Maori generosity at heart of celebrations
It would be a pity if the goodwill and harmony at Waitangi, or if the cuddling up between the Maori Party and the Nats, were to have us believing that New Zealand has finally got this treaty business sorted out – and sorted out fairly.
It’s good sense to applaud the political progress and the settlements which have led to the government handing over more than $1 billion of assets to iwi since the mid-1990s.
But there’s a way to go yet. And Kiwis have barely started to get their heads around the country’s history, how much was taken from Maori, how little has been or will ever be returned – and how much lasting damage that has done to all New Zealanders.
You can get the impression from the smiles on Waitangi Day that our country has been particularly clever and brave in finding a formula for putting an end to grievances that Maori have had since the government began breaking treaty pledges almost as soon as they were made.
That’s partly because the government, schools and mainstream media have done a slack job of letting us know what really has happened since 1840.
And there’s been a tendency to rave on about the supposedly gigantic steps taken by Jim Bolger and Doug Graham in the 1990s when they did their deals with Tainui and Ngai Tahu.
They were milestones without doubt. And perhaps we’re indebted to both men for their foresight and persistence when a number of their colleagues weren’t showing too much interest in dealing with the injustices.
But those deals wouldn’t have gone through without something that’s too often ignored, ie, Maori generosity.
Tainui and Ngai Tahu were offered less than one cent in the dollar by way of compensation.
They were told that that was all the country could afford. That was, and still is, nonsense. The country doesn’t lose anything when dollars or land are returned to their rightful Maori owners.
It’s not as if those assets are being sent off to Outer Mongolia or the Cayman Islands.
So it’s never been a matter of what the country might “lose” or what it could afford.
And there’s never been any hint of genuine government generosity to Maori.
The generosity has been all the other way.
It’s been Maori generosity to the government.
It’s been Maori leaders waiving away 99 percent of what their people have been owed.
And it’s been waived away virtually without acknowledgement.
Tainui leader Bob Mahuta, Ngai Tahu leader Tipene O’Regan and others have smiled, been courteous – and settled for one cent in the dollar.
In fact all New Zealanders need reminding that if it wasn’t for Maori subsidy, Maori sacrifice and Maori generosity we would have little to celebrate on this Waitangi Day.