A break from posts on economics and identity politics: a journey from monoculturalism to multiculturalism through folk songs and poetry, ending with the only truly universal genius…

Our whanau started out monocultural, speaking New Zealand English (North Otago dialect), and now we are multi-cultural and multi-lingual.

Let us begin with The Dance Exponents, who originated in Timaru, culturally close to Oamaru, but lacking its heritage buildings.

The Dance Exponents: I’ll say goodbye even though I’m blue

The Otago sea shanty Wellerman was written in our rohe. It went viral on the Chinese TikTok service and is now a taonga that belongs to everyone in any language.

The Otago sea shanty Wellerman sung in Ukrainian

Our Te Reo taonga.  George Henare and Jennifer Ward-Lealand recite Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day in Te Reo and English

Scottish culture is alive in Otago and Southland. The famous Scottish (some would also say Irish) farewell song, The Parting Glass.

A Scottish farewell song, The Parting Glass

A Russian folk song sung around the kitchen table with accordion accompaniment.  It is about a Cossack lying in bed getting scarcely any sleep.  He dreams that his raven horse is misbehaving as he rides it, as if trying to buck him off.  He dreams that wild winds blow his hat off, and his companion then tells him that he will not live forever.

The song then finishes on an uplifting note, drawing on the indomitable Russian spirit that survives anything.

Russian folk song Oh on this evening I saw in my dreams

From the only truly universal genius, Sonnet 30. Courtesy of the New York Shakespeare Exchange, a stunning and poignant performance merging language, city scenes and music.

Sonnet 30 set to music amidst Manhatten settings

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A critique of He Puapua, and an alternative strategy for self-determination at individual and whanau levels

He Puapua proposes constitutional, institutional and public policy changes, notionally to respond to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  However, careful analysis shows that it is a flawed political advocacy document, and if its recommendations were agreed to it would divide New Zealand.

I will explain the flaws in He Puapua, and then outline an alternative strategy to address Māori socio-economic challenges in a way that benefits all New Zealanders.

He Puapua anchors its response to UNDRIP in the 1840 Tiriti o Waitangi (te Tiriti) and the 1835 Declaration of Independence of New Zealand: He Whakaputanga o Nu Tireni. It envisages progressively bringing New Zealand legislation, policy and initiatives in line with te Tiriti and the 1835 Declaration.  This includes bicultural institutions and bilingual and matauranga Māori-informed state services. 

He Puapua canvasses separate Māori court and justice systems, an Indigenous Rights Commissioner or a Tiriti Commissioner, and making the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendations binding.

Under He Puapua, Māori would control or co-govern and co-manage natural resources, including freshwater.  It forecasts that: “there will be an enlarged iwi/hapu/whanau estate, supported by significantly increased return of Crown lands and waters, including takutai moana [marine and coastal areas] to Māori ownership (in addition to Treaty of Waitangi settlements).  Māori would “receive royalties for the use of particular natural resources such as water, petroleum and minerals.”

He Puapua proposes that the Public Finance Act 1989 could be amended “to avoid the impact that the return of Crown land has on the Crown’s books.”

Māori would have powers to make bylaws, Māori freehold land would be exempted from the Public Works Act, and options would be explored to put a moratorium on rating of all Māori land.

Under He Puapua, Māori tikanga, matauranga (science, knowledge and belief) and language would play much greater roles in New Zealand.

While He Puapua avoids the term “race”, the asset transfers and new rights it proposes are only for those with Māori blood.  He Puapua is not “racist”, that is it is not hostile to non-Maori “races”.  It is however “racialist” in assuming that race determines human traits, that people can meaningfully be grouped into race categories, and that this can guide constitution, law, human rights, policy and resource allocation.

The UN Declaration aims to extend rights to marginalised or oppressed peoples without damaging other peoples’ rights.  He Paupau aims to create new and expanded rights for members of one racial group while reducing everyone else’s rights, for example by taking amenity land, waterways and coastal space out of the public domain and transferring it to tribal control. 

He Puapua denies that the Treaty of Waitangi/Tiriti o Waitangi transferred sovereignty/kawanatanga to the Crown.  In a footnote (p.28) it states incorrectly that “tino rangatiratanga” means “sovereignty”. In fact, rangatiratanga means self-reliance or self-determination at the individual and whanau levels, not political sovereignty at the nation state level.  He Puapua does not accept that the Treaty/Tiriti is an equal rights document.

He Puapua refers only to “te Tiriti o Waitangi” rather than the English language Treaty of Waitangi.  The two versions are aligned and were agreed to by the Crown and Māori signatories, and differences between the two documents are immaterial.  Were this not the case the Treaty/Tiriti would be meaningless since no one could agree on what they mean and they would therefore be nullities.

He Puapua uses the UNDRIP process to tacitly support a Māori “sovereignty” or “nationalist” movement and its supporting narrative.  This narrative argues that Māori were doing well before colonisation and they never transferred sovereignty to the Crown, and therefore by extension to Parliament.  It contends that Māori social problems today result from colonialism and racism, and the way forward is to recreate Māori tribal structures, language and customs, seek Māori solutions to Māori problems, and achieve constitutional change which weakens democracy and enhances tribal power. 

While the English language Treaty version is clear to all English speakers, the Māori language Tiriti is not, and its meaning can therefore be manipulated for political purposes.  This manipulation has been effective and helps explain why the 1840 starting point for New Zealand’s constitution is referred to in many formal documents, media, some new legislation and in academia as “te Tiriti” rather than the “Treaty of Waitangi”.

The Titiri narrative that is central to He Puapua is becoming unchallengeable in public discourse.  Distinguished New Zealanders such as Don Brash and Michael Bassett who have never been remotely racist in word or deed have been stopped from speaking at public events or publishing in some mainstream media outlets.  The $55M Public Interest Journalism fund is explicitly restricted to journalism that supports the Tiriti narrative.  This extraordinary violation of press freedom and balance is unprecedented since the 1951 waterfront dispute.

He Puapua refers to the 1835 Declaration of Independence of New Zealand: He Whakaputanga o Nu Tireni as if it were a constitutional document. This document arose partly from fear that France would declare sovereignty over New Zealand.  This concern was triggered by an obscure Frenchman who titled himself “Charles, Baron de Thierry, Sovereign Chief of New Zealand and King of Nuku Hiva” (in the Marquesas Islands). 

James Busby helped draft the Declaration despite having no authority to do so. He did so to out-manoeuvre his rival, Thomas McDonnell, as much as to ward off a perceived French threat.  The Declaration was signed by 34 northern chiefs in October 1835.  By July 1839 only 52 chiefs had signed – compared to the 540 chiefs and the Crown’s representative that signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

New Zealand was bicultural and bilingual in 1840, and He Puapua assumes this continues unchanged today.  However, New Zealand has been a multi-cultural country since the late 19th century, and in 2021 is increasingly multi-lingual.  In He Puapua, our Chinese, Indian, Pacific, Filipino, Middle Eastern, central Asian, Eastern European and Latin American communities and their languages are invisible. 

He Puapua uses the term “Crown” throughout the document.  However, since 1840 New Zealand’s government system and constitution has evolved as explained in The Treaty and New Zealand’s constitutional evolution and in te Tiriti. Representative government began with the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852.  New Zealand ceased to be a British colony in 1907, and the New Zealand Constitution Act 1986 marked the point where Parliament became sovereign and the Crown was reduced to a symbolic and procedural role. 

The term “Crown” conveys mystique and masks the fact that all government expenditure is paid for by New Zealand taxpayers, including Māori, and not funded by a remote monarchy.  To accurately reflect reality, the term “Crown” should be replaced in discourse by “Government”, “Parliament”, “the State” or “taxpayers”.

He Puapua assumes that tribal boundaries reflect stable long-term settlement patterns for discrete hapu and iwi groups.  However, many Māori are urbanised, cosmopolitan and internationalised.  They move to where the opportunities are. Given this, He Puapua envisaging that “the nation will know and appreciate iwi tribal boundaries” does not reflect demographic realities.

One thing most New Zealanders are united on is that it is desirable to minimise or close the socio-economic gaps between Māori and other New Zealanders.  This means effectively addressing high Māori unemployment, low incomes and net worth, homelessness, child poverty, poor health and high crime rates. 

He Puapua is mindful of Māori socio-economic challenges such as unemployment and poverty but it has no answers to them because it has no economic reasoning underpinning its analysis. Te Puapua is about power, tribal elitism, racialism and cultural determinism.  It is not about individuals and whanau doing better in the economy and society and having choices in their lives.

The right strategy to close the socio-economic gaps is needs-based interventions to deliver economic self-determination at the individual and whanau levels.  This strategy would be colour-blind, however Māori would benefit disproportionately due to their overrepresentation in negative socio-economic statistics.  The strategy would align symbolically with the individual and whanau self-determination themes in the Treaty/Tiriti. 

Progressivity in intervention design (that is the poorest get the most support) links to social democratic and “class-based” thinking in Labour circles.  Expanding choice and economic opportunity through market processes is heartland National thinking.  ACT’s David Seymour has signalled support for self-determination for everyone, for example to give choice in education.

What would economic self-determination (or tino rangatiratanga) look like?  It could involve more individual and family choice in the services sought from government and how they are delivered.  This could mean charter or partnership schools, choice in health services, and more Whanau Ora-type devolution.

Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) could be given to all New Zealand children, with government start-up contributions proportional to need.  These accounts could support investment in education, business equity (including entrepreneurial capital), and home ownership. They would build human and equity capital and wealth-creating capability rather than support passive welfare dependency.  They could end child poverty. 

Some social welfare funds could be channelled into these accounts, effectively gearing social policy to support economic development.  Treaty/Tiriti references to individuals and whanau could justify a one-off IDA top-up for poorer Māori children, perhaps at the level of the billions of dollars in Treaty settlements that iwi have captured. Such an IDA intervention on its own could close the socio-economic gap between Māori and other New Zealanders within a generation.

In Europe and America there is growing interest in job guarantee policies that would see the state hire unemployed workers as an employer of last resort.  If well designed this could be a great investment when wider benefits are considered, such as skills development, higher incomes, reduced crime, improved mental health and reduced social welfare expenditure.

Māori sustainable farming for economic rangitiratanga can be more actively encouraged.  Inalienable Māori land cannot be sold for capital gains, which drives land use to the longer-term and reinforces a multi-generation sustainable development approach. Māori land managers are increasingly active in sustainable initiatives such as regenerative agriculture, biochar for carbon storage in soil, and sustainable distributed energy production that are key to achieving net zero emissions.  Such positive initiatives can be actively supported and will deliver wider benefits to New Zealand, including future generations.

Ongoing Waitangi Tribunal litigation is costly, divisive and largely benefits a small number of elitists, lawyers and bureaucrats. He Puapua would be even worse. In contrast, the above economic self-determination initiatives would benefit New Zealanders as a whole, and being progressive would disproportionately benefit Māori.

Taken together these initiatives could make up a socio-economic development strategy that New Zealanders could unite around, and then we would learn how powerful we can be.

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Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the history curriculum, and where to from here

The draft school History Curriculum omits the tumultuous events leading up to the Treaty (Tiriti), what motivated the signatories, and how this shaped today.

As chronicled in Ron Crosby’s book The Forgotten Wars, from 1807 until the early 1840s iwi fought Musket Wars of indescribable brutality that devastated Māori communities and reset tribal boundaries.  These wars arose from long-standing animosities, with war parties seeking utu in response to mana-degrading insults. British traders were complicit in selling muskets that made these wars possible.

The Musket Wars were fought with hallucinatory intensity.  Deaths are estimated between 20,000 to 50,000.   For comparison, the New Zealand Wars saw about 2,300 people killed, and New Zealand lost 16,000 killed in World War One.  It seems crass and unfeeling to compare body counts as if to weigh evils against each other.  For those with pacifist beliefs, violence is always wrong, except in extreme circumstances.  In our only Just War, around 12,000 New Zealanders were killed in World War Two – something had to be done about Hitler.

Musket War devastation and civil disorder made Māori and European observers aware of the need for the rule of law in New Zealand.  Māori actively sought Crown intervention, initially from the New South Wales (NSW) colonial administration.

In 1830 Captain Stewart allowed his ship The Elizabeth to be used by Ngāti Toa to attack Ngāi Tahu, many of whom were killed and eaten. The NSW Governor sought to bring Stewart to justice, however this failed due to lack of jurisdiction in New Zealand.  In 1830 Sydney officials seized the Hokianga-built ship Sir George Murray for sailing without the flag or register required under British navigation laws.  Without New Zealand acquiring colonial status, trade with NSW was imperilled.

In 1831, Ngāpuhi wrote to seek the Crown’s protection from external threats. While Ngāpuhi dominated the early Musket Wars, after 1825 it lost dominance and from the mid-1830s most iwi had muskets and an uneasy balance of power had emerged.  It dawned on warring iwi that the harm inflicted on others would surely invite utu.  This influenced some northern chiefs assenting in 1935 to He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene: the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand. 

James Busby who had arrived in 1833 as British Resident in New Zealand drafted the Declaration, though he had no authority to do so.  The Declaration asserted that sovereign powers were vested in hereditary chiefs.  These chiefs entreated King William IV to “continue to be the parent of their infant State, and that he will become its Protector from all attempts upon its independence.”

In the late 1830s Ngāi Tahu appealed to the NSW Governor to intervene to protect their land rights against Te Rauparaha.  While the Governor had no jurisdiction, British authorities knew they had to intervene to end the lawlessness.  In 1839 William Hobson as Consul was empowered to negotiate with chiefs to seek Crown sovereignty over New Zealand.

The subsequent Treaty/Te Tiriti was an international treaty of cession and was accepted as such by major world powers of the time.  As an international agreement the Treaty was not part of domestic law, however it legitimised creation of a government in New Zealand that could make and enforce laws. 

The Treaty/Te Tiriti is New Zealand’s founding document as a colony of Britain and, together with the 1852 Constitution Act, is the starting but not the end point for New Zealand’s constitutional evolution.  The Constitution Act 1986 marked the stage where Parliament became sovereign and the Crown was reduced to a symbolic and procedural role.

The Treaty/Te Tiriti unequivocally vests sovereignty, that is the power to make laws and to govern, in the Crown, which now means in the democratically-elected Parliament.  It protects property rights over tangible properties owned by individuals and families as well as chiefs.  The Treaty/Te Tiriti has nothing to say about intangible things such as language and culture.  It creates equal rights for Māori as British subjects.

There are differences between the English and Māori Treaty versions, however the content had to be broadly agreed by both parties or the Treaty would be a nullity.

In the English language version the Treaty’s first article asks Māori chiefs to “cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty which the said Confederation or Individual Chiefs respectively exercise or possess…”

The language is unequivocal and leaves no scope to erode the Crown’s power to make and enforce laws and fulfil its other constitutional functions. 

The second Treaty article reads: “Her Majesty The Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual Chiefs yield to her Majesty the exclusive right of Preemption over such lands as the Proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon…”

Article Two specifically guarantees the rights of families and individuals as well as chiefs and tribes.  Hobson and other British officials were aware that the Scottish clan lairds had used their chiefly powers to dispossess the poor.  The Sutherland clearances peaked over 1814 -1820, and clearances to replace people with sheep were permitted right up to 1855.  The Treaty created rights for individuals and families that moderated chiefly powers.  In a similar spirit, the New Zealand government in the 1890s broke up the big settler land estates to facilitate smaller scale family farm developments.  It failed to take the opportunity to pathway a lot more Māori families into private farm ownership.

By the late 1830s wealthy people in Sydney were speculating on land in New Zealand.  Governor Gipps knew this, and it likely influenced the Article Two Crown pre-emption clause. 

“Exclusive” in Article Two reflects the excludable nature of the properties referred to. “Undisturbed possession” implies non-interference, and assumes Māori agency in making best use of their property. 

Article Three of the English version of the Treaty reads:

“In consideration thereof Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her royal protection and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects.”

Article Three’s “royal protection” refers to domestic laws against crime.  It is also a British Empire defence guarantee – a century later New Zealand was at war with Germany and Japan.  Māori land at Raglan (Whāingaroa) was commandeered for an airfield in World War Two.  Metaphorically, the Crown used its Treaty Article One sovereign rights to deliver on its Treaty Article Three “royal protection” obligations by overriding Article Two property rights.  The problem came post-War when the land, part of which was used for a golf course, was not restored to Māori. After Eva Rickard led an occupation in 1978 the land was returned.

In 1840 Māori were subjects of the Crown, not partners with it.  However, our democracy has evolved so that now voters appoint, reappoint or dismiss their Parliamentary representatives every three years.  In a sense Parliament is therefore subordinate or subject to voters. 

Māori are now partners with the Crown, however so too are other New Zealand interest groups that partner with the Crown for agreed purposes.  The Treaty does not create superior rights for Māori over other New Zealanders.  Only the Article Two pre-emption clause discriminates against Māori, by effectively depressing land sale values.  This clause was justified in the 1840 context to, for example, prevent Māori being cheated in land sales.  The clause is now redundant.

Most Māori signatories acceded to the Māori language version Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  Te Tiriti translations into English can be politicised, however Apirana Ngata’s mana gives confidence in the translation he uses in his 1922 explanation of the Treaty (Ngata, 1922). This translation reads:

Article 1:

“The Chiefs assembled including Chiefs not present at the assembly hereby cede absolutely to the Queen of England for ever the Government [“kawanatanga” ] of all of their lands.”

Article 2:

“The Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes and to all the people of New Zealand the full possession [“tino rangatiratanga”] of their lands, their homes and all their possessions [“taonga”], but the chiefs assembled and all other chiefs yield to the Queen the right to alienate such lands which the owners desire to dispose of at a price agreed upon between the owners and person or persons appointed by the Queen to purchase on her behalf.”

Article 3:

“In consideration thereof, Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her Royal Protection, and imparts to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects”.

Debate centres on whether “kawanatanga” weakens Crown sovereignty, and the meanings of “tino rangatiratanga” and of “taonga”. 

Over 700 Māori had visited Port Jackson (Sydney) before 1840 and observed what Crown kawanatanga (governorship) meant.  They found that the Crown’s kawanatanga in NSW was absolute, indivisible, consequential, and included power over life and death. 

From the redoubtable Governor William Bligh of “mutiny on the Bounty” fame through to Richard Bourke and George Gipps in the 1830s, Māori observed kawanatanga in practice in NSW.  For example, Governor Gipps hung seven white Australians found guilty of murdering unarmed aborigines in the Mayall massacre in 1838.  Gipps didn’t ask Queen Victoria for permission to execute white British subjects who had murdered indigenous people as her powers were instantiated in him.

In the Te Tiriti text, Māori were guaranteed “tino rangatiratanga” or chieftainship  over their lands, villages, and other properties.  As Ngata wrote: “There was without doubt Māori chieftainship, but it was limited in its scope to its sub-tribe, and even to only a family group. The Māori did not have authority or a government which could make laws to govern the whole of the Māori Race” (Ngata, 1922). 

Dame Tariana Turia confirmed this tino rangatiratanga interpretation in 2002 when she stated that “we are advocating, when we raise the issue of tino rangatiratanga – the exercising of whanau and hapu mana” (Turia 2002). 

Whilst tino rangatiratanga does not challenge Crown sovereignty or kawanatanga and the making of laws, it can imply economic self-determination at the individual, family and hapu level.  That is, Māori can be economically self-reliant, have choices in life, and the confidence, pride and wellbeing that comes from this without challenging the Crown or the Parliamentary sovereignty that has evolved from it.

Such economic self-determination and mana motuhake is achievable without constitutional change.  It is not achievable if constitutional change, future Treaty settlements or Māori-Crown partnerships strengthen tribal elitists at the expense of Māori people as a whole.

The people’s elected representatives through their policy heft, law making powers and executive institutions should support Māori (equably with other New Zealanders) to achieve economic self-determination rather than inventing “principles” that are not in the Treaty/Te Tiriti.

Law is neither self-interpreting nor self-enforcing and depends on social consent and support.  For example, unlike the English language version, Te Tiriti does not specifically mention fisheries.  If Te Tiriti is accepted as authoritative this may raise issues relating to fisheries rights. However, Māori fisheries rights are accepted by New Zealanders, and this settles the matter. 

Likewise, Māori blockades to prevent coronavirus spreading to Northland reflected historical memory of the devastation caused by the1918 flu epidemic that killed 9000 New Zealanders, including 2500 Māori. These blockades were legally marginal, however they supported the Prime Minister’s leadership in rallying the community against coronavirus, and they reminded us that the law is there for the protection of the people. 

“Taonga” in 1840 referred to objects and real property such as whare, tools, personal effects and land, not intangible things.  Hongi Hika defined taonga as “property procured by the spear”.  The 1820 Māori dictionary defined taonga as “property”.  So too did the 1844 William Williams dictionary.  This is significant because many Waitangi Tribunal claims assert that taonga includes, for example, language, culture, knowledge, water, and many other “things” that were not considered taonga in 1840.

A tangible taonga is a rival, excludable good that can be protected through a property right and is tradeable. Intangible taonga such as language, culture or knowledge are non-rival and non-excludable goods.  That is, your Te Reo fluency takes nothing away from someone else’s Te Reo use, and might enhance it.  Knowledge may be hard to create but the marginal costs of disseminating it may be extremely low or nil.

From 1840 the Crown was slow in asserting its mandated authority. Before the Treaty was signed Christianity, settler influencer, changing Māori mindsets and economic forces had signalled the end for cannibalism and slavery.  However, Crown inaction meant slavery persisted in the Chatham Islands into the 1860s.

Whilst Musket War conflict ended in the early 1840s, land right conflicts involving Māori, settlers and the Crown soon began.  In the Wairau incident in 1843, Ngāti Toa warriors killed 26 people, mainly Pakeha.  The Crown decided not to take action against Te Rauparaha since he appeared to be within his legal rights, though his rights enforcement seemed rather extreme. 

Te Rauparaha, responsible for killing so many Māori and Pakeha, died of natural causes as a free man, has a famous haka attributed to him, and an arena and aquatic centre named after him.  Let history judge!

The New Zealand Wars began in 1860 in Taranaki and continued until the conflict with Te Kooti ended in 1872.  Since 1872 New Zealand has had a period of civil peace unusual in the democratic world and never observed at all in any tribalistic or authoritarian society.

However, the New Zealand Wars, how the economy has developed and what skills it has rewarded are associated with injustices and inequalities to be addressed. The Waitangi Tribunal has done some good work in restitution for Crown injustices, especially from the 19th century.  However, land-based Treaty settlements do not address today’s socio-economic challenges, partly because the sources of wealth now are radically different to what they were in 1840. 

Treaty claimants, politicians, judicial activists and the Waitangi Tribunal itself have for decades gone beyond the Treaty/Titiriti texts and made up principles, interpretations and historical narratives that support specific Treaty claims.  Some eminent historians have criticised some Tribunal claim reports and historical analyses as flawed, factually unreliable or fabricated.

The Tribunal processes and associated negotiations have expended political and public sector energies, cost a lot financially, and been divisive.  Many claims submitted to the Tribunal would best be addressed through mainstream policy processes and public sector responses. 

The Tribunal is not now a dispassionate judicial body.  It functions more in an advocacy mode.  It is not required to undertake intervention logic and social cost benefit analysis on its recommendations, nor to consider where the costs sit or what unintended consequences might need to be managed.  Its processes invite overstatement of preferences and lobbying which may benefit those at the table while others bear the cost.

The Tribunal and government processes have also favoured iwi over hapu, families and individuals.  Making iwi the legal owners of Treaty settlements conflicts with the English language Article Two text protecting Māori family and individual rights and with the “all the people” reference in Te Tiriti Article Two. 

The result is that issues that matter for Māori such as education, employment, incomes, housing, net worth, and health and justice are not addressed effectively, and scarce analytical resources are dissipated, often on side issues. 

An egregious example is the Wai 262 claim, submitted in 1991 and extended multiple times over the last thirty years.  It is a sweeping claim over flora and fauna, including genetics, intellectual property rights past, present and future, and the right to protect, enhance and transmit the cultural, medicinal and spiritual knowledge and concepts found in the life cycles of indigenous flora and fauna.  It includes a “right” to environmental well-being dependent upon the nurturing and wise use of indigenous flora and fauna.  It blames the Crown for “failing to preserve kumara varieties brought to Aotearoa by Kupe, thereby rendering them extinct in this country”. 

Wai 262 is self-satirising.  It is known in Wellington circles as the “Jarndyce versus Jarndyce” claim after the court case in Bleak House that financed generations of lawyers long after the parties to the case had died of old age and everyone else had forgotten what the case was about in the first place. 

The claim is outside the Treaty/Te Tiriti’s scope and the Tribunal should not have heard it.  Instead, the issues it raised should have been addressed as policy and operational matters.  This would have delivered more for Māori and other New Zealanders at lower cost, faster, and with fewer unintended consequences such as delays in updating New Zealand’s intellectual property laws.

Māori disadvantage can be a business opportunity for tribal elitists, lawyers, some academics and public servants and religious entrepreneurs. Some elitists narrate an idealised atavistic past to other Māori, while themselves enjoying modernism’s comforts.  Cloaked in “social justice” language, such narratives are driven by self-interest, not the interests of Māori individuals and whanau, let alone other New Zealanders.

However, good things have come from some iwi with visionary leadership and the wisdom to configure their governance and commercial structures to run on modernist not kinship lines.  Some valuable initiatives have emerged, such as Ngai Tahu’s Whai Rawa savings scheme. 

New Zealanders are concerned at the socio-economic gaps between Māori and other citizens.  However, the Tribunal is the wrong body to address these gaps.  By strengthening the tribal elites it may have caused new inequalities.  By encouraging a victim mentality it may have eroded the psychology needed for Māori to do better. 

Race-based approaches have momentum in government, the bureaucracy, the education system and in much of Māoridom.  The challenge for those supporting a more racially-divided New Zealand will be explaining how it can benefit all New Zealanders. 

The challenges for the open society, democratic humanists are to articulate how the socio-economic gaps between Māori and other New Zealanders can be closed, and to understand how Māori culture can play a bigger part in the nation’s life.

Closing the gaps should focus on all New Zealanders from low socio-economic backgrounds rather than on race.  Effective policies to reduce poverty and lift socio-economic prospects will benefit Māori disproportionately.  Policies can build from  mainstream interventions and services that work, and new initiatives can be developed. 

However, closing the socio-economic gaps does not overcome Māori cultural loss and social fragmentation.  As well as poverty’s stress burden Māori have also borne the psychic burdens of prejudice, slights, “jokes”, disrespectful pronunciation, indifference to their unique knowledge and world view, and instrumentalist tokenism. 

The challenge therefore goes beyond socio-economic equity to include language and culture. 

Tikanga can play a more active role in society without being part of statute or common law.  Waiting politely in queues is English tikanga imported into New Zealand.  It is “enforced” as a social norm, not through law.  Likewise, rahui as resource management tikanga is increasingly supported in the community without the need for statutory or common law underpinning.

Tikanga evolved to serve pre-European Māori tribal needs.  Over time some tikanga has become maladaptive and is dispensed with.  However, much tikanga is integral to the Te Ao Māori world and can be adopted more widely.  Tikanga can strengthen kinship and other relationships between people, and will be more influential in for example Oranga Tamariki. Tikanga could also make a big difference in the justice and corrections systems.

Māori make up around half the prison population, and one reason for this is a lack of connections that support positive identity, narratives and social norms.  Photo sequences from babyhood to old age typically track a well-balanced person’s life.  A break when someone disappears from the photographic record often reflects a disrupted life and a loss of connections.

The justice system isolates offenders from their connections.  Tikanga could place more emphasis on mana restoration for victims and restorative justice for offenders that sustains their connections and softens the impact of offender sentencing on dependent whanau.  Victoria University academics and students are doing some valuable thinking on these issues – Gage (2020) is an example.

In the 19th centuryreligious movements emerged to overcome social fragmentation and to create new connections and sources of meaning for Māori.  These movements included mainstream Christianity, Pai Mārire, Ringatu and in the 1920s, Ratana.  In our times, tikanga can help restore connections that have been lost.

We should also consider how new rehabilitative connections and sources of meaning can be formed.  These may be cultural, religious or humanist, they may lead to a marae, church, mosque, to the international “Republic of Science” or “Republic of Letters” – that is to whatever philosophies and identities that can connect people with others and help them make something positive out of their lives.

The reaction to the draft history curriculum and to the He Puapua plan has challenged the zeitgeist that all Māori problems stem from colonialization and the solution lies in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and in retribalisation.  No tribalized society has ever succeeded socio-economically in the modern world.  If New Zealand continues down a path that strengthens tribalism and amplifies birth-ascribed racial differences between people there will be few winners and many more losers. 

However, those who support an equal rights-based democracy need to demonstrate how the socio-economic gaps between Māori and other New Zealanders can be closed.  They must also help revitalisation of Māori culture and tikanga, its weaving into society’s fabric, and its integration into our institutions.  Without this being achieved we are likely to spend the next 181 years arguing about what the Treaty/Tiriti meant, and the Wai 262 claim will still be offering sustenance to future generations of lawyers and will remain unresolved.


Crosby, R. 2020: The Forgotten Wars.  Why the Musket Wars matter today. Oratia Books,  Auckland.

Gage, K. 2020: Māori under-representation in the legal profession.  Employment Law Bulletin September 2020.

Ngata, Apirana 1922: The Treaty of Waitangi, an explanation; Te Tiriti o Waitangi, he whakamarama. NZETC: New Zealand Electronic Text Collection.

Turia, Tariana 2002: Trauma and Colonisation.  Speech to the 9th annual Australasian Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Waipapa Marae, Auckland University 9 March 2002.

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Time for a full employment strategy linked to large-scale housing development – let’s follow Joe Biden’s lead

New Zealand’s housing shortages reflect regulatory barriers to making land available, and lack of supporting infrastructure for new housing.  Despite high housing demand, supply is inelastic.  As a result, high demand inflates fixed housing stock prices without inducing more supply. 

During 2020 the median New Zealand house price grew by 19.3%, up from growth of 12.3% in 2019.  Lower mortgage interest rates have increased bidding competition and raised house prices even further.  As prices surge buyers need to borrow more.  This amplifies household indebtedness, much of it mediated through foreign-owned banks. As at June 2020 housing mortgage debt was $284B compared to 2020 GDP of $194B.  This debt is of macroeconomic significance.

Covid-19 recovery has seen booming engagement in trades training in areas such as construction.  This coincides with housing shortages that are devastating for many low income and younger people, and which are accelerating child poverty.  These shortages inflate rents as well as housing prices.  $1.7B was allocated to the Accommodation Supplement in 2019 and almost $2.4B in 2020.  A further $2B was allocated to Vote: Housing in 2020 for housing programmes and services. 

New Zealand’s housing crisis creates an opportunity to anchor a full employment strategy on housing and associated infrastructure development, as well as on other job-rich initiatives. To pursue such a strategy we need to understand how macroeconomic policies bear on employment, and how past policy settings are maladaptive to today’s realities.

The economic reforms from 1984 to the early 1990s aimed at macroeconomic stability and microeconomic flexibility.  Reserve Bank inflation targeting and fiscal prudence gave stability, while a floating exchange rate and industry and labour market deregulation delivered flexibility. 

Employment is a “good” in society, that is it determines per capita incomes, living standards and wider wellbeing.  However, macroeconomics has treated employment as a “good” conditional on a balance between employment and inflation. 

The Phillips curve is an inverse relationship between unemployment and inflation.  The Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU) is “the natural rate of unemployment”.  “The NAIRU” and “natural rate” language implies that low inflation is more important than full employment.  Unemployment is used instrumentally for inflation control, and this masks its devastating social impacts.

The international evidence now is that the Phillips curve and NAIRU are no longer meaningful.  High employment and low inflation co-exist in advanced developed economies.

 “Full employment” means everyone who wants a job has one, minus frictional unemployment as people move between jobs, study, homemaker roles and so forth. 

The official unemployment rate measures those ready to work and actively seeking it. However, it excludes many young people not in education, employment or training, and people facing such barriers to employment as disabilities, lack of childcare or of transport.  Furthermore, many unemployed become discouraged in their job search and give up trying, meaning they are not recorded as unemployed.  Welfare to work settings may need to change to allow such people to join the workforce. 

Full employment without excessive inflation is achievable when output can expand, that is the output gap can be closed without increased inflation.  The output gap is a measure of an economy’s actual output compared to what it could produce.

Inflation occurs when the monetary base expands but output does not.  This can be due to skill shortages, restrictive workplace practices, lack of enabling infrastructure, resources diverted into war (as with the stagflation during the Vietnam War), and regulatory barriers to supply, for example restrictions on land available for housing.

There is overwhelming evidence that the poorest, most marginalised people benefit most from a high employment economy.  High unemployment leads to rising inequality, high employment is linked to equitable wage growth, and low paid workers benefit most from full employment.  For these reasons, in America full employment policies and Federal job guarantees have over the years been supported by such leaders as Martin Luther King, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and by black American economists such as Sadie Alexander, Darrick Hamilton and Sandy Darity. 

A sea change has occurred in American economic thinking favouring more government intervention.  It has been spurred by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other Democrat politicians, by hard reality, and by leading economic thinkers such as Paul Krugman. 

Cecilia Rouse chairs Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers and Jared Bernstein is a member.  Rouse’s work has focused on removing “supply side” barriers to full employment such as regulation and poor education.  Bernstein takes a “demand side” approach, and advocates full employment as a macroeconomic goal.

The argument is that full employment drives higher wages and this spurs productivity growth.  The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reports evidence of wage-led productivity growth in American macroeconomic data.  Specifically, at the aggregate level a rise in the wage share of corporate-sector income is associated with a rise in average productivity growth in subsequent years.

A full employment productivity multiplier seems to exist.  In a slack labour market with surplus labour, productivity stagnates.  However, in a tight labour market businesses need to pay more for labour.  As its price rises they have incentives to train and to adopt more labour-augmenting technology that lifts workplace productivity.

Full employment is a key Biden administration policy goal.  It will be delivered through a suite of initiatives such as a $2 trillion infrastructure package.  This includes massive upgrading of electrical, digital, social as well as transport infrastructure.  The initiatives also address climate change, sustainable energy, electric vehicles, R&D, manufacturing technology, and advanced skills for the future.

These bold initiatives will in the short run be funded through government debt which in 2020 reached 100% of GDP – well over twice New Zealand’s. American taxes will rise, however in the long run Biden’s initiatives will pay for themselves.

A full employment strategy for New Zealand could combine monetary policy that favours job growth, and fiscal policy that invests in job-rich areas with high social returns.  Social returns include such psychosocial benefits from full employment as reduced stress, family stability, and giving people more and better choices in life.  Making housing development integral to a full employment strategy would see housing stocks increase, and this would lead to reduced expenditure on accommodation supplements and on emergency housing. 

Government must deliver an enhanced regulatory environment facilitative of new housing developments.  It also needs to be an active investor in housing and infrastructure development. Government-facilitated housing development must be of sufficient scale to make a difference in people’s lives.  This means some property values will fall, potentially triggering homeowner opposition to government’s actions. 

However, rising property values come with a downside for existing owners as well as for those aspiring to home ownership.  Many New Zealanders spend their working lives paying off their home, and then they sell out and buy a cheaper house, with the cash difference funding a comfortable retirement.  However, booming property prices even for modest properties in hitherto low-cost regions erode this option.

Furthermore, many homeowners feel obliged to assist their children or grandchildren into home ownership.  As such they feel the indirect downside of inflated housing prices.

New Zealanders may be overly besotted with home ownership as a wealth store rather than for the functionality it provides.  Some wealthy countries such as Germany have modest home ownership rates but high quality and secure rental accommodation. 

New government-funded housing developments do not have to focus specifically on social housing or entry-level housing for first homeowners. So long as the total housing stock grows in the right locations, the benefits cascade down through socio-economic levels.  That is, those buying new houses free up lower quality housing for those lower on the housing rung. 

Housing developments alone will not deliver full employment, however there are many other job-rich opportunities.  Climate change response requires heavy investment in sustainable, green energy systems, and much of this will be in rural and provincial areas. 

Markets undersupply some socio-economic goods that deliver benefits wider than what can be captured in market transactions.  These benefits may not be privately appropriable, or they may endure longer than private investment horizons.  Examples include amenity assets, ecological restoration, and “human infrastructure” projects such as playgrounds and urban gardens.

Making full employment New Zealand’s paramount economic goal could lift productivity and real incomes without excessive inflation, and help rebalance the economy in growth-enhancing ways.  In addition to regulatory change it would likely require higher debt-funded government expenditure in the short to medium term. 

New Zealand is well-placed to deliver this public expenditure.  Its net core Crown debt is forecast to be 46.9% of GDP by the end of the 2024-25 forecast period.  This compares with the average net debt of prosperous OECD economies sitting at around 80% of GDP.  Rising public debt in New Zealand would be offset by declining private mortgage debt and by dramatically reduced social welfare expenditure.

An invocatory call for a full employment policy at the core of a much more ambitious green climate change transition and socio-economic development strategy might sound naïve or even tipsy euphoric for a small island group with just five million people.  However, it looks eerily like a miniature version of what President Biden is embarking on with gusto, and history tells us to never bet against the United States.


Bernstein, J; Baker, D. 2003: The Benefits of Full Employment.  April 2003 EPI Book.

Bivens, J. 2019: Looking for evidence of wage-led productivity growth. EPI Macroeconomics Newsletter.

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Some thoughts about vaccinations, leadership, universal science and mana motuhake

Māori MPs are giving good leadership to their communities through the coronavirus challenges, however it is reported that some are reluctant to tell Māori they should get vaccinated.  This supposedly reflects longstanding distrust of the Crown.

Pushback against mask wearing and vaccinations in America reflects distrust of government, science and collective action, and has had tragic consequences.  No such large-scale opposition has occurred in New Zealand.  Māori during the 2020 lockdown period stepped up to assist with road checkpoints to stop coronavirus spreading to Northland.

Māori MPs are not “blood and soil” nativists privileging birth-ascribed race and traditional belief over proven science. In 1907 it was Māori MPs and medical and other leaders such as James Carroll, Apirana Ngata, Maui Pomare and Peter Buck who promoted the Tohunga Suppression Act. This banned tohunga from claiming supernatural healing powers or promoting “quackery”, and it cleared the way for widespread adoption of modern medicine.

There is no such thing as “indigenous science” or “western science”. There is closed society cultural or religious belief, and then there is open society science that transcends cultures and is based on critical reasoning, the search for understanding and for truth.

The stunning mRNA vaccine and other advances means that science’s mana continues to gain unstoppable traction in Māori thinking.  The university “Mirror on Society” and related initiatives that deliver special pathways for Māori into medicine have had a big impact.  Part of its intellectual roots lie in Kenneth Arrow’s classic 1963 paper that created the foundation for health economics.  Arrow’s paper tacitly valorised the importance of cultural flows of health-related understanding, flows that growing numbers of Māori doctors and other clinicians have facilitated. 

The concept of mana motuhake has framed the thinking of some key Māori leaders as they grapple with guiding their communities towards vaccination while acknowledging that it is legally an individual’s choice.

Mana motuhake upholds an individual’s autonomy, self-determination and freedom to choose rather than be subject to government edict.  It implies the subsidiarity principle, which is that decisions should be devolved to the most decentralised level competent to make the decision and where the effects lie.  This is typically at the individual level.

Universal science vaccinates mana motuhake from the risk it becomes closed, parochial or tribal, and it turns it into informed and socially responsible libertarianism. 

However, it does not imply individuals should be allowed to neglect or do harm to others.  Vaccination decisions have effects far beyond the individual – coronavirus is communicable, as are the viruses of the mind that lead to conspiracy theories.

The Māori MPs from Labour and the Māori Party, Shane Reti’s fine mind, and Māori doctors and clinicians are part of the open society which trusts in universal science.  In contrast, Hannah Tamaki represents a closed society mentality.  She is legally entitled to refuse the vaccine.  However, as both a political and a religious leader she is not entitled to behave in such a way as to undermine science and guide her sheep-like followers away from vaccination and into darker places.

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Rawiri Waititi has got it right again

Rawiri Waititi is right to support commercial trout farming, and he has economic and cultural history behind him.

In pre-European times freshwater fisheries were important Maori food sources.  A staple species was the upokororo (Prototroctes oxyrhynchus), which early settlers called grayling. They were abundant until around 1870, after which they rapidly declined, becoming extinct by the late 1940s.  Their decline was likely caused by a range of factors, including introduced trout impacting on their habitat.

European settlers escaped a British class system where recreational fishing and hunting were upper class privileges.  Settlers wanted these recreations available to “the common man”.  They used government law and regulation to support their aims.

A series of Animal Protection Acts from 1867 protected game animals and formally recognised acclimatisation societies established to introduce new species as long as they were “innoxious”.  The Salmon and Trout Act was passed in 1867 to “make provision for the preservation and propagation of salmon and trout in this colony”. 

In effect, the colonial administration legislatively mandated trout fisheries that inadvertently degraded Maori freshwater fisheries resources.  Over time the mandate for acclimatisation societies was carried over into the legislative powers granted to the Fish and Game Council under the Conservation Act.

There have been long-standing debates over fish farming, and in 1973 salmon but not trout farming was authorised.  While trout hatcheries to support the recreational trout industry have been in operation for over 130 years, New Zealand is now the only country in the world that specifically bans commercial trout farming. 

There is no scientific or commercial reason to continue banning trout farming.  There is much common interest between the recreational lobby and advocates for trout farming. The Fish and Game Council has been a tireless advocate for water quality and for protecting recreational fisheries for all New Zealanders. Maori have long been a strong voice for water quality and for the sustainability of our productive systems. 

Trout farming is widely practiced in many countries, including the US, Chile, Norway and Denmark.  Denmark has far less river systems and marine area than New Zealand and yet it has an industry worth around NZ$200M a year and employing about 800 people directly. It has been farming trout for over a hundred years.  Sea cage-based farms were developed in the 1950s, with land-based farms developed from the 1970s.

Due to environmental constraints, Denmark has recently capped the numbers of its sea cage-based trout farms and encouraged further development being limited to on-land farms.  These may well use closed land-based recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS).  The RAS system effectively removes pollution and disease risks.

Trout farming produces a higher quality and more consistent product than the recreational catch, and so farming and recreational fisheries are complementary.  In Tasmania world class recreational fisheries co-exist with trout farming.  Farming is largely in sea cages. 

The stance Waititi takes is refreshing because it sees the Maori voice advocating economic initiatives that create new wealth for New Zealanders rather than litigating over existing assets in a zero sum game.  Trout farming could be a demonstrative expression of kaitiatanga which contributes to sustainability of New Zealand’s productive systems. 

Advocating trout farming as something that can benefit New Zealand’s wider economy is a small but meaningful demonstration that, as stated in its constitution, “the Maori Party is for all citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand”.  So all power to Rawiri Waititi on this issue, and all the best for a Maori Party as it focuses on the hard economic issues Maori and other New Zealanders face rather than being distracted by in-group versus out-group identity politics.

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The draft New Zealand history curriculum – a major rewrite is needed please….

It’s great that we will soon have a history curriculum.  It needs to offer rich knowledge to all New Zealand school students, regardless of their socio-economic status, ethnicity or religion.  As Elizabeth Rata and Briar Lipson would argue, rich disciplinary knowledge that all students possess is needed for equity, civil society and democracy.

The curriculum should also foster both the spirit and method of critical inquiry.  It should challenge students to ask what motivated people in different historical contexts, what were they thinking, what did they need to take account of, and how did they expect others to behave.

The curriculum should make students aware of what the rest of the world has gifted us, and what we ourselves have created.  It should encourage students to treasure their whakapapa of the mind, regardless of where their bloodline whakapapa came from.  It should be centripetal in drawing people together, and not centrifugal in tearing them apart.

The curriculum as proposed tells us that “Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand”.  That colonisation has been central for 200 years and our history has been shaped by “the exercise and effects of power.”  It tells us that ideologies and beliefs “underpin expressions of power and resistance and insisting on rights and identity.” 

What is striking is what the curriculum misses out, such as the iwi versus iwi Musket Wars.  These began from 1807, escalated in 1818 and finally fizzled out around 1837.  They killed around 40,000 people, ten times the number who died in the New Zealand wars, and many more than we lost in the two world wars combined. 

The devastation the Musket Wars caused, and tensions with immigrants in the 1830s highlighted the need for a strong government to keep the peace and create the rule of law.  This realisation pathed the way for the Waitangi Treaty signed on 6 February 1840.  As if in a parallel universe, two days later Samuel Parnell, a London carpenter, arrived in Wellington and immediately declared that he would only work eight hours a day.  Given labour shortages at the time this was quickly accepted.  The Waitangi Treaty was the beginning point for our constitutional development, while Parnell’s eight hour day began the struggle for workers’ rights.

The curriculum as drafted implies New Zealand has two cultures, one foundational and enduring, and the other colonial and ephemeral.  However, New Zealand has been a multi-cultural society since the late 19th century.  Auckland is now home to about 100 nationalities with around 150 languages spoken.

The curriculum does not cover New Zealand’s economic and institutional development, the impacts of science and technology, and the development of global trading relationships.  It implies that ethnic group identities drive history, and that individuals’ vision, imagination, entrepreneurship and courage scarcely matter.

Our history and our students deserve better. 

A way forward is to start by placing New Zealand in the wider international context.  This includes how the environment shapes destinies, how human learning developed over millennia, global economic and technological drivers, and how these all shaped New Zealand.

Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel argues that Eurasian peoples developed technologically faster than those in Africa, the Americas and in Oceania not because they had any special abilities but because of the biophysical resources and geographic nature of the Eurasian continent.

In particular, Eurasia had a wealth of domesticable plant and animal species.  Crop domestication began around 9500BC in the Levant, and rice was domesticated in China about 6200BC.  Eurasia’s east-west major axis and minimal latitude changes facilitated diffusion of valuable plant and animal types, and the movement of people, ideas and technologies.  Food surpluses allowed settled communities that supported higher specialisation of labour and political organisation.  This in turn saw the emergence of advanced technologies such as metallurgy, writing, mathematics, and the development of complex institutions.

It was much more difficult for plants, animals, ideas and technologies to move along the south-north axis because of latitudinal barriers and oceans.  As humans moved south among small island groups flows of new ideas and learning sharply diminished, and some technologies were lost. 

Māori survived in New Zealand without a single grain crop, no herd animals, and dependent on what they could fish and forage to augment the inferior kumara varieties, gourds, yams, taro, rats and dogs they brought with them.  They depended on carcinogenic and barely edible fernroot as a staple food. 

The historical fact that pre-European New Zealand was a stone age culture is exclusively and unavoidably a reflection of how environmental constraints determined stages of economic development.  It is not a reflection on Māori intellect, innovation and openness to new learning. 

A history classroom discussion could pose such questions as: “Imagine if Māori had brought with them and established in New Zealand potatoes, corn, wheat, oats, sheep, pigs and cattle.  What might their economy and society look like when Tasman and later Cook arrived?”

New Zealanders have inherited the learning created by other cultures over thousands of years.  This includes mathematics and science from Mesopotamia from as early as 3000BC, ancient Greek philosophy, Roman law, Chinese inventions such as paper and the compass, Indian and Islamic mathematics, and the European Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Changing belief systems and institutions also shaped New Zealand. Christianity was an open not a closed institution and it quickly took root in New Zealand.  Māori gifted land to missionaries and helped build schools to access technology and literacy.  Human capital and new ideas were transferred in immigrants’ minds and they diffused within New Zealand, including through marriage.

Great Māori leaders such as James Carroll, Apirana Ngata, Peter Buck and Maui Pomare advocated adoption of modern technology: “a new net goes fishing”.  They supported the Tohunga Suppression Act 1907 to ban charlatans who claimed supernatural powers, and to support access to modern rather than outdated traditional medicine.  This Act was supported by all four Māori MPs as well as by other Māori leaders. 

New Zealand’s history has been shaped by the most dramatic of all economic events: “The Great Enrichment”.  Economists such as Angus Maddison and Deirdre McCloskey have documented how, for millennia, real per capita incomes and living conditions increased at a glacial pace up to the late 18th century. Then from around 1800, GDP per capita grew at an explosive rate first in Britain, followed by Germany, America and throughout the developed world.

This Great Enrichment lifted billions of people out of poverty and extended lifespans by decades.  It came from technological and institutional innovation, from liberated human minds, and from social norms valuing business success, innovation and entrepreneurship. The poorest people in New Zealand now live far better than Queen Victoria lived in 1840.

New Zealand has drawn on learning accumulated over thousands of years from many parts of the world, and from the European Enlightenment and the science, reason, democracy, humanism and civil liberties that came with it.

School students should understand that the rights we take for granted are unusual in the world and vulnerable. In the 1990s many Hong Kong Chinese emigrated to New Zealand in fear for their rights after the territory was transferred to China in 1997.  The CPC has since reneged on its assurances and ended civil rights in Hong Kong.  We need to uphold our civil libertarian and democratic rights if we wish to remain part of the modern humanist world and not the tribalistic or authoritarian worlds. 

The history curriculum should celebrate individuals for their social contribution rather than their narrow self-interest.  In our humanist democracy individuals are free to exercise their rights.  Individuals are not the instruments or property of religious, ethnic, nationalistic or other tribalist groups – students should learn to think for themselves.

Throughout world history it was individuals who challenged repressive religion, slavery and patriarchy, who made the big scientific breakthroughs, who reaped their teeming artistic, lyrical and musical brains and gave us their harvests, who innovated and built businesses and created whole new industries.

Americans celebrate Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison and Martin Luther King.  New Zealanders can celebrate such figures as Apirana Ngata, Maui Pomare, Kate Sheppard, Emily Siedeberg, Hayward Wright, Ernest Rutherford, Janet Frame, Woolf Fisher, Kiri Te Kanawa, Graham Liggins and Bob Elliot.  Increasingly our leaders and heroes will include ethnicities other than Māori and Pakeha.

Key questions to pose to school history students might include:

  • How did New Zealand go from a stone age society in 1769 to one of the world’s wealthiest and most equitable societies by 1900?
  • What explains the Great Enrichment from 1800 and how did this affect New Zealand?
  • What caused the Great Depression in the 1930s, and what role did this play in the 1939-45 conflagration? 
  • How was Apirana Ngata able to foresee that the Versailles agreement would lead to the emergence of an authoritarian leader in Germany and to new conflict?
  • What have been the key economic events in New Zealand over the post World War Two period?
  • How has New Zealand maintained individual and civil rights and democracy whilst still succeeding economically?
  • How has New Zealand adapted to the economic rise of Asian economies?

Students who can grapple with such questions will be well educated in history, and above all will have the critical thinking skills that will serve them well in later life.

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Donald Trump: the foul-mouthed, thrice-married bard of Mar-a-Lago will be with us for some time yet, if only in the echo chambers…

Donald Trump won the 2016 election after a polarising, scandal-ridden campaign amidst allegations of moral turpitude and foreign interference.  Despite nepotism and manifest incompetence in his term as POTUS, in 2020 Trump won more votes (74M) than any other presidential candidate in history other than Joe Biden (81M). 

Trump’s popularity can only be understood in the context of America’s political system and economic performance.  The Jim Crow era may be over but administrative and logistical impediments to voting still favour Republicans over Democrats.  The Electoral College system has seen Republican candidates such as George W Bush and Donald Trump (in 2016) win the presidency while losing the popular vote.

From 1994 when he took charge of Congress, Newt Gingrich began to polarise politics and radicalise the Republican Party, aided by partisan outlets such as Fox News.  Later, social media siloed discourse, allowing fixed views to harden further and become disassociated from reality.

Compared to now there was low inequality in America from the late 1930s through the 1940s – “the Great Compression”.  However, “the Great Divergence” beginning from around the late 1970s led to growing inequality. The rules came to favour capital over labour.  The effective tax rate on labour in the 1980s and 1990s was around 25% whilst the tax on capital returns was only 15%.

China joined the WTO in 2001, and much American production activity shifted offshore or to Mexico.  The financial sector grew bigger as a proportion of the whole economy. CEO compensation soared, and international tax avoidance occurred on a massive scale.

Americans were told for decades that globalisation would benefit all, yet the 1941 Stopler-Samuelson theorem predicted otherwise.  Many benefited from globalisation, especially capital owners and consumers, however the impacts of liberalised trade and technological change hit workers hard in industrial areas.Democrat as well as Republican administrations failed to address the socio-economic downsides from this.  Mainstream economists understood the Rust Belt pain intellectually but not palpably, and little effort was made to reskill workers and manage transitions into new jobs. 

The Republican tax cuts in 2017 disproportionately benefited capital owners and the wealthy.  It gave 79% of its benefits to people making more than US$100,000 a year.

America’s extreme inequality has destroyed dignity, eroded mental health and cost lives.  Anne Case and Angus Deaton in Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism noted that death rates for middle-aged whites without a college degree have risen steadily since 1999.  The proximate causes have been opiates, alcohol and suicide, however more fundamental causes have been poverty, rising inequality, hopelessness and the healthcare system’s poor coverage and crippling costs. 

In 1960, the US healthcare system absorbed five per cent of national income. The figure has now grown to 18 per cent.  This burden has fallen disproportionally on lower income working people – the benefits have accrued to the big pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, and the medical profession itself.

The elitist Washington narrative was that America was a meritocratic society and if people failed to get to the top it was their own fault.  However, the problem with meritocratic competitions is that someone wins them, which means others lose. This leads to rank status humiliation and resentment of those who Trump blamed for all of America’s problems – migrants, Muslims, elites living in Beltway swamps, the deep state, Chinese exporters and so on.

Political polarisation and economic problems provide context for Trump’s ascent in 2016 but do not explain his psychological appeal to voters.

Trump’s grandiose narcissism, abnormal need for admiration and prickliness at the slightest criticism reflects deep-seated insecurity.  Many of his supporters had their own insecurities and connected to Trump as an authoritarian leader who would keep them safe.

Insecure people resent those who do better than themselves, and they delight in cutting “elitists” down to size and diminishing their status. The Apprentice was not reality TV; it offered a fantasy life as an Alpha Male who fires those lower than him.

People are especially conscious of their social rank status, and become more sensitive to it when their status is challenged by job loss or by perceived threats from out-groups such as racial minorities or immigrants.  The MAGA slogan says effectively that “I once was great and am no more because someone took away my greatness and so making America great again means making me great again.”

Politicians such as Lyndon Johnson and poets such as Bob Dylan understood that poor whites were “pawns in the game” of manipulative politicians who encouraged them to look down on black people and draw psychic strength from their superior rank status.  The alternative, devoutly to be wished, is for poor whites and their black brothers and sisters to organise politically to challenge exploitative business practices and economic inequality so that all may rise.

Donald Trump loves his children, grandchildren and other close kin, and no one else.  His nepotism drives his business and political lives.  Ivanka and his two oldest sons Donald Jr and Eric have been active in The Apprentice show and been key players in the Trump Organization business empire.

Trump’s nepotism might be explained through Bill Hamilton’s kin selection theory which shows how gene selection can occur through kin relatedness. Because other members of a population may share one’s genes, a gene can increase its evolutionary success by indirectly promoting the reproduction and survival of other individuals who also carry that gene. These individuals are typically close genetic relatives. 

Nepotists are likely to favour close relatives over more distant ones.   This means they can be generous to their close blood relations and be callous to others in direct proportion to their genetic distance.  The more distant the relatedness, the more Trump puts people into stereotypical boxes.  Black people came from “shithole” countries.  Muslims, whether from Iran or Indonesia are lumped together.  Florida’s Cuban minority are favoured, however everyone else from the Rio Grande to Cape Horn are “Mexicans”.

Insight into Trump’s appeal comes from Big Lie psychology.  Trump understood that big lies told with confidence would stick, or at least leave a long and influential tail even after refutation. “I won the 2020 election by a landslide but it was stolen” is easily shown as false, however it will continue to sound in the echo chambers.

The most effective liars are those who believe their own lies.  This makes a liar convincing to others because he gives away no micro-cues suggesting he is lying.  In one Apprentice episode Trump, in challenging apprentices to sell high-priced art told them, “If you don’t really believe it yourself, it’ll never work”.

Daniel Kahneman argues there is Type 1 and Type 2 thinking. Type 1 thinking is fast, intuitive and unconscious thought that enables quick responses in most activities.  It may be visual and concrete – “we will build that wall”.  The Type 2 system is slower, calculating and conscious thought, for example about a maths problem or economic reasoning.  Kahneman argues that Type 1 is fast but prone to bias, whereas Type 2 is slow but more resistant to cognitive bias. 

Trump appeals to Type 1 thinking.  He projects certainty and power that attracts those who lack both, highjacks their thought processes and numbs their critical faculties.  The leader’s pathology then becomes contagious and spreads virally, mutating into delusionary beliefs that may be strung together into narratives and conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories fill a need in those who cannot handle complexity and uncertainty.  They attribute events to others’ intentional acts.  Conspiracy theories give order to what would otherwise be an inchoate universe, allowing believers to feel they are part of a privileged minority who know The Truth. This empowers them to attack those perceived as hiding the truth.  In doing so, they are embarking on a mission higher than themselves – to oppose those who are behind the conspiracy and foil their evil plans.

Conspiracy theories are akin to mutating viruses. Peter Medawar said that a virus is a piece of bad news wrapped in protein.  A conspiracy theory is out-group hostility wrapped in Type 1 thinking and vectored through social media.

Ever the innovator, Trump has invented a new type of “conspiracy without theory”. This starts with repeated fact-free assertions lacking any logical connecting thread. In some cases, Trump would simply arrive at a gathering, stand up and say the first thing that popped into his head.  His credulous adherents then assume these random assertions have deep meaning, and they flounder around for a connecting thread that organises them into a coherent narrative.  Eventually someone dreams up something plausible, such as Hillary Clinton running a paedophile ring from a pizza parlour, and outbreaks of cannibalism at Democratic party gatherings. 

Once someone believes a conspiracy theory they find it difficult to abandon it.  You can’t reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place.

The Democrats are best to change the socio-economic conditions that give rise to the hardship and humiliation that leads to collective psychosis.  This means focusing on economics, not on the culture and identity wars that the Trumps and other populist politicians want to fight.

The Democrats have a complex fight on their hands.  After its election defeat the Republican Party is not mellowing, and some elected members have links to extremist groups and networks.  The Republicans will try and make it more difficult for Democratic Party supporters to vote – Stacey Abrams will have a busy four years ahead of her.  With a few exceptions such as Mitt Romney the Republican Party is still craven to the Trump support base and morally directionless. 

Perhaps even worse, conspiracy theories have been let loose in social media and they seem to be mutating; who knows in what direction?

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How do we balance the benefits and risks from the digital technology giants?

Digital technology giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon create value  through their technology, network effects, information non-rivalry, and through managing aggregated or “big data” in service delivery. 

However, their dominance creates market power concerns.  Big data misuse can erode civil society and challenge democracy itself. The big digital technology companies control personal data, and this creates privacy concerns. There are calls for tighter regulation, yet these companies are productivity-enhancing technology leaders, and they deliver “free goods” and new affordances for society. 

How then can we optimise the benefits from the digital technology giants, while managing risks?

People value privacy to protect themselves from material harm such as identity theft, and also because it is bound up with self-identity, individual rights and personal freedoms.  Information or data that private firms or government have about a person has important privacy implications.

From 1890 Louis Brandeis began to create a basis for the right to privacy and legal protection for it.  As a Supreme Court judge he was a free speech and privacy rights advocate, and he opposed big business monopolies.  In the 1960s Alan Westin started to lay the legal foundation for consumer data privacy protection suited to the digital age.  He framed privacy as the right to control how much of ourselves we reveal to others.  Westin closely associated privacy with personal freedoms. 

In recent years data privacy breaches, including alleged misuse of data for politically manipulative purposes, has roiled around digital technology firms, including Facebook and Google.

However, such companies have strong incentives to protect privacy and to safeguard consumer interests more generally.  For example, Facebook is a two-sided platform company with consumers and advertisers interacting through a common platform.  Facebook must retain both sides confidence and avoid privacy breaches to stay in business.

Recent decades have seen digital technology transform economies and societies, and play a pervasive role in almost everyone’s workplaces, homes, and in their lives more generally.  Consumers have rewarded the lead digital technology businesses, and investors have valued this.  As at March 2020 the top five biggest US companies by market capitalisation were all digital technology companies – Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.  Their success reflects the digital and computational technologies they have harnessed, and the non-rivalry and networking economies these give rise to.

These technology-based companies have transcended the constraints of mainstream product market businesses.  In the traditional business model, a firm draws on supplier inputs, adds value, and then delivers products or services to customers.  The product mix is typically physical rival goods that can be “consumed” only once.  However, internet-leveraged digital technology has given rise to firms based on non-rival goods, that is “goods” such as information where one person’s use does not deprive another of that same information. 

While it is expensive to create valuable information, once created the marginal dissemination costs to additional users can be near zero.  Non-rivalry drives marginal costs down and helps big digital technology companies deliver consumer as well as producer surpluses.  Consumer benefits include free goods such as Youtube, Google Maps, and social media connections that pervade our lives and fall outside market exchange and GDP statistics.

The digital technology giants exploit network effects that arise when something becomes more valuable to consumers as more people use it – a telephone network in the old economy or a digital technology platform in today’s economy.  Network effect accumulation is akin to the “Matthew Effect” in the Bible – “to he who has shall be given even more”. 

Dominant digital technology companies strengthen their hold through software upgrades, new functionality, and tight control over data channels.  They learn constantly from platform users’ search inquiry patterns and revealed preferences and draw inferences from them. 

Industry dominance by a few or even one company does not necessarily lead to efficiency loss and stagnation.  For example, when America’s telecommunications industry was highly concentrated in AT&T, researchers working in AT&T’s Bell Laboratories helped develop radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, the photovoltaic cell and other transformative technologies that had impacts far beyond AT&T’s commercial interests. Nine Nobel Prizes and four Turing Awards were awarded for work completed at Bell Laboratories. 

America’s digital technology sector is highly concentrated, and some key companies  have bought out likely nascent competitors.  They have used their network economies, data aggregations (“big data”) and control over data channels as barriers to competitive entry. 

However, these companies deliver knowledge and technology spill-overs that feed into wider innovation they cannot fully capture the benefits from.  They also diversify and create value in new markets.  For example, Google began as a search engine and has diversified into business management and communication tools, email services, cloud storage, language translation, research tools, mapping, navigation, and self-driving cars. 

Companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon provide connectedness and other capabilities to respond to societal challenges with speed, flexibility and fitness for purpose.  In the coronavirus crisis they are helping keep essential services functioning during lockdowns, and facilitating the connectedness that helps international researchers deliver new vaccines at unprecedented speed.

There has always been a public good and open society culture in the digital technology sector.  The internet is the ultimate network of networks, and the uber-platform for platforms.  It has made possible many non-profit public good initiatives.  An example is Wikipedia – an information resource with unparalleled global heft. 

However, some digital capabilities and networks that promoted internationalism have at times been turned into tools for nationalism, separatism and political polarisation.  The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica incident that played out over 2014-2018 highlighted the potential for big data to be repurposed for political purposes.  Digital technology, including social media, has been used to interfere with democratic processes in Europe and the United States. 

New challenges to privacy, civil society and democracy are looming, and may well be amplified by computational and artificial intelligence advances.  For example, biodata, face and voice recognition technology will allow inferences to be drawn relating to an individual’s health risks.  However, such technology could also be used against individuals, for example through capturing and analysing data relating to ethnicity, beliefs, values, personality, peoples’ vulnerabilities, and how behaviour can be predicted and perhaps manipulated in different contexts and scenarios. 

Such dystopian risks may come as authoritarian governments command such technologies.  However, democratic governments, polities and civil society can channel new digital technologies towards good social purposes.  A further check on authoritarian power abuse is the distributed nature of the Internet, the private ownership of key companies, and VPNs that protect private information.

Governments have been under pressure to regulate and perhaps even break up digital technology giants.  However, society as a whole benefits from these companies’ technological contributions.  Heavy-handed regulation could stifle innovation, reduce benefits from technology spill-overs, and create huge compliance costs.

Breaking up dominant digital technology companies could fragment their aggregated databases (their “big data”).  However, in both the private and public sectors the most powerful insights, explanatory power and predictive analytics depend on big data aggregations.  The more data available the more value that can be created from its analysis.  This is true whether the big data is held by Facebook and Google or in government databases such as New Zealand’s integrated data infrastructure (IDI). 

There may also be opportunities for government and technology companies to partner together on joint analyses using both public and private sector big data to support non-proprietary applications, for example public health objectives.

In relation to privacy concerns, excessive transaction costs make it impractical for individuals and digital technology companies to negotiate bespoke agreements on private data ownership and how such data can be used.  However, consumer data rights (CDRs) can create individual rights over personal data held by a private company – New Zealand government agencies are working on this.

In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforces data portability. CDRs in New Zealand could make consumer data held by a company portable to a third party.  Consumers could use their rights over portable data to opt for better banking, utilities and other services options.  This might be especially beneficial in encouraging open banking and fintech innovation.  It might also in some small way help check the dominant power of the big digital technology businesses. 

The optimum overall approach is therefore not to tightly regulate the digital technology giants, and rather to allow them high freedom to operate subject to strengthened individual data rights, for example through CDRs.

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The Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and New Zealand’s constitutional evolution

“Good leaders join networks so that their followers can have greater opportunities. Bad leaders develop walls so that outsiders cannot get in and insiders cannot get out.”
Sir Mason Durie

Unlike the US, New Zealand has no supreme constitution, and has instead an archipelago of laws, treaties, common law principles, articles of association and documents defining the purposes of thousands of community, sporting and other such clubs and collectives.

The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) is a starting point in New Zealand’s constitutional evolution.  It was an international treaty of cession, and by itself not enforceable domestically.  A government system needed to be established for laws and regulations to be made and enforced in New Zealand.  The British Government enacted the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 to establish representative government, with some provision made “for the time being” for the maintenance of Māori “laws, customs and usages” so far as “they are not repugnant to the general principles of Humanity”. 

The 1852 Act enfranchised propertied males over 21.  This included some Māori, however most were excluded because they failed the property criterion, even though many held collective property in traditional form. This anomaly was addressed by the creation of four Māori seats through the Maori Representation Act 1867.  This enfranchised all Māori males over 21 regardless of their property holdings.  Pakeha males without property were only enfranchised in 1879.

The 1852 Act created one of the oldest continuously operating Parliaments in the world.  The 1840 Treaty as an international agreement and the 1852 Act together started our journey to becoming an outward-looking and independent democracy. 

New Zealand’s decolonisation and transition to an independent country began in 1907 when New Zealand ceased to be a colony and became a Dominion.  The Statute of Westminster in 1931 gave the Dominions responsibility for their own law making, though New Zealand only accepted this in 1947. 

The 1852 Constitution Act was finally replaced by the New Zealand Constitution Act 1986.  This Act is now our key constitutional document. It formally states New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, including the roles of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.  It continues to recognise the Queen as the head of state, however in practice the 1986 Act marks the point where the elected Parliament became fully sovereign with the Crown’s only roles being symbolic and procedural.  It is now Parliament not the Crown that makes laws.  It is also the elected government and its executive that have relationships with its citizens, not Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth the Second.

The 1996 introduction of MMP helped counter the risk of majoritarian governments overriding minority interests.  The logical next constitutional step for New Zealand may be a republic and/or an even closer relationship with Australia. 

New Zealand’s modern history began with early contact between Europeans and Māori, driven largely by trade interests.  Foresighted Māori leaders from early in the 19th century on were more internationalists than nativists.  Māori were keen to acquire metals, tools, textiles, muskets, new food crops and the know-how to make use of them.   They actively competed for trade contacts and immigrants to facilitate access to new technology.  Mission stations were encouraged and protected, with the missionary schools playing a key role in literacy and the spread of Christianity. 

However, European contact also caused instability through, for example, access to muskets.  The “musket wars” from around 1807 to 1837 killed around 20,000 to 40,000 Māori.  They further altered tribal boundaries that had been fluid in pre-European times as iwi fought among themselves for resources and mana. 

In the years leading up to the Treaty, New Zealand was as lawless and violent as any modern failed state.  European immigrants included ex-convicts, thieves and murderers.  Charles Darwin after his 1835 visit to New Zealand described the (non-missionary) European population as “the very refuse of society”. 

Aware of the disorder, violence and fraudulent land sales, James Stephen an undersecretary in the Colonial Office conceived of a treaty between the Crown and New Zealand’s indigenous people.  Stephen was the son of a prominent abolitionist, and himself a social reformer.  He had strong Christian faith and was concerned to protect indigenous peoples from harm.

When the Treaty was signed in 1840 New Zealand had a population of around 70,000 to 90,000 Māori and less than 2,000 Europeans.  Māori were the strongest party, however they needed European trade and technology and a central authority that could keep the peace. 

The Treaty was initially drafted in English, and the missionary Henry Williams translated it into Māori.  Governor Hobson greeted each chief signing the Treaty with the pledge: “He Iwi Tahi Tatou” (we are now one people).  

When chiefs debated the Māori language Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Williams told Māori they would be “one people with the English, in the suppression of wars, and of every lawless act; under one Sovereign, and one Law, human and divine”.  The “divine” was left out of the final text – the Treaty is secular.  Williams then took the Māori language version that had been discussed with and acceded to by Māori and retranslated it back into English.  This then became the official English language version.

The Treaty consists of a Preamble and three Articles.  The Preamble states the need for the rule of law and for stable government.  It foreshadows further immigration, tacitly inviting Māori acceptance of this.  It states that Civil Government will “avert the evil consequences which must result from the absence of the necessary Laws and Institutions alike to the native population and to her Subjects.” 

Article One establishes Crown sovereignty and its right to govern.  It requires that chiefs “cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty which the said Confederation or Individual Chiefs respectively exercise or possess.”

In William’s translation, “kawanatanga” is the neologism for sovereignty.  It is a transliteration of “governance” or, as Sir Hugh Kawharu translated it, “kawanatanga” means “government”.  At least 700 Māori had visited Sydney alone by 1840 and had observed the effects of Crown governorship in Australia.  The over 500 chiefs that signed the Treaty unequivocally agreed to cede sovereignty completely and forever to the Queen.  Māori were under no illusions about Queen Victoria’s powers.  Te Heu Heu was one of the few chiefs who did not sign the Treaty, because to do so would “place the mana of Te Heu Heu beneath the feet of a woman.”

As Apirana Ngata wrote in 1922:

It was the first article of the Treaty which transferred the chiefly authority of your ancestors, affecting you and future generations for ever (Ngata 1922).

Ngata also wrote that the Treaty:

“…made the one law for the Maori and the Pakeha. If you think these things are wrong and bad then blame our ancestors who gave away their rights in the days when they were powerful” (Ngata 1922).

The Treaty did not even metaphorically create an equal partnership between the Crown and Māori.  Māori could not in the same treaty be both subjects of the Crown and partners with it. 

Treaty Article Two extended to Māori English common law and Magna Carta rights at the individual as well as the tribal levels.  Magna Carta included a fundamental principle that:

“No freeman shall be… stripped of his rights or possessions…except by the lawful judgement of his equals or the law of the land (modern translation).

Article Two protects property rights.  The English language version of Article Two confirms and guarantees rights “to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands, Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties.” This makes clear that individuals as well as Chiefs and Tribes are protected.  In the Māori version “ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani” refers to “all the peoples of New Zealand” being guaranteed ownership rights and powers (“tino rangatiratanga”) over their properties. 

In traditional Māori society “ariki” were first-born chiefs in high-ranking families, whilst “rangatira” were akin to “gentlemen” (Firth, 1929).  That is, tino rangatiratanga protected the rights of propertied individuals and did not privilege ariki over rangatira.  Tino rangatiratanga is about property rights and has nothing whatever to do with sovereignty – an issue clearly determined in Treaty Article One. 

Tino rangatiratanga, in protecting individuals and their whanau, is powerfully anchored in English belief in the strong  relationship between property rights and human rights.  “An Englishman’s home is his castle”, or as the great Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder said in 1763:

The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter; but the King of England cannot enter.

The Māori version of Article Two does not refer to forests or fisheries.  It states that the “Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes and to all the people of New Zealand the possession of their lands, dwellings and all their property” (“taonga”).  Some words used in the Treaty have changed in meaning since the mid-19th century.  Hongi Hika used “taonga” to refer to tangible “property procured by the spear.” However, in modern times “taonga” is now claimed to include cultural “properties” such as language.  This wider definition gives litigants and advocates more leverage in Treaty and other claims relating to intangible assets.

When there is conflict between statute law and common law it is statute law that prevails.  If the government makes or exercises laws or regulations that override property rights, the expected norm is that due process should be followed and compensation be paid for property rights takings.  

The Treaty only reduces Māori rights compared to other New Zealanders’ through the Article Two pre-emption clause giving the Crown the exclusive right to buy Māori land.  This right reduced the prices that Māori might have realized from land sales.  This Crown pre-emption clause is now outdated.  However, it was justified in the 1840 context where there was widespread land fraud, and confusion over who owned what and who had rights to trade in land.  

Article Three confers on Māori the rights and privileges of Crown subjects and extends to them the Crown’s protection.  It creates equal rights with other Crown subjects, not different rights. In Article Three the English version refers to the Queen of England extending “to the Natives of New Zealand Her Royal protection and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects.” 

The Treaty reference to the Queen’s Royal protection included protection against external as well as internal threats.  This was prescient – a hundred years after the Treaty was signed the Japanese Empire posed an existential threat to New Zealand.

Ngata reflected on Treaty Article Three in 1922:

The Treaty found us in the throes of cannibalism: that was murder, a crime punishable by death, be the murderer rich or poor. That was the British law which became law for the Maori under the provisions of the second part of the above article “and imparts to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects”. The Treaty found the strong committing outrageous acts against the weak, the chiefs against the commoner, the Pakeha against the Maori, and such acts were breaches of the law punishable by imprisonment with hard labour, according to the British code of law adopted as the law for both the Pakeha and the Maori…” (Ngata 1922).

The equal rights guarantee in Treaty Article Three might imply but cannot by itself lead to socio-economic equity.  The Waitangi Tribunal process was needed for just restitution and to safeguard the Crown’s honour.  However, it was not designed to close the economic gaps between Māori and other New Zealanders. 

The Treaty wording, including tino rangatiratanga, creates rights for individuals and whanau.  However the Waitangi Tribunal deliberations have focused on the iwi and hapu level. Treaty settlements have been managed by Māori leaders (“chiefs”) more so than by individuals. Many settlements have been well-managed, but there has been some corruption, and some tribal elitists have captured disproportionate benefits.  The settlements have encouraged some retribalisation, yet it is difficult to identify internationally a tribal or kinship-based society that has ever flourished in modern times. 

The socio-economic gap between Māori and other New Zealanders is a social class issue that can only be addressed through economic interventions, yet the wider Treaty-related discourse often focuses more on constitutional change and culturalism rather than economic wellbeing. 

Group identity politics, separatism, suppression of free speech, and contempt for democracy, science and humanism have shaken Europe and the United States.  They are also challenging New Zealand. 

Advocacy for separate Māori representation, parallel structures or co-leadership in government and non-governmental institutions can amplify the differences between people rather than strengthen the commonalities.  It can exacerbate centrifugal forces that pull people apart, and weaken the centripetal forces that pull people together. 

Achieving socio-economic equity for Māori at the individual and whanau levels would deliver tino rangatiratanga in a tangible rather than rhetorical sense.  When we have achieved this we can then thank rather than blame our ancestors for the wisdom they showed from the lead-up to our 1840 Treaty and onwards.


Firth, R.1929: Primitive economics of the New Zealand Maori. London, George Routledge and Sons Ltd.

Ngata, 1922: The Treaty of Waitangi: An Explanation. The Treaty of Waitangi an Explanation | NZETC (victoria.ac.nz)

Relevant earlier blog posts are linked at:

What is matauranga Māori? | Peter Winsley (wordpress.com)

The evolving Treaty of Waitangi discourse and its wider benefits | Peter Winsley (wordpress.com)

Maori, identity and socio-economic development | Peter Winsley (wordpress.com)

The upstart crow and why I feel I belong here | Peter Winsley (wordpress.com)

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