emphasis on diversity The marae opening signified AUT acknowledging the Treaty of Waitangi and further emphasised the diversity within the university.
“The majority of staff here have had this willingness and openness to support and promote success for Māori and Pacific students.”
When asked what was one of the most gratifying times for her during her time at AUT, O’Sullivan simply says applauding the young people who cross the stage.
“I always seem to end up with lots of those lolly leis because people end up with so many, and they get off-loaded to me.”
O”Sullivan says that over the years she’s never missed a graduation for her faculty regardless of how many there are.
“Seeing students wearing their kakahu or family korowai, and others who have grown to learn more about their whakapapa and their place in the world.
“Those are the most rewarding times for me.”
O’Sullivan was the equity adviser for the Faculty of Creative Technologies and lectured in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and community issues. She was also a strong advocate of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) and a foundation member of the advisory board for AUT’s Pacific Media Centre from 2007.
She insists she hasn’t left a legacy but has been part of an ever evolving journey that AUT is going through.
Tui O’Sullivan (centre) with Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie and advisory board chair Associate Professor Camille Nakhid. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
Headline: Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The real political controversy of Waitangi 2018
Political Roundup: The real political controversy of Waitangi 2018 – Analysis by Dr Bryce Edwards
Lost amongst the focus on BBQs, relentless positivity, and eloquent speeches at Waitangi, a fascinating and important shift in Government-Maori relations appeared to be underway. Labour and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have been signalling that this Government is departing from the traditional culturalist and “race-based” approach to dealing with Maori deprivation and economic inequality. Instead, a more universal, economic-focused method will be used. The conventional approach of advancing Maori aspirations was epitomised by the Maori Party’s focus on culture, race, and sovereignty issues, and it appears to be on the way out.
The Government’s shift away from a race and cultural approach
Heralding what may be a highly controversial approach to “closing the gaps” in terms of Maori inequality, Jacinda Ardern made her most important speech at Waitangi by stating that the new Government would take a universalistic approach to inequality – by targeting everyone at the bottom, rather than specifically targeting Maori. Jacinda Ardern strongly emphasised the need to deal with the long list of social ills that have a disproportionate impact on Maori, but signalled that race-based methods were not the best way of moving forward.
This is covered in Anna Bracewell-Worrall’s Govt promises to close the gaps – but not by targeting Maori. The article reports “that the Government won’t attempt to close those gaps by taking affirmative action for Maori.” And the prime minister is quoted explaining that “We are specifically targeting things like poverty. An actual by-product of that is it will positively impact Maori.”
Since then, the Finance Minister has confirmed this shift in approach to dealing with inequality. In an interview with Morning Report’s Guyon Espiner on Wednesday, Grant Robertson responded to questions about whether the Government would specifically target Maori in its programmes, saying: “Our focus is on reducing inequality overall” – you can listen to the six-minute interview here: Global market dive: Grant Robertson optimistic.
Espiner sought clarification: “So there won’t be a specific Closing the Gaps type programme that we saw under Helen Clark? We’re not looking at heading off down that path?” Robertson replied: “That’s not the approach that we are taking. But we believe that we will be able to lift a significant number of Maori out of poverty, and increase employment outcomes, because of the approach we are taking.”
Robertson went on to explain that the Government would keep some targeted funding for Maori, but stressed that a more universal approach would dominate: “Maori will benefit disproportionally from the families package – from those payments, because at the moment, unfortunately, Maori appear in those negative statistics. We’ve got a range of programmes coming down the line that will support Maori and the wider population as well. Where it’s appropriate, where there are programmes – particularly in an area like Corrections – where we know that we can have a real impact on that Maori prison population, then we’ll have a look at them. Similarly, with employment programmes. But in the end, Guyon, this is about reducing inequality overall. It’s about providing opportunities for all young people – and we know that Maori will benefit more from that, because unfortunately they are in those negative statistics.”
Reactions to the shift away from a race-based approach
Essentially, this new approach means directing resources and solutions to poor Maori “because they are poor” rather than “because they are Maori”. On Twitter, there’s been a surprisingly muted reaction to this apparent shift. Political commentator Morgan Godfery (@MorganGodfery) stated “I see some angst over this, but surely grant is right: the point is lifting everyone out of poverty, and universal works best”. Responding to this, Sam Gribben (@AotearoaSam) agreed: “Poverty is not just a Maori problem, the way to bring Maori up is to bring up all of the poor and the dispossessed. The best way to help any disadvantaged people is to… help disadvantaged people!”
In RNZ interviews following on from Robertson’s, both Willie Jackson and John Tamihere reacted negatively against the notion that the Government was shifting in this direction – you can listen to the interviews with Jackson and Tamihere. Both have both been actively involved in recent years in contracting welfare and education function for the state, especially in terms of Whanau Ora and charter schools.
Today’s Dominion Post editorial looks at this debate, saying “Robertson seems to have ruled out policies that specifically target Maori disadvantage or disparity. Instead, he believes that policies such as the families package, which are universal, will have a disproportionate benefit for Maori because of their economic disadvantage” – see: Government sends mixed messages to Maori.
The editorial highlight’s that Tamihere “struggled with the possibility that Labour was in ‘retreat’ from promises made to Maori on the campaign trail”, and says “Tamihere disputed RNZ’s interpretations of Robertson’s comments and assured listeners that there will indeed be specific, targeted funding for Maori and the continuation of earlier policies like Whanau Ora.”
The Dominion Post concludes with a guarded endorsement of Labour’s new approach: “it seems reasonable to argue, as Robertson does, that universal policies in areas such as health, employment and education will benefit Maori. But the Government also has to be careful to ensure that the images we saw in Waitangi this week are not remembered as hollow political theatre in 2020.”
In other areas of the Government’s programme there is also a move away from the status quo in terms of dealing with Maori disadvantage and aspirations. Richard Harman reports that two strands can be identified: “The Government knows that there are two parallel strands of issues that they must deal with Maori. It is clear that they regained all the Maori seats because of a sense of a need for urgency among Maori to deal with immediate social problems – jobs, housing, health, ‘P’. And here they appear to be already making progress… But the other strand of Labour’s relationship, the constitutional issues, particularly with regards to sovereignty is more problematical” – see “New” Waitangi – But the old issues that inspired so much protest have not gone away.
Chris Trotter noted, too, that Jacinda Ardern’s speeches at Waitangi – even to the more traditional Iwi Leaders Forum – were more about this economic approach than a traditional, cultural one – see: Can Sovereignty Be Shared?
Here’s Trotter’s main observation about Ardern’s signal of where the Government is going on Maori issues: “Was she promising to turn that apparatus to the urgent task of uplifting Maori New Zealanders out of poverty, homelessness and the bitter legacy of 178 years of colonial oppression? Yes, she was. Was she proposing to unleash a constitutional revolution inspired by revisionist historians’ interpretation of the Waitangi Treaty? No, she was not. Jacinda’s speech to the Iwi Leaders Forum at the beginning of her five-day sojourn in the Far North made clear her government’s intentions. In short, these were all about dealing with Maori material deprivation. Iwi leaders intent on pushing forward ‘cultural’ issues – by which they mean constitutional issues – will very soon find they are pushing in vain.”
Of course, this new focus on immediate economic inequality and disadvantage is unlikely to be well received by some Maori leaders. At Ratana last month, there was reportedly some push-back from the Ratana church. Jacinda Ardern asserted her “positive message about working with Maori to tackle the big issues, like homelessness, health and deprivation” – see Laura Walters’ Ratana offers support, special speaking rights, and a name for Jacinda Ardern’s baby. But the Wanganui Chronicle reported that the chair of the Ratana Church, Andre Meihana, “said a petition first presented to Parliament in the 1930s by TW Ratana still needs action. It asks that the Treaty of Waitangi be put into New Zealand law. Feeding and housing unfortunate people is important, but putting the treaty into ‘statute law’ should come first, he said” – see: Prime Minister warmly welcomed at Ratana Pa.
Explaining the shift in the Government’s approach to Maori inequality
So why is the Government heading down this new route? Chris Trotter has also written this week about how Labour’s clean sweep of the Maori seats at the election, killing off the Maori Party in the process, has been influential on the direction of the party. He suggests that the Labour leadership has discovered the need to shift to a more class-based approach to Maori aspirations, and place less emphasis on the more cultural/sovereignty path of the Maori Party – see: How Labour reforged the alliance with Māori to pick off National’s support partners.
Trotter points to the way Labour won back the Maori vote last year as being significant: “Willie Jackson and his team ran an unabashedly class-based campaign in the Maori seats. In terms of tone and imagery, their propaganda celebrated and spoke directly to the lives and aspirations of working-class Maori families. In startling contrast to Labour’s appeal to the general electorate, the party’s message to the Maori electorate was all about working-class jobs, working-class aspirations and working-class pride.”
And today, the New Zealand Herald has an editorial which makes some similar points, suggesting that the death of the Maori Party, and the return to Labour heralds the death of “the idea that Maori want a separate political identity in New Zealand” – see: Labour can even change some Maori customs.
The editorial states: “Their verdict is undeniable, Labour is the party that represents the real interests and aspirations of Maori and those are the same as the interests and aspirations of all the lower paid or unemployed and underprivileged in New Zealand… The Maori Party believed these problems were best tackled by Maori self-help, whanau ora, but that does not seem to be Labour’s approach. It has brought Maori back inside a mainstream party and it may be a long time before an independent party is taken seriously again.”
Similarly, a New Zealand Herald Waitangi Day editorial this week also spells out that this Government is shifting direction on these issues: “After five years of sustained economic growth, government over the next few years is going to be focused on those groups who it feels have not kept pace with prosperity”, and the “new Government wants to see a more equitable distribution of the fruits to iwi prosperity just as it does with the wealth of the whole economy” – see: Nation has much to celebrate and challenges ahead.
The newspaper notes that the Treaty environment is now changing: “Governments have largely completed the long phase of negotiating compensation for colonial breaches. Most iwi, with the sad exception of the largest, Ngapuhi, have now not only acquired capital for their economic survival, their tribal administration, connections and identity have been strengthened in the process.”
Of course, many on the political left have always been suspicious of the role of the biculturalism project and the Treaty settlement process in creating further inequality – especially in terms of inequality between Maori. And today, John Moore writes about how “this focus on culture, race, and sovereignty issues has failed to uplift the majority of Maori in terms of their economic position in New Zealand. And in fact, the emphasis on Treaty and cultural polices has occurred alongside an actual growth in Maori poverty” – see: Labour ditches the iwi elite.
Similarly, Dougal McNeill of Victoria University of Wellington puts forward a Marxist perspective on why a focus on the racial categories of Maori and Pakeha is a backward way to bring about greater equality – see his recent blog post, There are no white people.
Labour’s orientation to iwi elite
Going hand-in-hand with this shift, Labour appears to be deliberately downgrading its relationship with iwi elites. On a purely symbolic or stylistic level, this could be seen in Jacinda Ardern’s striking decision to hold her Waitangi Day breakfast with the public – especially Ngapuhi – rather than the usual Iwi leaders invite-only breakfast at the Copthorne hotel. Jo Moir reported Ardern’s logic: “She said the alternative was holding a private breakfast with iwi leaders and she felt they’d spent a lot of time meeting with them and Tuesday was an opportunity to meet with the public” – see: The Prime Minister’s five days at Waitangi has gone off without a hitch or protest.
Similar symbolism was apparent throughout the five days of Ardern’s visit to the Far North, with the PM spending much more time with ordinary people, and visiting small marae, rather than just seeing dignitaries. Peter de Graaf reported the reaction of the head of the local Maori Wardens, who Ardern had decided to visit: Dick Dargaville is quoted saying “It’s the first time we’ve had a Prime Minister who’s come up to talk to ordinary people. Usually it’s only the big boys that get to talk to them” – see: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern breaks new ground at Waitangi.
But there was substance to the symbolism. Labour appears to be much less inclined to work closely and compliantly with either the iwi-appointed leadership group, the Iwi Chairs Forum, or the smaller Iwi Leaders Group. As Mihingarangi Forbes explains, this is “a group of Maori charged with managing iwi trusts and businesses worth billions of dollars, not Maori struggling at the bottom of the barrel” – see: PM at Waitangi: A step ahead, but untested.
For the last nine years these leaders have had a very close working relationship with the National Government and, in particular, with Bill English. As Annabelle Lee explains, “National has taken the concept of ‘rangatira ki te rangatira’ [meeting chief to chief] to the extreme, preferring the Iwi Leaders Forum as their primary point of contact with te ao Maori” – see: Why Jacinda Ardern’s decision to spend five days at Waitangi is a really big deal.
According to Trevett, “Labour MPs have been critical of it in the past for failing to address social issues, describing it as elitist and unrepresentative of Maori. In December, Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said it was failing to do its job properly by focusing on issues such as water rights at the expense of social issues. She and Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little have both told the forum to refocus its attentions on issues such as poverty and employment under Labour.”
In this article, John Tamihere is quoted saying that iwi leaders’ would have to face major change, “after nine years of having their egos massaged by the National Government”, and would have to get used to different priorities: “So instead of talking about their trees and their fish and their water, I want them to start talking about their kids and their mokopuna.”
In contrast, an urban Maori leader is seen to be more in sync with Labour’s approach: “Ngarimu Blair, deputy chairman of Ngati Whatua o Orakei, said he was pleased the new Government’s priorities were housing and poverty because they were major issues for Auckland Maori.”
Trevett has also written about how the iwi chairs forum has reacted with alarm to these changes: “The iwi chairs forum wrote to Ardern last year out of concern about the attitude some new ministers were taking to the forum, including insisting it focus more on the social wellbeing of their people rather than Maori constitutional rights” – see: Warm welcome for PM Jacinda Ardern by iwi, but thorny issues await.
The same article reports that following on from their meeting this week with the prime minister, “Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau said he did not believe the Labour Government had fully understood the mandate of the iwi leaders and believed that because Labour had high support among Maori politically they represented Maoridom”. Tau challenged the notion that Labour MPs represented Maori: “One of the myths they had is that they have a significant mandate from Maori because they have the seven seats. And that’s a point. However, they are the Crown. They don’t represent the iwi.”
The Government’s shift away from focusing on iwi property rights has also been signaled by Regional Development Minister Shane Jones. Sam Sachdeva reports: “Whereas English and his predecessor John Key seemed to focus on Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi and property rights, Jones says the new government will have a greater emphasis on Article Three and the entitlements, rights and obligations of citizenship” – see: A fresh start at Waitangi?
According to blogger Martyn Bradbury, all of these developments mean the tradition Maori elites are in trouble: “Many Maori live in urban areas and are not tribe affiliated. Their needs for better social services, jobs and the legacy issues created by colonialism trump Treaty deals which is offside to the goals of the Maori King or the Iwi Leaders Forum. With urban Maori having a far more powerful voice inside the new Government, those movements will need to see any extra resources making a dynamic impact on the poorest” – see: The joy of a leader who understands the Treaty & how Iwi Leaders have to acknowledge the political rise of Urban Māori.
Kimiora Kaire-Melbourne and Wikitōria Day reporting for Māori Television from Waitangi.
Māori Television’sRereātea brings you the latest news on New Zealand’s Waitangi Day 2017.
Today Kimiora Kaire-Melbourne and Wikitōria Day take you through the top stories of the day — live from Waitangi.
Watch the livestream bulletins on the Māori Television website throughout the day.
About 1000 of people attended a dawn service at Waitangi, during which political representatives and other leaders were invited to offer words of wisdom and prayers.
Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias prayed for the granting of wisdom to keep to the vision of those who signed the treaty in 1840, Radio New Zealand reports.
She said when celebrating the birthday of the nation it was timely to remember those who are troubled and those who are marginalised in society.
Founding document The Treaty of Waitangi — Tiriti o Waitangi — is a treaty signed on 6 February 1840 by colonial representatives of the British Crown and more than Māori chiefs from various iwi (tribes) of New Zealand.
It resulted in the declaration of British sovereignty over New Zealand by Lieutenant Governor William Hobson in May 1840 and is regarded as the founding document of modern New Zealand based on bicultural partnership.
However, Māori believe they only ceded to the Crown a right of governance in return for protection, without giving up their authority to manage their own affairs.
The date is an annual day of reflection and heated debate about nationhood.
Journalists find there is a tension between honouring tikanga and needing to file stories to a deadline, says Julie Middleton. Image: 123RF
There are still too few Māori in New Zealand’s newsrooms, media researcher Julie Middleton says.
Middleton, who has worked for the New Zealand Herald, the Listener, the Sunday Star-Times and the Guardian, is studying for a doctorate at Auckland University of Technology’s School of Communication Studies.