Professional Skipper – Sep/Oct 2003 issue     back to articles menu

“Claims of Extravagance”

The Grievance Industry, on its way to another apparent stunning success, has run smack into a Government that, in spite of being ham-strung throughout its history by hand-wringing sack-cloth-and-ashes-wearing penitents and apologists, seems to suddenly have discovered its testicles.

One can only marvel at the almost interstellar speed with which the Government moved to place a blocking action on the decision of the Appeal Court, regarding the right of the Maori Land Court to determine the ownership of the seabed around New Zealand.  When one considers the difficult and tumultuous passage of the legislation legalising prostitution, and  compares that with this latest piece of legislative ballet, it would be easy for the outsider to wonder whether sexual proclivity has in fact a higher profile than Maori claims.

I was also somewhat stunned that Maori Labour MPs saw fit to advise their Labour colleagues that in their view this action was ‘divisive’, and said other things to do with there being 'future repercussions' (shades of Robocop; “there will be… trouble”).  I must confess that when I hear statements like that I honestly start to wonder whether I am perhaps living in a different universe; how anyone can think that the giving of the rights-to-ownership of our nation's seabed, to one small but vocal part of our entire population would not be hugely more divisive, is beyond me .

I am not a Helen Clark supporter by any means, neither have I ever voted Labour, but to give her and them credit where it is due, even she could see that this was "A Bridge Too Far" and that finally (at last) this might be the ultimate fur-ball that would stick in the throat of Mr. and Mrs. Average New Zealander, finally choking them out of mindless apathy, and spurring them to action in the voting booth.

I have never been part of the politically correct brigade and have no hesitation in saying that the fact is (and the government knows well) that there are far more non-Maori voters than there are Maori, and that the chances are high that, had they not nipped this latest piece of stupidity in the bud, and moved with lightning speed before what used to be the National Party could gain any political momentum from it, it would have spelled disaster at the next election. Even their current and 'no alternative' popularity would not have cushioned them from the anger of 3.5 million indignant New Zealanders.

Don't for a minute think that I am not sympathetic towards Maori grievances; although I am a product of a British and then a Pakeha New Zealand upbringing, I have in the last ten years made a point of reading books written by other than British colonial authors of that time, and the opinion I hold now is that Maori in the 1800s were very poorly treated and swindled out of vast tracts of land, often by the very same persons who represented themselves as being there to protect them (notably Missionaries in the Bay of Islands).  It is also fair to say that having read from both ends of the argument, it seems that Maori were not exactly innocent either, since many of the land transactions occurred in the pursuit of muskets, powder and shot in order for one tribe to be able to slaughter another and so establish their own empires. 

For those of you that haven’t done the reading, for a Tribe in the early 1800’s to ‘own’ its own Pakeha was a status symbol and, more than that, ensured its survival through the procurement of weapons, without which the Tribe would soon have fallen victim (and prey) to the nearest Tribe that did have weapons.

In the context of the time, can we really say that either party was more guilty than the other, in that for Maori to slaughter Maori was completely normal and something that they had been doing for thousands of years prior to the arrival of European influence, in that respect being no more or less murderous than the so-called civilized European, and that the actions of the Colonists, while reprehensible by today's standards, were no different than colonists from any other ethnic background over the last 5000 years. I don’t ascribe any more guilt to one or the other.

What concerns me most is not the rightness or wrongness of grievance claims, but the fact that we are considering claims relating to 200 year-old wrongdoings in a 2003 context, and also attempting to seek redress from the descendants of one set of wrongdoers without equally considering the culpability and contributory conduct of the ancestors of today's claimants. Both parties had heroes and villains.

I am wondering when, or whether, we will ever make the expression 'enough is enough' actually mean something. New Zealand belongs to all New Zealanders of whatever race, colour or creed and I am heartened that the government at last appears to be moving in a direction such that this concept of communal ownership might become a reality. I am also cynical enough to wait and watch for the pay-off, since in my experience there are always multiple motives for the visible actions of politicians.

As a final comment, and on a related issue, I note that the Conservation movement is currently pressuring the government to lift its target of 10 percent of our coastline being marine reserve, to 20 percent.  In my view I regard them in the same light; just another bunch of self-interested politically correct misguided rights grabbers, attempting to restrict the freedom and rights of us all for the enjoyment of the select few.  No, I don't dive, but I would never try and stop others from doing so.

Will our children of the future look wonderingly at old photographs, and try to imagine what it must have been like to catch a fish with rod and reel?  The combination of Maori claims coupled with Conservation claims, if unchecked, will undoubtedly make that future a reality. What a triumph that will be for the vocal minority. What a sad loss for the unaware and inert majority, if we wake up too late to prevent it.

Carpe Diem

Steve Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ, GNZATD
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2003 All rights reserved by the author.

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