Maori gen­eros­ity at heart of cel­e­bra­tions

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

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.

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